My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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The Devil Came on Horseback

After WWII, my grandfather and grandmother moved to Khartoum in what is now Sudan. My aunt was born there but they left before my mother came into the world. My grandfather often told me that political tensions were already rising when he left, but he isn’t one for talking details about these things. I’ve always been quite intrigued (and often disturbed) by what has and is happening in Sudan.

When Bich Ngoc Cao told me that i absolutely must see The Devil Came on Horseback, i decided to take a break from my current state of workaholicism to see it. Her recommendations are usually spot on and this film is mind-blowing. I knew of the atrocities in Darfur, but this film does an astounding job of really personalizing the stories of the people involved. It’s deeply disturbing, showing the horrifying images of genocide through the lens of an American Marine Captain who is assigned to document the lives of but not protect the people of Darfur. At one point, he can no longer sit by and watch and so he returns home to the States to rally American politicians. He figures that if they just knew, they would be in there to stop it. Or if the American people just knew, they would make their government do something. As we know, the tragedy in Darfur continues.

On top of the amazing depiction of what is taking place, there’s a simple message: raise a fuss, contact your politicians, make them know that you care and that you want them to do something. I am trying to convince myself to believe this could work, although i admit that i’m feeling very disillusioned with our political structure. Still, i do believe that it is important for the American people to understand what is taking place there. This is genocide and it is horrific. People are being brutally murdered because they are of the wrong race. The women are raped and tortured and people are burned alive. And, just like with Rwanda, we have turned a blind eye while China continues to fund this atrocity. I really recommend checking out this movie when it comes to your town (currently, it seems to be on the film festival circuit). Also, check out Save Darfur for more information on what’s happening in Darfur.

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8 comments to The Devil Came on Horseback

  • The shame is that there is even sometimes regression backwards, as was evidenced when I saw Biden at a hearing back when I was in D.C…. the regression was on the part of the administration and it was demonstrated when Biden had to eat their envoy alive to make him admit (again, for the record) that there was in fact a genocide occurring. It was really fun to watch Biden in full foreign relations glory, but really sad given the apparent necessity of his pulling teeth on the issue.

    transcriptage: http://biden.senate.gov/newsroom/details.cfm?id=272339&&

  • The shame is that there is even sometimes regression backwards, as was evidenced when I saw Biden at a hearing back when I was in D.C…. the regression was on the part of the adminstration and it was demonstrated when Biden had to eat their envoy alive to make him admit (again, for the record) that there was in fact a genocide occurring. It was really fun to watch Biden in full foreign relations glory, but really sad given the apparent necessity of his pulling teeth on the issue.

    transcriptage: http://biden.senate.gov/newsroom/details.cfm?id=272339&&

  • At one point, he can no longer sit by and watch and so he returns home to the States to rally American politicians. He figures that if they just knew, they would be in there to stop it. Or if the American people just knew, they would make their government do something.

    Speaking personally, I’d say that once upon a time I would have supported military action by the United States to help end the tragedy in the Sudan. But Iraq has convinced me that such action is folly. And now I don’t know what I should do, or what the country should do. Send a strongly worded letter? Perhaps the President can say something stern to the leader of Sudan? Or should we offer economic aid in exchange for a cease fire? I’ve really no idea. I suspect quite a few people are the same spot I’m in. Iraq has bankrupted our imaginations. It’s hard to think of what the possible positive actions are, given the circumstances.

  • I saw Devil at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival a few weeks ago, and it is an incredible film, important not only in its revelations about the crisis in Darfur, but as a meditation on what it means to be a witness.

    But I think that what was most painful to me is that despite our activism, very little is being done to stop what’s happening in Darfur.

  • Asaji

    Hi,I remembered this while i was reading “The Devil Came on Horseback”

    *If you see hoof prints, think horses-not zebras.*
    The Pragmatic Programmer, p96, David Thomas and Andrew Hunt.

  • GoodToBeWithYou

    I see this blog’s first post was June 9, 1997, which means that June 9, 2007 would have been it’s tenth birthday.

    Call me sentimental, but happy retrospective tenth birthday for two days in the past’s future ( if you catch my drift, this being a comment on a June 7 2007 past ). The French probably have a tense for it.

    If anyone reads this, apart from the bit bucket, pls shout hip hooray here. And good to talk with you in Brisbane.
    Danny

  • I discovered this post while writing Can Social Technology help prevent Genocide?. It’s a fascinating coincidence for me, because I’ve drawn so much from your writings on the cultural nature of the social web (and I’m positing online culture as critical in the relationship between the internet & genocide…). Cheers to you, if you ever get to read such a late comment 🙂

  • I discovered this post while writing Can Social Technology help prevent Genocide?. It’s a fascinating coincidence for me, because I’ve drawn so much from your writings on the cultural nature of the social web (and I’m positing online culture as critical in the relationship between the internet & genocide…). Cheers to you, if you ever get to read such a late comment 🙂