This publication could use some Journalism101: Response to Washington Post oped

If Washington Post, its editors, or Mr. Rosenbaum need a translation of this sign, I’d be more than happy to provide one. Please contact me privately.

The scarcity of mainstream media coverage on events and issues in Morocco has obviously set the bar super low. I’m increasingly perplexed by the fact that prominent publications would continue to compromise their credibility by posting pieces that offer nothing more than the desire to bash one’s head into a wall. I’d like to direct your attention to a recent oped posted on the Washington Post, with a title that should set an alarm: “This place could use a Wal-Mart.” The author’s basic argument is that life is so rough in the town of Ifrane, that the solution to make his temporary stay there more comfortable (and even going so far as to suggest that his definition of comfort is shared by the locals) is to set up a Wal-Mart. Yes, a Wal-Mart. Oh holy gods of neoliberalism and white privilege!

The author, Marcus D. Rosenbaum, begins by painting Ifrane as a town “full of quaint local shops offering a wide variety of interesting goods and fresh produce — especially since Ifrane is a small resort town high in the Atlas Mountains, sporting a small university, a fancy hotel, a royal palace and lots of vacation homes.” Mr. Rosenbaum, right there, in the end of your second paragraph, you provided the exact reasons why SETTING UP A WAL-MART IN IFRANE MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING SENSE–not for Wal-Mart and not for locals. Ifrane is exactly what he describes it. A small town that mostly centers around one of Morocco’s prominent universities. The rest is mostly tourism-based.

What’s even more amusing is that toward the end, there is a note that says the author, Mr. Rosenbaum, lives in Northwest Washington. It’s amusing because it was only last month that Wal-Mart finally announced it would start building a location in DC, after loud opposition from members of the DC community. But, of course, because Mr. Rosenbaum so desperately needs the luxury of finding the “right light bulb,” as he explains, he’ll need to put the entire local economy  and everything connected to it (crime rates, inequalities, poverty, etc) through the devastation of building a Wal-Mart. Not to mention that setting up a Wal-Mart in a relatively quiet Moroccan city sounds like a Tom Friedman wet-dream.

All jokes aside, there is something extremely frightening about this sort of discussion that is given the megaphone of mainstream media. Mr. Rosenbaum’s argument illustrates these materialistic neoliberal desires, the disconnection they facilitate, the impact they have, and how insignificant the realities of the Moroccan people, more specifically, the people of Ifrane, are painted. In Mr. Rosenbaum’s narrative of life in Ifrane, it’s not him that must adapt to his surroundings as a visitor, but that the surroundings must adapt to him, even if it comes at a high cost for those who permanently live in the area. Oh wow, this sounds an awful lot like colonialism!

After I finished reading it, I was hoping my frustration wasn’t unique. And sure enough, the only 3 comments on the article as of 6:21 PM, share similar sentiments. Some excerpts of the comments:

I can’t tell if this is supposed to be poorly written satire or just poorly written pointless stupidity.
If Mr. Rosenbaum is so lost without his American conveniences, he should have stayed in the United States; I’m sure his host country would have appreciated his absence as well. And, since he is there for the moment (for a blessedly short stay), I suggest he avail himself of internet shopping. He might even order those light bulbs.
And to top this all off, apparently the writer is a journalism professor. @worldcitizen77 was kind enough to link me to Mr. Rosenbaum’s blog, which can be found here.

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