September 25, 2009
Eat Your Heart Out, Rupert

A friend of mine was in Kampala, Uganda last month and I asked him to bring me back a week’s worth of Red Pepper, my favorite newspaper in the world.

The paper is not to be confused with the U.K.’s Red Pepper, a self-described “magazine of political rebellion and dissent” influenced by “socialism, feminism and environmental politics.” While that Red Pepper boasts this week an interview with Pauline Kimani, “one of Kenya’s few openly lesbian women,” the Kampala one in 2006 announced a campaign in its pages “to rid our motherland of the deadly vice (lesbianism),” with pictures of hot chicks making out. This earned Red Pepper the consternation of Human Rights Watch, among others.

Three years ago I visited Kampala but spent the whole time sick with malaria, lying on my big fluffy bed in a Lake Victoria resort convalescing with Red Pepper, which started as a weekly but then, due to high demand, became a daily.

Everywhere you go in the city, people are reading it. A quarter to a third of the rag is basically porn, with advice columns on how to have sex with a fat woman, or to lengthen the “twin towers” (ubiquitous Uganda slang for vaginal lips, and apparently longer is better) and the most offensively sexualized descriptions of women — even teenage girls, who, featured in the paper for being part of a school musical group or some other chaste accomplishment, are described as “waterlogged” or “causing boxers to bulge.”

The rest comprises stories on car theft rings, lynchings of goat thieves, and what I imagine to be quite credible reports of graft, political corruption, shifting military alliances. Red Pepper does the best investigative journalism in Uganda, while the regular Kampala paper publishes feel-good pap about potholes getting filled. Pepper takes none of its news, save for foreign sports, from wire services, probably because reporters come cheap in Kampala, and you could hire about 30 for the price of a Reuters account.

This paper, unlike its first-world counterparts, seems to grow every year — the copies I just received were a good bit thicker than before. Pepper has added two special sections, including, “Virgins,” a weekly survey of hot chicks, and tons more sports.

It has outlived a number of its competitors, such as Black Mamba, an almost-identical tabloid. Pepper’s newest competitor, The Onion, steals its name and even its masthead design from the American humor magazine. It spares the easily bored all the political intrigue and focuses exclusively on twin towers, corpses, and the like. Pepper will outlive it, because The Onion is too coarse and tacky even for Kampala.

It used to be that alerts flashed when you visited the Red Pepper website, warning of all kinds of potential disasters to your computer, but this is no longer the case. If you do go, a brief glossary:

Kandahar = pussy.
Whopper = cock.

It would be nice if the screeching Glenn Beck/teabagger types could take a good, long look at Red Pepper, a window into a society free of taxation, with completely unrestricted markets, and save for institutionalized homophobia, minimal government interference in daily life, which means you are free (in practice) to lynch whomever stole your chicken, and to pay for your own schooling.

There are no good roads and power is only on half the time, but that’s freedom. The teabaggers fear the re-emergence of the Soviet Union, or so they say, while failing to realize that the logical extension of their demands is, in fact, Uganda.

At least this scenario produces cheap health care. My entire course of malaria treatment in Kampala — testing, doctor consultation, medicine, follow-up, more medicine — cost me $15, without insurance. I just walked in off the trash-strewn, pothole filled, burning street.


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(Ed. note: Below the fold, unsuitable for office viewing, is a sample from The Onion. I know you won’t want to see it.)



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Posted by Jennie Erin Smith at September 25, 2009 02:42 PM
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This is interesting news for people to read?

And which is it, 2 hours or 48 hours? The public has a right to know! Actually...no, we don't have any fucking business knowing.


Weasel Bonks Debby

Pair In Steamy Romp For 2 Hours In South Africa Hotel

Goodlyfe singer Weasel bonks South African based Ugandan model Debby Sempaka for a massive forty eight hours in Lio Hotel in South Africa, 3am can reveal.

Catch the details in today's Red Pepper.

Posted by: Mike Goldman on September 25, 2009 6:29 PM

Mike.

Let her write. I thoroughly enjoyed the piece. Shouldn't we learn about other cultures? Maybe I enjoyed it more because a few months ago I read an academic book called "Cross Cultural Readings for Writers" that I picked up a a neat pre-landfill garbage/householditems/book exchange in Connecticut that this great guy showed me. Fascinating stuff even though they put out a new edition all the time and I only read one of them.

As an aside, you caught me in an opportune moment with that comment. Let me offer up a comment from a book by Jack London called "Martin Eden" that until now passed me by and I'm reading it now (and peaked ahead to get the part below). Until now Buck Batard had been a semi-fictional character but I think a sequence of events has caused me to rethink that. Might turn him into a fictional blog writer. Assuming my writing privileges won't get suspended.

I'm doing the next part the lazy man's way by cutting and pasting from Wikipedia. And take this in context, it was written in the early 1900's.


From: Martin Eden by Jack London.
*************************************************
"But that character, that Wiki-Wiki, why do you make him talk so roughly? Surely it will offend your readers, and surely that is why the editors are justified in refusing your work."

"Because the real Wiki-Wiki would have talked that way."

"But it is not good taste."

"It is life," he replied bluntly. "It is real. It is true. And I must write life as I see it."

Posted by: Buck on September 26, 2009 5:33 AM

Buck, you're kind. I guess my fascination with RP and these papers has to do with my actual experience of Africa compared to what I'm seeing on CNN's "Inside Africa" and other filtered dispatches. Uganda seemed to me relentlessly vulgar, reckless, oversexed, drunk, mean, and funny, and so I hear is Kenya. There was a thoughtful piece in Vanity Fair about a year ago by a Kenyan writer, who was back in Nairobi for the first time in ages and shocked to see a nation that seemed to be partying itself to death. That writer connected it with a dissolute economy, where people who 15 years before were wearing shirts and ties were now selling socks in big street markets. The buying and selling is as relentless as the drinking and sex obsession.

Posted by: Jennie on September 26, 2009 9:17 AM

Sounds like some jerks "destroyed the village (in that case the economy) to save it". Similar to what Naomi Klein described in "The Shock Doctrine"?

Posted by: Buck on September 26, 2009 10:09 AM

One more comment as I could write many more but I suspect I should leave room for others to add something A post like this one takes a while to sink in; getting past the "wiki-wiki" part (as described by London in the early 1900's) - it takes a while if we can get past American puritanical sensibilities - as an aside, Mike you deal with the same thing with your pet project). I like the way you tied it all together: Your kicker made it worthwhile.
**********************************************
"It would be nice if the screeching Glenn Beck/teabagger types could take a good, long look at Red Pepper, a window into a society free of taxation, with completely unrestricted markets, and save for institutionalized homophobia, minimal government interference in daily life, which means you are free (in practice) to lynch whomever stole your chicken, and to pay for your own schooling.

There are no good roads and power is only on half the time, but that’s freedom. The teabaggers fear the re-emergence of the Soviet Union, or so they say, while failing to realize that the logical extension of their demands is, in fact, Uganda.

At least this scenario produces cheap health care. My entire course of malaria treatment in Kampala — testing, doctor consultation, medicine, follow-up, more medicine — cost me $15, without insurance. I just walked in off the trash-strewn, pothole filled, burning street.

************************************************

my own comment: if a society like that one can have cheap health care, yes indeed; we damn well can too. I'll refrain at this point from going any further into Rude Pundit blog territory.

Posted by: Buck on September 26, 2009 11:25 AM

I think Gershon Legman who our founder has written about, if Legman were around today, would find all of this fascinating and worthy of study. Look him up

Posted by: The Bad Attitudes Memory Hole on September 26, 2009 1:00 PM

I had a Ugandan friend at church when President Clinton visited Uganda to proclaim it a success in democratization. My friend had fled in fear of his life not long before and was distraught that the State Department or whoever seemed wholly unaware of the country beyond embassy walls.

The picture we get of other places depends on who's aiming the camera.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on September 28, 2009 9:55 PM
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