Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Darfur: enough talking?

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on September 16, 2006

The pressure’s starting to build on the Sudanese government this weekend.

As U.N. ambassadors meet in New York to discuss Darfur, thousands of people are taking to the streets in America and Europe to urge government action; they’re joined by thousands more bloggers too. And yesterday George Clooney gave an impassioned speech to the U.N. urging tangible action now.

“Make no mistake, this is the first genocide of the 21st century, and if it goes unchecked, it won’t be the last.”

Strong words. But are words enough? I’ve been writing furiously on Darfur for the last 2 weeks trying to get people to take notice and to criticise journalism’s lame effort on informing people so far.

So have hundreds of other bloggers, from Jewels in the Jungle, to the Sudan Watch, to the Hell on Earth blog.

But a comment left on Sudan Watch this week got me thinking. It was in response to an article on water shortages in Sudan. It elicited a stern response criticising all us bloggers:

Please take this as the constructive input it is intended to be. In my view it is time for all of us involved to make certain that our efforts are not feeding our penchant for voyeurism. You have done a wonderful, compassionate job of helping us see. NOW, IT IS TIME TO HELP PEOPLE ACT. Don’t let us be comfortable watching. We need more courage, more commitment. NOT, more information.
As Dr. King said, “When you are right you cannot be too radical….”
“… when a person is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed…… Disinherited people all over the world are bleeding to death from deep social and economic wounds. They need brigades of ambulance drivers who will have to ignore the red lights of the present system until the emergency is solved…civil disobedience is a strategy for social change which is at least as forceful as an ambulance with its sirens on full.”

I can see his point. It’s all very well us decrying the attrocities and bemoaning the international response, but is blogging going to help the people of Darfur? Is it going to change Bashir’s mind?

Jay McGinley, who wrote the comment is taking direct action by the looks of it. He’s been protesting outside the White House for 110 days and has been on hunger strike for over 30.

Could the rest of us be doing more like this? And wouldn’t it raise the profile of the crisis more than a blog article or link to another article ever could? Perhaps we have to live up to the fact that blogging is an easy cosy way for us to relieve our conscience; “doing our bit”.

Perhaps. But lets not forget that some of these blogs do acheive something. Because to be able to change something we have to be able to understand it. And blogs, especially like Sudan Watch, do a valuable job in tirelessly alerting the blogosphere to the lastest developments that help us form our opinions.

Afterall, in the drought of western media coverage of the crisis, how else would Jay McGinley know how desperate the situation is in Sudan today?

And if you don’t believe me, check out this piece of praise for Sudan Watch from Daniel Davies of the Guardian no-less:

I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that if there had been a website as good as Sudan Watch in the runup to the Iraq War, a lot of things might have become common knowledge a lot earlier which have in fact only really come out since the war. It’s an excellent website and deserves a lot more publicity.

So yes, we should be pulling our fingers out and doing more physical action and making more sacrafices, but we mustn’t belittle the importance of information and understanding. Without these, the battle for the people of Sudan would have been lost before it had even begun. 

2 Responses

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  1. Chris Doidge said, on September 16, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    Daniel Davies isn’t technically “of” the Guardian. He’s a stockbroker.

  2. Andreas Kiaby said, on September 20, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    Well Adam I could not agree more!

    Information is for inspiration, but it the actions that sets the world in motion.

    I have eventually got feed up with just blogging about the atrocities in Darfur, and tried just do set some small things in motion. But it can be hard to navigate and find out what to do as alternatives to hunger-strikes.

    I have posted some ideas on my website collected from amnesty, crisis group and others. Find them here: http://www.akiaby.dk/?p=283 / http://www.akiaby.dk/?p=289 / http://www.akiaby.dk/?p=288

    Keep blogging – it is inspirering! Hopefully one day people are not able to avoid Darfur when surfing on the net!

    Andreas – The Oslo Blog


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