Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Remember a while back when I wrote this post about why Africa is the way it is? And about how part of that has to do with its treatment by the media? And how I had that distorted map illustrating news coverage by continent?

Well, today I found something even better.


My love for graphs like this one almost makes me happy that the sociology department now requires me to take a course in quantitative analysis. Almost.

According to this researcher, "*Unhappy thoughts means some combination of foreign aid, immigration and refugees, civil war and guerrilla warfare, terrorism, 'war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity' (all one category), famine, drought, or AIDS." Also, "Over the whole period, this collection of negative topics averaged 28% of total articles on the continent."

I wish our news would stop filling our heads with these unhappy thoughts. I wish I could tell someone I'm going to Africa, and have them say, "Wow! You're going to have so much fun!" and not, "Wow! You're going to get yourself killed!" But I have my doubts that the New York Times is ever going to create a tag called Happy Thoughts. People just wouldn't take them seriously.


Alanna said...

PS. You don't have to tell me that there's not actually a tag for Unhappy Thoughts in the New York Times. I know. This, however, does not diminish the validity or awesomeness of this graph... In my opinion.

gene said...

Alanna - The photos at the top are of Bulungula, SA, but I can't find a single mention of it. Did you go there? (I was one of those nasty white American volunteers trying to help the locals grow more nutritious food.)


Alanna said...


Thank you for reading. I know where the photos at the top are taken, they are credited in the sidebar on the right. As indicated in several places, no, we have not been, but have plans to visit soon.

As for the jab at my anti-voluntourism stance, I would welcome your criticism, if I found it in any way constructive. In writing about such a contentious issue, I knowingly opened myself up to resentful comments such as yours, but I fail to find such emotionally-charged but unsubstantiated counter-arguments persuasive. I think it's great that people are so passionate about these issues, but unfortunately it makes it tough to have a civilized conversation.

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