Friday, August 6, 2010

Useless Research

There's a new book out on the Lord's Resistance Army (HT: Chris Blattman, who authored a chapter).

The book is meant to set the record straight about the Lord's Resistance Army (hence the subtitle), and based on the quote from Chris they're particularly taking aim at the coverage Invisible Children and CNN have done. (I've never seen anyone else do a story or documentary on the Acholi's plight.)

Personally, I find the tone kind of smug. Invisible Children does a lot to help people. It's possible their account is very misleading and I'd like to read the book to get the facts. But I don't think reading the book is going to give me or anyone else much insight into how to end the war. I've never seen any academic research on foreign policy (non-military strategy) that is in any way useful.

For that reason the tone is offputting. Invisible Children, even if its just a propaganda documentary, inspired thousands of (mostly) high schoolers to raise money to help thousands of (mostly) kids get a better education. It also entertained a lot of people (8.0 average rating on IMDb). From a utilitarian perspective it was an "ethical" movie, however misleading. This book on the other hand, has little ethical value if it can't help end the war, and probably won't even entertain many readers.

You can file this post under the theme "unimportance of fact/reality" which I consider a central theme on this blog.

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