I don’t have twitter, never have, and never will. The idea of posting every trivial detail of my life for all to see just never grabbed me. But for those who do, good on you. Because from that mass of useless information sometimes comes a pearler.
Recently, Justine Sacco, a well respected executive of a US internet company, posted this:
“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
Yes, I laughed too. But this rapidly became a news item around the world on account of Ms Sacco apparently being a racist.
It is such an easy insult to throw around, and often isn’t even accurate. A racist is not necessarily someone who plays on stereotypes for humour. A racist is someone who denigrates someone, avoids association with, or withholds professional or personal services with another on account of race, holding a belief that their own race is superior.
I don’t see Justine doing that in this post. She is a woman excited to be travelling back to her birth country to visit family. There is a stereotype associated with the region she is going (forget the fact the stereotype is a rather accurate one) and she made a joke about it.
I am and always have been a fan of humour that relies on the awkward truths of society and the human condition. I thought the post was easy wit but mildly humorous nonetheless.
But what the ‘socially conscious’ losers giving Justine Sacco a hard time don’t recognise is that they are missing an opportunity to address the real issue here. If they were the do good moral beacons that they insinuate with their attacks, they would be using this as an opportunity to educate the populous of the dire conditions in South Africa and other African nations where AIDS is rampant.
Here is an easily researched statistic. In 2008 the prevalence of AIDS in South Africa by ethnicity was such:
- African 13.6%
- White 0.3%
- Coloured 1.7%
- Indian 0.3%
If you are ethnically African in South Africa, you are around 45 times more likely to have AIDS than if you are white in South Africa.
Flippant as Justine Sacco may have been, her Tweet was statistically accurate.
Clearly the issue of AIDS in South Africa is massive. 11% of the population now carries the disease. This is an issue in scope far beyond the Morality Patrol, so instead they are wielding their morality stick at an easier target: an individual who can’t fight back now because they have stripped her of credibility. People like those attacking Justine Sacco don’t want to help or make a difference, they just want to make themselves look good in the eyes of others.
Yes, Justine Sacco derived humour from an easy target, a target that can’t easily respond. But does she deserve to be cast as a pariah? Does she deserve to be fired? Yes, she was fired by her employer for her Tweet.
Beyond this, there are a number of questions that have to be asked. Why did this even make the news? With wars, famines, epidemics, profiteering, political corruption and numerous other crimes against humanity all over the world, this story managed to weasel itself into the news cycle.
It is subtle ‘education’ of the populous. Fear is a tool used to control the masses and Justine Sacco is being made an example of. The media, by picking up this story, is confirming that they are an agent of thought control, intent on manipulating what you think and what you say.