Today's Blogs

Congo Line

Bloggers are weighing in on Time’s article on the Congo, a new justice department quest for our Internet records, and whether the world really needs a list of the best literary theorists.

Congo line: Time’s cover story on the ravaged Congo, home to the “deadliest war in the world,” has bloggers reacting with a mixture of gratitude—for bringing attention to a less fashionable war zone—and criticism—for how the authors render those conflicts and the historical roles the United States and Europe have played.

Michael Brooks, a Euston Manifesto signatory, appreciates the front-page treatment, if not the glossing over of unsavory facts. At historymike he cites  ”[i]n particular, the Belgian and US roles in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the Congo’s first postcolonial prime minister, were all but ignored by the writers. President Eisenhower personally ordered the ‘elimination’ of Lumumba, and a CIA agent supposedly drove around with Lumumba’s body in the trunk of his car after the killing.” Friends of the Congo had similar not-so-fast tweaks to the article, while offering their own plan for ameliorating the state of affairs there: “The central issue of the Congo has long been its enormous wealth and the nexus that exists among local sycophants seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, greedy neighbors with visions of regional grandeur and the voracious appetite by Western governments and corporations to profit from the natural resources of the Congo with no regard for Congolese lives.”

One of the contributors at the conservative Bullwinkle Blog objects to Time’s time line of ineffective U.N. aid expenditures, especially as these have coincided with an ousted regime and a halted act of Ugandan adventurism: “Like anyone liberal, TIME thinks that the greatest measure of aid is money, so that’s what they focus on. Uganda has been found guilty in the International Court of Justice of being responsible for the violence in the Congo from 1998 to 2003. The problems that Congo are currently going through are different from the 1998-2003 conflict that claimed nearly four million lives, but I suppose TIME feels that it’s better late than never, huh?”

At Jewels in the Jungle—a blog devoted to AfricanaBill, an American expat living in Germany, had a personal interest in the story because of his longtime friendship with a Congolese woman named Dédé: “What makes the TIME magazine article so relevant for me today is that after anxiously waiting for almost 8 years Dédé has family visitors from Kinshasa. … Mama Emily (Dédé’s mother) and Jacqueline (her younger sister) are here visiting in Germany for the first time ever. … When I look into the face of Mama Emily I see the strong, beautiful, proud faces of my own dear grandmother’s (now deceased) back home in the U.S.A.”

Read more about Time’s Congo coverage.

Big Brother watch: The justice department is now asking Internet providers to fork over data on e-mail senders and their recipients, as well as Web-surfing records, for the sake of both the war on terror and a crackdown on child pornography, according to the New York Times. The government wants records held for two years and could seek legislation to force providers to comply. But bloggers aren’t waiting two minutes to rail against this latest incursion into privacy rights. 

Effwit, a D.C.-based politics and international security blog, comments: “It is telling that the government feels it necessary to justify their request by two separate rationales, combating terrorists and pedophiles. This tactic really puts the onus upon the ISPs to cooperate or else be smeared with an allegation of having protected two of the most unsympathetic categories of people that can be found.”

Liberal Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly’sPolitical Animal is surprised that the administration hasn’t gone even further: “I wonder if they keep track of all the mail flowing through U.S. post offices? And if not, what’s stopping them?”

Kevin Hayden at the lefty site The American Street provides a novel perspective on how this proposal has free-market repercussions most conservatives can’t find terribly agreeable: “It’s about forcing businesses to take on unwanted costs for unnecessary collection of mostly perfectly legal things, on the off chance that maybe someday the government will get lucky and find out something illegal.”

Read more about the justice department’s net-monitoring program.

Highbrow fidelity:Another Friday, another list. This time it’s the University of Chicago journal Critical Inquiry doing the compiling—of literary theorists. A piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education questions our curious culture of ranking, from Top of the Pops to Sexiest Dead Deconstructionist.

The list engenders its own anxiety of influence for EL at my amusement park, which trafficks in a heady blend of “feminism and politics, NYC, sex, arts and culture”: “It certainly makes me feel strange about my over-reliance on Foucault. Not that I had any illusions about the proliferation of riffs on Foucault out there, not that I thought there was anything even approximating originality about my citing Foucault, just that seeing it like this might make me try harder to reach beyond the list.”

Picking up on the article’s lament that Critical Inquiry has become a kind of US Weekly of intellectual star-obsession, polymath Catherine Liu at Don’t Ask Me! writes: “[I]f Waters was saying that he thought Critical Inquiry types were too smart for ‘top ten’ lists, then we need to all think again about how this kitschification of thinking, the generalization of ‘ready made’ judgments of value have become the ubiquitous.”

Read more about Critical Inquiry’s list.