What do the US president, the French president and an award-winning New York Times columnist have in common? Besides being white, male and arrogant – they lack a certain panache.
In fact, if there was any doubt over the bigotry of Donald Trump or Emmanuel Macron or columnist Tom Friedman for that matter, the events of the past few weeks would have easily put them to rest.
Confused? I will explain.
First, Macron blamed Africans for the “new” slave trade in Libya.
Then Trump, in a moment of characteristic buffoonery, shared an Islamophobic video by a extremist fringe group in the UK.
Not to be outdone, Friedman wrote a sycophantic profile of the Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
I understand that individually they read as separate affairs about different themes, but read together, they are part of the same thread of white supremacy, racial intolerance, orientalism and an attempt at revisionist history that escapes accountability.
Two weeks ago, it emerged that some African migrants and refugee seekers, looking to travel “the back way” to Europe, were being traded in Libya.
They were being auctioned in images that brought back memories of the transatlantic slave trade of the 1700s.
The outrage from ordinary people around the world, be it online, or on the streets of some of the major capitals on the African continent and in Europe, pushed authorities to comment.
There was perfunctory condemnation from African leaders, but Macron, decided to tackle it differently. He told youth leaders in Burkina Faso that it’s time that Africans stopped blaming others for their problems.
“Who are the traffickers? They are Africans, my friends. They are Africans. Ask yourselves the question. It’s not the French who are the traffickers, it’s the Africans.
“So everyone should understand the responsibility and we’ve started to do that, to dismantle them. But stop the argument saying, ‘It’s someone else’.”
Macron is right. It is Africans, or in this case, Libyans treating fellow Africans like commodities. But his dishonesty is remarkable, if not despotic in its zeal.
It was ultimately France that played a major hand in the Nato-led intervention in Libya in 2011 that has left the country in ruins. The auctioneering of people is certainly not the only heinous act taking place in Libya.
Moreover, it is the EU that encourages and pays Libyan authorities to ensure that migrants do not make it across the sea to Europe. European colonialism often outsourced its brutality.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Trump retweeted three videos from a British far-Right group.
This is Twitter and, while the medium is farcical to some, it has come to characterise the Trump presidency; check his Twitter feed and you know what the president of the US is thinking.
And though the emphasis on his social media feeds has felt like a distraction, his prejudice towards immigrants and people of colour, or Muslims, is beginning to translate into policy.
For instance, this week, the so-called Muslim ban was upheld by the US Supreme Court. This means that the citizens of eight countries, six of which are Muslim-majority countries, can’t travel to the US. Trump’s tweets are beginning to showcase an America that has arrived.
Which then brings me finally to Friedman. A poor man’s Tom Selleck at best, Friedman is the ultimate foreign policy hit-man in the US newspaper industry.
In his column “Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at last” at the end of last month, Friedman described the Saudi prince as bringing about an “Arab Spring, Saudi-style”.
It read like satire; I initially thought, like so many others, that it was a joke. The esteemed Salman has single-handedly led to the destruction of neighbouring Yemen; he has also stoked regional disharmony through the blockade on Qatar.
Friedman’s column is horrific in its treachery of the truth.
It has always been his unwavering proximity to the powerful, as a celebrity columnist (“who can interview anyone” as he says) that rendered him a propagandist in my eyes.
An inability to recognise reality remains his biggest challenge.
But as a columnist at the New York Times since 1995 and a three-time Pulitzer prize-winning columnist, Friedman’s words carry weight; they inform policy and impact authority.
And in this age where technology and information (and misinformation) sit side by side on the front lines of current attempts to control, influence and manipulate, and perhaps unbeknown to Friedman himself, his column was the perfect foil to the consolidation of Salman as the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia in the eyes of Americans.
To me, the three separate incidents illustrate a thread that binds the white supremacist and colonial mindset of Europeans and white Americans towards people of colour, Muslims, and Africans. No matter what, the privileged white male will always feel entitled to tell you how to solve a problem he created.
In Western Europe, it doesn’t matter if you’re centre Right, or Left or some place in the middle, in the US, it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican: at some point the paternalism, the sheer hypocrisy, will show.
Macron could not, despite his better self, resist blaming Africans for facilitating slavery in Libya. And Trump couldn’t hold back in retweeting a racist video that appeared on his Twitter feed. Likewise, Friedman, knowledgeable on the oil politics in the Middle East, can’t help but purchase the “reformist” tale sold by Salman.
There is a 300-year-old paternalism that is too hard to shed.