La Côte d’Ivoire

I used to read MeFi every once in a while, the same way as I used to read Slashdot a long time ago…

This particular thread is a perfect illustration of why I stopped reading both. In one or the other, you could sum up every single thread thusly:

  1. Random guy posts unsupported statement, presenting it as news accompanied by dubious piece of media and trolling comment, then leaves never to be heard again on the thread.
  2. Dozens of people pick up the thing and take it at complete face value, post immediate emotional replies without ever questioning the information itself.
  3. A few hundred more share pathetically uninformed, yet strongly assertive, insights on a topic they had obviously never heard of until that day.
  4. Three people post interesting, thoughtful, carefully researched post explaining why the whole thread makes absolutely no sense and why most of the previous posters ought to read the news once in their life.
  5. Sensible posters get royally ignored, quickly give up in face of the ridiculously steep road that needs to be walked back to sanity.
  6. More ignorant posts pour in.
  7. Thread invariably degenerates into canonical Holy War for the remaining 3000 comments (most of which are only monosyllabic rebuttal to the previous ones, by then).

Mmmn, sounds familiar?

And yea, I know I am quite late on that train of world news, but it’s not like they’ve stopped killing each other in the meantime…

And now for some armchair geo-politics rambling of my own…

For the curious ones, who’ve been checking the thread and tried to download the movie, I’d recommend sparing the effort: the thread is mostly uninformed dribbling and inane name-calling with a few sensible insights completely drown in the middle. The movie appears, even to the most untrained eye, obviously doctored in such a way as to push a certain version of these events that has been widely refuted ever since.

News reports have clearly established by now that the incident that took place on this day, while certainly not the brightest military behaviour of all times, was no crazy murderous spree conducted by a bunch of sadistic military shooting innocent passerby… It was the typical ending of a pressure match between an out-of-control mob and a few soldiers, heavily armed but vastly outnumbered, and in charge of protecting other civilians.

Saying they coldly murdered innocent civilians would be akin to saying that the famous Black Hawk rescue missions savagely gunned their way down the peaceful streets of Mogadiscio.

Of course, the real culprits are the different Ivorian factions who purposely encouraged the rioting and indiscriminate violence in order to push their own political agendas. On one side: the current “president”, who fully intends on keeping his job for a few decades and more, no matter what; on the other side the “rebels”, quintessential prop to any self-respecting Banana Republic politics, who fully intend on doing exactly the same thing, only with a different guy. None of them very keen on anybody keeping an eye on them. Particularly not the U.N.-mandated French peacekeeping force.

And that’s the problem: because nobody wants them there, they constitute a perfect pretext for everybody to kickstart some riots leading into a Civil War each side is convinced they could use to their advantage.

Now I am no expert on West Africa in general and Côte d’Ivoire in particular, but that I know. I also know that Mr. Gbagbo is increasingly regarded as little more than a semi-democratic populist who is no stranger to manipulating the country’s rampant xenophobic feelings (against white, but also against Muslim minorities) to gain and keep his office. He is most likely the one who started the latest wave of violence by deliberately having UN positions bombed (and knowing full well that the ensuing retaliation would bring him even bigger popular support). Which makes it all the more hilarious when the Post relays his ludicrous ramblings as a voice of reason in the middle of chaos…

Please do not think for one second that I ignore the nasty history of French colonial wars, and their more recent ugly dealings in African countries. I am well paid to know that they figure prominently on top of the list of countries responsible for the past and present bloodshed all over the continent (of course, they share that privilege with half a dozen other European nations, as well as, needless to say, good ol’ Uncle Sam). In fact: I am probably more cynical than the average when considering the hidden motives of any country conducting some foreign policy in such places as African countries. To put it summarily: moral principles and higher grounds simply are not plausible when considering actions at the scale of a country… but that’s a matter for another post and I won’t develop here. Suffice it to say that, in exactly the same fashion as the US did not go to Iraq in order to spread the love of Democracy and Freedom, France does not usually send troops in a country with the sole goal of improving the locals’ standards of living.

However, and from the same realistic/cynical standpoint, I know that in France as in most normally developed nations, the government better have a really good reason to send troops somewhere, especially when these troops start coming back between 6 sheets of metal (I said most countries: some simply make sure the pictures never make the mainstream news and drown it under a mantra of “terrorist-blablabla-evil-blablabl-country-safer-blablabla” etc.). I also know that there ain’t that much to grab in Cote d’Ivoire… I mean, the country’s biggest resources are coffee and cocoa: not exactly the stuff to solve your energy deficit problems…

To be continued…


  1. I watched the movie. Notwithstanding the political considerations available, I think that if the scene occurred in Europe, for instance, the international media would have a diffrent view about it. Furthemore, I think that there should be (and there are!) better ways to control the unmarmed mobs around the world.
    Of course, any compairason with Iraq is foolish. We are talking of different things here.

  2. I would imagine that the randomness, rants and rants in MetaFilter make it addictive to a lot of people in the same way CraigsList does.

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