Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sidney Greenstreet He Aint

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times carried a remarkable story about Internet public diplomacy efforts in Africa that involved a British diplomat going by the name "Fat White Man," who is known for his criticism of political corruption as it expresses itself in the denigration of civic values at the level of everyday practices in the street culture. This is not surprising since the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office is known for its lively, personable, sharp-tongued, and attention-getting roll of official bloggers among the diplomatic corps. Unlike the canned public relations style and drearily impersonal writing on Dipnote, the official blog of the U.S. Department of State, British bloggers generate engaging prose.

However the title of "Zimbabwe bloggers shine a light on their troubled country" may be misleading, since most of the writing in Philip Barclay and Grace Mutandwa's Harare Blog is done by a foreign national for whom the country is not "his." The article also misses the fact that there is also a lot of Internet-based human rights activism being done in the country that recognizes that few Zimbabweans have the economic resources to surf the web regularly on a personal home computer. Instead, projects like Tad Hirsch's Dialup Radio use the Internet with mobile phones. Although much of the attention goes to compelling reading based on personal narratives on blogs like the gonzo journalistic Comrade Fatso or the epistolary, the article does mention how uses text messages to disseminate information about venues for protest.

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