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Silence on Zimbabwe

For the past several days, the trouble in Zimbabwe has been a major international news story. This is not usually the case. Zimbabwe, like most of Africa, is often relegated to page A17–that is, if it even makes it into the paper. Yet when a democratic election turns sour, and the dictator in charge succeeds in stealing it, and the threat of violence hangs in the air, people around the world start to notice. The post-election situation in Zimbabwe has remained on the homepage of The New York Times since Sunday, though that paper’s tenacious coverage of the election aftermath will certainly be affected now that its southern Africa correspondent was arrested late Thursday evening with a group of foreign journalists. Every major news outlet–even cable news!–has devoted some time to Zimbabwe these past few days.

Everyone except, that is, the publications and blogs of the American Left. Browse through the left-wing blogs and the major left-wing magazines like The Nation or The American Prospect, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find much, if anything, on the crisis in Zimbabwe. I think there are two reasons for this. One is that many on the American Left were early supporters of Mugabe and did not really come around to condemning him until it became fashionable to do so, i.e. around 2000, when he began stealing privately-owned farms and the international media took a renewed interest in the dictator. A second reason is that America in general, and George W. Bush in particular, cannot be blamed for what’s going on in Zimbabwe. And so the very real theft of a democratic election isn’t worth writing about. Indeed, Mugabe’s rhetoric about the imperialist aggression of Tony Blair and George W. Bush must be appealing to certain segments of the left blogosphere. The rest, I guess, is silence.


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