Nick Kristof’s Anti-Politics

Tumblr_lvbjpsADee1qzll1yElliott Prasse-Freeman in New Inquiry:

In order to grasp Kristof’s success, it is important to deconstruct his style and method. He is remarkably efficient with words, evocative through stories, and convincing in tone. After reading perhaps hundreds of his columns on the underdeveloped world, certain patterns emerge: Broadly speaking, Kristof often employs clever journalistic and prose devices to weave personalized traumas into bite-sized morsels of digestible horror. By playing on his audience’s Orientalist, classist, and racist fantasies, Kristof fabricates legible narratives out of snapshots of distant worlds. He then crafts stunningly simplistic solutions to the seemingly irrevocable problems that plague those backwards places. Kristof accomplishes this by using a standard and replicated formula: some mixture of (1) a construction of a bestial and demonic Other creating a spectacle of violence; (2) a rendering of the object of that horror—a depoliticized, abject victim, usually no more than a body; (3) a presentation of a (potential) salvific savior figure (typically the West writ large or a Western agent—some teleological process immanent in capitalism or development, the reader himself (who can act by donating money), and almost always Kristof himself as well); and (4) an introduction of potential linkages with larger systems and structures … only to immediately reterritorialize around the non-political solutions and the savior implementing them.