“Confronting a Sexual Rite of Passage in Malawi”, published by The Atlantic last Monday, is misleading and continues a long tradition of ethnocentric, sensationalist reporting on Africa. The article tells the tale of a 14-year-old girl, Grace Mwase, of Chiradzulu District in Malawi, saying that she defied a tradition of sleeping with an older man after she went through an initiation ceremony at the age of 10. I am not an expert on culture and customs in Malawi, but one doesn’t have to be to get the story straight on customs and their impact on a community.
Embodied cognitive science
But the problem here isn’t the “finding” that the Anglo-Saxon West is more tolerant. The problem is the pseudo-analysis. The specialty of foreign-affairs blogging is explaining to a supposedly uninformed public the complexities of the outside world. Because blogging isn’t reporting, nor is it subject to much editing (let alone peer review), posts like Fisher’s are particularly vulnerable to their author’s blind spots and risk endogenizing, instead of detecting and flushing out, the bullshit in their source material. What is presented as education is very likely to turn out, in reality, obfuscation.
Obama's Cronkite moment
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