March 01, 2013

Anti-Tuareg Propaganda: Cease and Desist

I just posted the following on Bruce Whitehouse's blog article. The propaganda war against the Tuareg people is being fought by people who do not even know them - including the writer of the blog article, who is an anthropologist.

Bruce Whitehouse, you should be ashamed of yourself. You are no expert on the Tuaregs to be saying such misleading and damaging things about them, and you have grossly violated the anthropological code of ethics. No one should take anything you say seriously because it is clear that you have a lethal axe to grind on the Tuareg people, without any authority whatsoever.

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) Code of Ethics says anthropologists have an obligation toward vulnerable populations, to carefully weigh the consequences of what they claim about them. Your statements about the Tuareg people demonstrate your partisan bias against them, at a time when people of Tuareg identity are at high risk for genocidal attacks, in a very sensitive geopolitical situation that is dangerously impacting them. You are in flagrant default of the AAA Code of Ethics and you should be ashamed of yourself for making claims and arguments that are damaging to the Tuareg people. You owe an apology to the hundreds of thousands of Tuareg people that you have disrespected at a time when they are fleeing racialized hatred and genocidal attacks. Your words have added to the propaganda and hatred against the Tuareg people.

For you to say that In Kati, the burning of Tuareg homes wasn’t discrimination, it was “a misunderstanding” is a gross misrepresentation of what happened at Kati. The streets filled with mobs of people screaming “Death to the Tuaregs!” The Tuareg people were chased, robbed, and had their homes burned, and hundreds of thousands of Tuareg people have fled the visceral hatred and horrific abuses against them in Mali. A year later, they are still refugees, having lost their homes and livelihoods. What happened at Kati is emblematic of the abuses and atrocities that Tuareg people have suffered for the past 53 years. Your attempt to softpedal the ethnic hatred that has motivated the government of Bamako and people in the south is insulting and damaging to the Tuareg people. In soft-pedaling the ethnic hatred, you are showing your support for it.

You have tried to shut up the Tuaregs who have posted on your blog, telling them (in French) to keep their opinions to themselves, while at the same time blathering your own racist opinions against the Tuareg people. Tuareg voices have been shut up for much too long. They are indeed “coming out of the woodwork” – your choice of words, a pejorative usage for disgusting things like bugs that “come out of the woodwork.” Your words constitute propaganda against the Tuareg people, and your attempts to shut them up are utterly disgraceful for an anthropologist. The Tuaregs are not bugs, and they are beginning to have their voices heard by speaking out against unjust propagandists such as yourself. You insulted one Tuareg who attempted to write in imperfect English, and claimed you could not understand him – but it is plenty clear that the Tuareg writer is bringing his own argument to bear on your damaging words.

It’s true that you are “no expert on the Tuareg,” and you should not be making arguments against them. You are unable to bring clarity to the problems facing the Tuareg people, and you have no authority whatsoever to be making the claims you are making against them. As an anthropologist, you have exceeded the limit of ethnocentrism and you are actively promoting perspectives that are damaging to a vulnerable ethnic group that you do not even know well enough to discuss responsibly.

-- Barbara A. Worley, Ph.D. (Columbia University) - Anthropologist and Tuareg specialist for forty years