Waylaid Dialectic

January 14, 2018

NGOs caused Donald Trump!

Filed under: Random Musings — terence @ 10:13 am

Depressing. If NPR is to be believed, Owen Barder and Dina Pomerantz, two normally sensible, empirically-grounded aid commentators, believe that negative portrayal of developing countries and crises in aid agency and NGO promotional material and media engagement is one of the reasons Donald Trump allegedly described developing countries in Africa as shitholes.

Before Barder and Pomerantz hit the tweet button they needed to pause and think about whether their claims had any empirical basis.

(1) Many NGOs strive for positive portrayal in their advertising. In the UK and Australia those that are members of Bond and ACFID (NGO peak bodies) are strongly encouraged to by codes of conduct. (This may be true for the US too. I am limiting my comments to countries I know about.) Obviously, crises still have to be called crises, and need described as need, but my experience has been that professional NGOs being gratuitous in doing this is the exception, not the norm.

(2) Barder and Pomerantz provide no evidence that NGO adverts do anything to shape people’s views. I would posit that most people’s views are shaped by their Facebook feeds and the TV news. This is where the bulk of the information the average person receives comes from. I rather suspect President Trump’s views are formed by Fox news, not his frequent reading of advertising material from aid NGOs.

Aid NGOs shouldn’t be beyond criticism. But it ought to be empirically accurate criticism.

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