Book Review: Milton Allimadi’s new book takes on Western Media


When we consume news from western media outlets, we often take it as gospel. 

How many times has the boast “I heard it on BBC” been the last word in an argument?

Plenty of times for you and me, I am sure. 

So convinced are we of the rectitude and exactitude of western media reports that we forget they carry subliminal messages shaping our conscious mind towards a biased narrative. 

Such messages recast our cognition or behavior by determining how we see ourselves and how others want us to be seen. 

In a new book entitled Manufacturing Hate: How Africa Was Demonized in Western Media by Prof. Milton Allimadi, it is convincingly argued that such messaging plays an enabling role in subjugating Africa.

The New York Times, along with a host of other “publications of record”, have their credibility investigated with a fine-tooth comb by Allimadi to help you, the reader, brush up on your knowledge of what’s really going on in the geo-political scheme of things. 

Allimadi’s biting critique of western media cannot be so easily dismissed.

He posits that colonialism was systematically pivoted on capitalism to impoverish Africa while enlisting the western media to whitewash, pun unintended, this impoverishment. 

Or, as Karl Marx said of capitalism, the “accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole”. 

The western media, Allimadi argues, disseminates racist representations of Africa or people of African descent in order rationalize this exploitation of Africa by the west.

In so doing, hate is “manufactured” by the western media’s tribalization of African conflicts and its use of racist slurs such as “savages” or “cannibals” to reduce the esteem of Africa and Africans in the eyes of world. 

The resulting disesteem promotes the narrative of the “white man’s burden” in civilizing the hapless African. 

However, while Allimadi debunks the demonization of Africa as “a handmaiden of conquest and conflict”, he refuses to romanticize Africa’s past in order to score cheap brownie points with those who love Africa. 

His is essentially a dispassionate reading of “the false narrative, where Europeans are portrayed as the epitome of civilization while Africans as the obverse—a continent of permanently dependent inhabitants—serves a broad purpose; it sanitizes the historical crimes committed against Africans, from slavery and colonialism, and through the new-colonialism maintained in our modern era by the economic dependency imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.”

The last part, as the author notes, espouses the Dependency Theory as propounded by Guyanese academic Walter Rodney. 

Rodney argued in his 1972 book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” that racism was historically a factor of production in the capitalist mode of production as plantations emerged in the seventeenth century. 

These plantations were used to corvée labor from Africa, thereby institutionalizing racism as a means of turning African economies into peripheral economies while European economies became the core. 

Rodney argued that this core-periphery relationship created a specific form of underdevelopment in Africa whose raison d'être was serving the economic needs of the core countries. 

By extension, African countries did not develop their own food security but systematically developed their agricultural sectors to serve the specific demands of Europeans. 

This meant there was large-scale industrialized agricultural production of single crops to serve European industry, instead of a diversification of crop production to reward African industriousness. 

In order to justify this blatant exploitation, the west first came up with the fiction of African barbarism. 

This barbarism was first written about by explorers such as John Speke, the man who “discovered” the Source of the Nile. 

The accounts of these explorers were exaggerated to show that “Africans were still trapped at a level of intellectual, socioeconomic, and political development that Europeans had transcended centuries earlier. (Their) journals were intended to justify the need, indeed, the alleged obligation, for Europeans to conquer and colonize Africa”.

After this, religion was deployed in the manner described by Bishop Desmond Tutu:  “when the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land, they said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

After this, in order for Europe to maintain a neo-colonial grip on Africa, the western media was used to perpetrate lies about Africa. 

The author names and shames many a racialist newspaper, but singles out The New York Times for eviscerating condemnation. 

On the whole, Allimadi argues, the western media’s false portrayal of Africa fuelled genocide in Rwanda and denied Menelik II his rightful brilliance at the Battle of Adwa, among other ills. 

However, most damningly, racist stereotypes of Africa led to the colonization of the minds of Africans themselves. 

This has led to the continued subjugation of Africa since, as Steve Biko once said, “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

What is so important about Allimadi’s book is it seeks to correct the false narrative about Africa by attempting to free the mind of the oppressed. 

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