A daddy blog.

11 June 2007

Smarter move: Paying Binyavanga Wainaina to Write

Because I care, I'm going to break down this Africa-centric issue of Vanity Fair that Bono edited...

Binyavanga Wainaina has been the nuts since forever, but especially since his caustic "How to Write About Africa" piece in Granta a year or two ago. His Vanity Fair piece is luminous, original, and not online.

(But "Madonna's Malawi" is. They took the bloggable story and made it unavailable, but they took the story about Michigan's Favorite Floorhumper, which will only be linked to by people who want to mock a celebrity, and gave it an url. Team Bono gets an eff minus minus on these decisions.)

Wainaina writes the history of Kenya's last decade as a history of individual equity: Once the nation's underclass had faith that the government would act as something other than a vampire state, citizens began working with banks, paying taxes, and putting entrepreneurial ingenuity into motion.

It's fascinating stuff for a Kenya dork like myself, and also for your garden variety Tom Friedman/Michael Lewis-worshippers.

But Wainaina closes his piece with jackknife turn:
As I sit here, in upstate New York, and read The New York Times, or watch CNN, Africa feels like one fevered and infectious place. In this diseased world, viruses spread all over--and a small local crisis in one corner can infect the rest of the continent in one quick blink. In a highly suggestive New York Times piece, dated April 23, 2007, and titled "Africa's Crisis of Democracy," Nigeria's recent flawed election is used to show how everything democratic in sub-Saharan Africa is teetering on shaky stilts.

This habit--of trying to turn the second-largest continent in the world, which has 53 countries and nearly a billion people of ever variety and situation, into one giant crisis--is now one of the biggest problems Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Ghana face.
Emphasis mine: Wainaina is saying that the leading countries on the continent (and that's what the countries he named are) should place the opinion of The New York Times on their lists of Big Problems. "Those other 49 countries might be like Nigeria, but we are not," he's saying.

But he won't quite come out and say it. Which is smart enough: many cagey political campaigns have been launched by people who understand that, while it's tough to unite people around positivity, it's easy to unite them around their dislike and distrust of the Times.

This is A+ framing, rebranding.