‘Libya is in Africa’

After Michele Bachmann implied Libya was on some continent other than Africa during the Republican primary debate tonight, ‘Libya is in Africa’ has been trending on Twitter. Congresswoman Bachmann probably knows that Libya is in Africa; or at least one hopes she does. The live audience seemed not to notice the comment and as a marginal candidate one can doubt the general relevance of a comment such as this. Congresswoman Bachmann is a legislator with many defects (she also polls badly and can thus get away with saying Iraq should pay reparations to the United States for its ‘liberation’; how someone like her sits on the House Select Committee on Intelligence is beyond your blogger). But Americans are not famous for their geographic intelligence; this blogger would not be surprised if a sizable number of Americans are unsure of which continent Libya sits on. Samia Ben Charqui dug up a screen capture of a CNN broadcast where Tripoli, Lebanon and a map of the Middle East stood in for Tripoli, Libya and a map of North Africa. Congresswoman Bachmann is not the only elite American who cannot place Libya.


11 thoughts on “‘Libya is in Africa’

  1. I get extremely worried when I see “educated” Americans who could potentially become leaders of such a great country display an unbelievable level of ignorance (for lack of a better word)- it has to be ignorance because all this information is just a few key strokes away! First we had Sarah Palin, and now Michelle Bachmann.

    This makes us question the quality of the American education system. I mean common, it’s really worrisome that one can go through high school in a country as advanced as the US, yet display a lack of knowledge as profound as those seen among illiterates in my village in Africa.

    Bachmann is not the only culprit, I’ve met so many Americans who are so ignorant about world affairs. In Europe and the rest of the world, Americans are the joke of the century, I feel that the US is saved by a few extremely intelligent people who continue to put her at the fore, but how long can they sustain it? The lack of curiosity about world affairs among a multitude of average Americans is really really worrisome

    Please educate your kids- they need to understand that there is a larger world out there that is much much bigger than America, a world with which they (as a leading country in the world) must interact with. How can we achieve global integration if the average american displays such ignorance?!

  2. As you can guess, I’m very interested in how others conceive of the relation between “the Middle East” and “Africa”, a tension in the thinking of those who live much closer to that imaginary line than I. I’m always grateful when Kal shares his insights on the topic.

    I think this says more about US (and everyone else’s) conception of “Africa” and “the Middle East” aka “The Arab World” aka “Muslims”. These are constructs, of course, even when used correctly. Their use and shifting meanings are valuable not because they tell us about the person’s intelligence or the efficacy of the schools they attended, but because it shows us how they organize their world.

    But that CNN map photo is just stoopids. And very funny.

  3. As the fighting continues…

    The resolution to the civil war in Libya received another blow last week as the first major gun battle between Qadhafi loyalists and revolutionary forces erupted in the capital since the capture of Tripoli over two months ago. Though fighting did not continue into the weekend, the battle suggests that it is not solely in Bani Walid and Sirte where the remainder of Qadhafi’s supporters remain. Rather, the recurrence of fighting between the two camps in Tripoli suggests that even after the NTC is able to declare a military victory, they may face the added challenge of an insurgency from Qadhafi’s supporters…


  4. Like all foreigners who’ve made their homes in America, I’m very familiar with the general lack of geographical knowledge exhibited by most people here. What I’m always curious about is: the bombs that are launched in foreign wars, are they programmed to land on the proper targets? Do the programmers know the difference between Tripoli in Libya and Tripoli in Lebanon? The difference between Kabul and Khartoum?

  5. While I freely admit that many Americans lack a basic knowledge of geography, making a technical error happens relatively easily.

    Should the journalists realize the error and correct it? Of course. Should people who want to be president know something about the world? Definitely.

    I also understand that there’s a kind of “American privilege” where plenty of Americans never have to think about other countries, but people in other countries can’t avoid thinking about America.

    But why the mean-spiritedness? I’ve encountered plenty of reasonably well-educated people in Europe and North Africa who can’t place plenty of countries on the map. I’ve also encountered more than a few people who declared that I must not be a “real American” since I speak more than one language.

    Let’s not even get started on the people who insist that Americans get paid to give blood…

    My point is not to excuse the mistake and the ignorance that underlies it, but to encourage viewing one another through a lens other than stereotype and prejudice.

  6. Hope the Libyan crisis is over with the death of Gadhafi. To be watched.

    On another front, seems that Mauritania has attacked the Wagadou forest (see link below). Malian, Mauritanian et I guess Nigerian presidents going to Algiers from end of October to mid-November, separately. Wondering why they did not go altogether. Time for Algeria to lift a finger in this fight against AQIM outside its territory. Blame the past on dead Gadhafi and start afresh. Mauritanians do not understand why Polisario is involved in the drug trafic and assistance to AQIM. They also do not believe that Algeria cannot control Polisario and this gives ammunition to conspiracy theories for those against Keenan, Geze, Mellah and others. Time to get serious and stop the nonsense.


  7. IQ based testing for a nationally funded program of retroactive abortion may be the only answer to medieval minded “born again” American Taliban social conservative republicans.

    …How the hell did America end up back in the dark ages? America is a nation of idiots!

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