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The Economist slammed after claiming colonialists in Congo had admirable intentions, deletes tweet after outrage

Following the social media backlash, the Economist deleted the tweet. A new tweet was posted with the words 'admirable intentions' removed from the caption as well as the article.

On Saturday (July 31), the weekly newspaper ‘The Economist’ sparked a controversy after it propagated a pro-colonialist narrative regarding the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An article was published by ‘The Economist’ titled, “A grim account of the construction of the Congo-Océan Railway” on Saturday. It was a review of the newly published book ‘In the Forest of No Joy’ by WW Norton. “The book is a masterful, if relentlessly bleak, account of the construction of the Congo-Océan Railway, a route designed to connect the central African interior to the Atlantic. What makes it so compelling is the divide it exposes between the often admirable intentions of colonial bureaucrats, who did genuinely think they were lifting Africans out of poverty, and the grim reality that they enabled.”

Screengrab of the contentious tweet by The Economist

Given that the construction of the railway project in the 1920s was marred by violence, forced labour and deaths of tens of thousands of Africans, the use of ‘admirable intentions’ for colonial bureaucrats drew the wrath of netizens. To build the railway, the French colonisers unleashed brutality and forced the labourers to work at gunpoint. The workers were chained at the neck, treated like slaves and made to walk hundreds of kilometres to the track. As such, the Economist’s attempt to suggest that colonial bureaucrats even intended to benefit the Africans drew people’s ire on social media.

Netizens slam ‘The Economist’ for whitewashing historical wrongdoings

One user wrote, “I didn’t know that the mass murderer King Leopold was admirable o The Economist employees.”

Another Twitter user stated, “The Economist employs its typical apology for colonial violence by framing the “admirable intentions” of the colonizers. There is nothing “admirable” about colonialism. The book is called In the Forest of No Joy: The Congo-Océan Railroad and the Tragedy of French Colonialism.”

One Twitter user (@speraomarco) lamented, “When the genocide is in Africa they still call it “admirable”.”

Another miffed netizen remarked, “There’s nothing admirable about colonization, just like there’s nothing admirable about The Economist, one of the trashiest publications out there.”

The Economist removed contentious choice of words, didn’t cite apology

Screengrab of the Editor’s note by The Economist

Following the social media backlash, the Economist deleted the tweet. A new tweet was posted with the words ‘admirable intentions’ removed from the caption as well as the article. In the Editor’s note, the weekly paper stated, “We have deleted and revised a previous tweet to clarify the description of the bureaucrats’ intentions.”

 

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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