Tuesday, August 14, 2012

That guy is from Africa. That shit doesn’t count

Everybody has their first time. My first time was just a few weeks ago...when an American blogger told the rest of the world that my views are so unimportant, they don’t matter... because I am African.

Let me start from the beginning.

A few months ago, after experiencing outages with my Google Chrome browser, (I still experience them, especially on slow connections), I opted to use Internet Explorer 9. It worked. In fact, it worked way better than previous Internet Explorer browsers had worked, and, it worked better than Chrome was working.

So I decided to tweet about it. This is what I tweeted in lower case. “I think I am starting to have trouble with Google Chrome. And for the first time, I am finding IE a better browser. IE9, that is.”

A fellow who operates Internet Explorer’s twitter account picked it up and retweeted it. Weeks or months later, Internet Explorer used my tweet in a marketing campaign for its browser. And that is when all hell broke loose.

Users who find Internet Explorer to be irredeemably so bad (and they are quite many), wondered just who on earth could endorse the browser like I did. They rushed to a social news website, called reddit.com, and proceeded to tear me into pieces, bit by bit.

So they did a search for my tweet and finally landed on my account.

I had 666 followers on twitter by then. So one quipped. “The only person who approves of IE is Satan.”

That was funny. I even laughed when I read it. But other comments were not so nice. No. Actually, I withdraw that statement. Other comments were a little more colourful.

I rarely use sentence case when posting on social media. So I do not capitalise sentence beginnings and Is. It is a personal choice. It is a personal style. I know grammar rules probably better than those snickering Americans do. Social media is not an English grammar examination. But some Americans wanted it so. And commented to the effect that I do not have a proper grip of English grammar.

Another looked at my profile picture – which is of a half-dressed boy from Paidha District, near the Congo border. He simply could not resist the temptation to comment. “Dude, he has an impoverished kid as a background. You can’t start criticising him!” as if I am some poverty stricken, aid-seeking 25-year-old who spends my time writing proposals to Americans for financial support.

Another, probably thinking I am so poorly paid (which is not itself a lie), said I must have taken a bribe from Microsoft (which owns Internet Explorer). “He was probably paid a year’s wages to tweet that,” read the comment.

Another took the opportunity to say I make scam email and pages, which would thus be the reason why I hated Chrome, simply because it prevented me from doing exactly that. “It keeps trying to block him from making 419 emails/scam pages, what an asshole chrome is!” he commented.


Another said that when they searched for my comments in Bing, “it brought up a ton of porn.”

Another said I was a computer pirate because I made this tweet. “It feels funny when a website blocks you access to a movie, song or book, and another gives you the entire thing...for free.” As if that in itself means I pirated a book or movie or song or whatever.

And then there was the winner. It got 40 points (or should I say likes) from the readers of the blog. “Dude is in Africa. That shit doesn’t count.”

Yes. I am born, bred, and living and working in Africa. And because of that, my views on what browser works for me, just don’t count.

I found a very strong rotten sense of prejudice in the comments that were made about me by those egoistical contemptuous Americans. It is deeply embedded in the view of some people in the West about what Africa, and Africans are. The idea is probably one of broke destitute people, roaming around in the savannah, sharing lunch with monkeys and running away from the big cats for survival, as Americans go about the more important things in life like landing on mars or shooting cinemagoers dead. I am actually surprised no one commented that they are surprised someone in Africa knows an internet browser.

Just so those guys know, I am not destitute. I am lucky enough to be employed by the very best newspaper that journalism has given this country. At my level, I am one of the best in my industry; I graduated, to use a language Americans understand, magna cum laude at university. I do not spend the night awake, wondering how I will pay my college loans like many Americans my age do. Yes I am African, but I am happy and proud to be one.

I have absolutely no problem with someone disagreeing, and saying Internet Explorer is actually not a great browser. I do not think it is a great browser myself. But hell, at that very moment, it was better than Chrome...by far.

But you see, when someone chooses to look away from the content of my views, to my origins, and decides to use those as a basis of dismissing what I say, it is not just plain simple disagreement anymore. It is the false feeling of superiority. It is even racist. It is stupid. It is where you stop and ask god for forgiveness because the only other beings who have a thinking like that are the very scum of the earth and deserve to dine alongside Lucipher at the feast of the wicked.

But no, I am better than getting angry at these comments. If my shit didn’t really count, they would never have commented. But alas; they did.

58 comments:

  1. Such comments show how far many people in the 'developed' world are from real knowledge. The old lies about Africa are just that; lies but it is amazing how many people still take that shit in and believe it like it is the gospel, just because someone has told them it is true.

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    1. thanks Steve. living in the developed world, surely, does not make one learned or informed.

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  2. Magna Cum Laude.

    Ignore them - we all know there is a certain breed of American that has chosen to remain ignorant.

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    1. thanks. it really does give one a piece of mind when you choose to over look that kind of comment.

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  3. I am always thank full that we know better, sometimes way better than they do about their society and world.

    Well written. Ben Bella did well. :-)

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    1. thanks a lot dear. i know what you mean. of people who think the world ends at New York to the East, and, Los Angeles to the West. and anything from beyond those horizons is purely alien.

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  4. quiet frankly am disappointed.......oh well atleast u made a conclusion based on facts and not just racial heritage and other flimsy points.

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    1. You can judge a person's intelligence by the way they handle their anger. I think John you can now understand the difference. If these people were sensible they would consider your comments valuable to improve their product-Google Chrome but they to our surprise they took it the negative. This clearly shows how some people no matter the origin will always have frozen brains toward good and they made like that. That thinking was hard coded in their brains at birth and is read only(ROM). We were not created the same John, there are those who were born, will always be and will until death have low thinking capacity and wet brains. I am happy not to be like them and you should be too John.

      George MRT

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    2. thanks. there was a time i actually felt they did not deserve a response from me, of any kind.

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  5. I would never make judgement based on where someone resides or originates. This post reminds me of that AFP headline 'Hillary Clinton heads to Ebola stricken Uganda...' (Paraphrase). I think what those from the West should do is pay attention to their illiteracy and leave Africans to settle their own issues. We can manage without you.

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    1. man, arthur thanks. and don't even get me started on that "ebola-stricken" thing. like they were better informed than the CIA-informed secretary of state who did not think it bad enough to cancel the visit.

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  6. Me like. Tell it to them real. Not surprised though. For all their so called advancement, Americans are quite ignorant about stuff outside their borders. And yes, Google chrome has been shitty of late. So those guys just have nugu they're doing worse than IE

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    1. and that is exactly what my tweet was about. i am actually using IE to write this, simply because it was taking chrome about four times as long to open a simple blogger page. some guys, however, thought Africa had a thing to do with it. Puh!

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  7. It's such a shame.
    Lovely read though and just sad that some people in this day and age still think like that.

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  8. Well written, if you ask me you've got a career in journalism mate, lol. But seriously most Africans will not be surprised by the antics of a few ignorant idiots, what is far more worrisome are the antics of those who should know better

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  10. My friend Evelyn Namara shared this article on Facebook. It is so sad that in 21st century we have people in the so called *developed* world with stone ages ideas. The world has moved beyond, as has Africa. All the more reason for us to continue the work to put spotlight on innovation, ingenuity of Africa - which in my mind is in so many many ways leaps and bounds ahead of rest of the world (east or west). I get some of the best internet connectivity in Uganda, for example - better than I do in many parts of the U.S. And I can say without batting an eyelid that the incredible Ugandan friends and colleagues I have are not just the very best of Africa, but *anywhere* in the world - smart, intelligent, creators and pathmakers ( just thinking of the fantastic ideas pitched at start up Kampala) and early technology adapters. I am reminded of this poem by Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore :

    Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
    Where knowledge is free
    Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
    By narrow domestic walls
    Where words come out from the depth of truth
    Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
    Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
    Where the mind is led forward by thee
    Into ever-widening thought and action
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country..(I improvize )...let THIS WORLD awake.

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    1. thanks a lot Neha for this. and that's such a nice poem...wouldnt the world indeed be a nicer place to live in than it is? i think so. and maybe we can push for it...bit by small bit.

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  11. Great article and I love your take take on the issue. Many would have reacted differently.

    The way I see it is that there are billions of internet users around the world. Any opinion, article, achievement or view is guaranteed to be met by a handful or small group of either angry, extremist, ethnocentric, jealous and often racist comments. It's a reality of modern media and it's a shame that they get so much attention even though it's only natural for the negative comments to stick.

    "The few ignorant idiots" often cause a bad name for the rest, where their race, culture or country is tarnished with the same brush.

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    1. thanks. this world is so varied. at any one time, there is an individual with bigotted views. the danger is when such people are armed with internet enabled devices, and they spread their bile, world over.

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  12. Hi John

    My attention was drawn to this great blog by a friend of mine, Ida Horner, who runs Africa on the Blog.

    I agree wholeheartedly with much of what you say (though I'm one of those who are not a great fan of IE!), yet I'd make just one cautionary comment if I may.

    You appear to be referring to the American nation as a whole, and tarring it with the same sweeping brush that may well be appropriate for the idiots who have been so rudely dismissive of the ionformation you've freely shared.

    All I'd say is: Please don't let them make you be like them - not even just a little bit - and then the good guys are winning! :-)

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    1. thanks Linda. i wrote it in a hyperbolic sense. but yes i agree not all Americans are bigotted like the few people who commented on Reddit. thanks again.

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  13. WARNING : THIS MIGHT COME OFF AS A RANT!!

    In my humble opinion, Internet Explorer 9 is an Awesome Browser!! Its much easier to use than its predecessors, works smoother with flash, shockwave and javascript apps than other popular browsers (not applicable to Apple's Safari because I havent tried it), uses relatively less memory and system resources and is seemingly more fluid generally than other browsers on content heavy sites especially those that run on HTML 5, even on a slow connection. Its sad that the ''failures'' comparitively of Microsofts previous browsers have disallowed people from checking it out and experiencing its simplistic beauty. Even worse its sad that egotistic, crowd following, arrongant bigots go around insulting such opinions of people who have enjoyed the browser's simple features just because of their race or where they come from. IE9 may not have all the features that other browsers offer but more than half of internet browser users dont even use half of what their browser offers and yet you go around looking down on others . . . simply because of where they come from???!!! Well we are sorry we have opinions too you inane, racist, inhuman oafs!

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  14. You can make a good freelance journalist. I am amused however at how backward in thinking some pple still are, yet living in the so called developed world!

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  15. Well said, John! USA is saddled with many stupid, ignorant and racist people which should be no surprise to anyone (other than this class), but I'm with Linda on some moderation: I also know plenty of good and conscientious USA citizens (I refuse to use the term 'American' which applies to ALL peoples from The frozen North of Canada to the fiery-named Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost tip of South America). These good people should not be lumped with their rotten potatoes. Like all societies, the USA has both good and bad people, even if there be a disproportionately high percentage of crass and colossally ignorant ones in their number.

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    1. thanks Njeri and i appreciate your correction. often, it is the few the spoil the name for an entire people.

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  16. Eh, just ignore them. Reddit is full of teenagers still living in their parents basements who think that saying stuff like this makes them "cool" or "edgy". Treat them as you would a turd you just stepped in.

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    1. thanks. teenagers would more than explain it. although i dont remember losing my head as much, even when my puberty was at the peak of its powers.

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  17. Feels like someone (not Voldemort) said "Ogir'enyindo!!" Eish!

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    1. huh, funny that. thanks. giving them a bit of Luganda, right?

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  18. I admire your restraint - I know for sure had this happened to me, I would be ranting and raving- your article proves you are the bigger man! Ignore the idiots because Stupid is as Stupid does ....

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  19. Some people got jealous that IE does not recognize them, not even the Chrome they are trying so hard to defend, so they overreacted. What a shame.

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  20. The fact that you begin sentences with lower-case letters and don't capitalize makes me doubt if you have enough intelligence to differentiate humor from racism. Any opinion that is not presented well is invalid to me. Oh, and that probably just makes me believe more that IE users have low IQ.

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  21. The 100% American is 99% idiot.

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  22. Wow, from your the insensitive, bigoted, and very ignorant responses to your tweets you counter with this whole, "let's get mad at Americans for generalizing about Africans by generalizing about Americans in return." perspective. Though I sympathize with your encounter with a few (and I mean FEW) of my more ignorant and stupid countrymen, I am surprised that someone of your intellectual caliber would lower yourself to such a level and respond in a rather childish fashion. The US has well over 300 million citizens from the world over, yet you are ready to paint us with a broad brush. Look, I am all for exposing stupidity and I make no excuses for the manifestation of it in some of my fellow Americans. In fact, it shames me. However, when you write stuff like, "...as Americans go about the more important things in life like landing on mars or shooting cinemagoers dead." it shows a lack of respect (for the unfortunate victims of that tragedy), immaturity, and the same ignorance with which my countrymen have unfortunately generalized you with. I have lived and worked in Africa for the past 5 years and have had the honor of travelling to nine nations on this wonderful continent. As a Black American, I am well aware of the ignorance of certain Americans when it comes to things and people both Black and African. Nonetheless, that is not an excuse for you to display the same behavior or legitimize such "tweets" with a like response.

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    1. What behaviour is this? Pray do tell anonymous person

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    2. Oh yes? Still in that do as I say, not do mode, hmm? "That is not an excuse for you..." are you still over here lecturing Africans on the dos and don'ts of how to live their lives? Do tone down your pomposity just a notch, if you please! You're just feeding into the world's view of those countrymen you're so quick to defend.

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    3. Offensive is offensive, is offensive. It does not matter who it comes from. I too was pretty horrified by the reference to the shooting. People died. PEOPLE. Can we not at least let go of our nationalism for long enough to accept that it was not a proud day for anyone?

      John's post suggests that Americans make a habit of doing things like that, and while I will admit that it happens far more often than is acceptable (zero times ever is what is acceptable), it is politicizing the mass murder.

      I think that I, and the above poster, (different Anonymous), who are both living in Africa, feel that the vast majority of this post was correct, but that bringing the Aurora shooting up in such a way was a "kicking below the belt". There is no excuse to say that someone's opinion does not matter because of their race or nationality, but there is also no excuse to trade on a national tragedy because of an Internet fight.

      I think it is akin to when westerners make references to all of Africa as if it is constantly consumed by civil wars led by child armies. Child armies have happened here, and it shocking and appalling, but it is not all of Africa, it is not everyone, and it is not something to bring up to put down an entire continent because you don't like what a couple of citizens of the Internet who you think are from Africa said.

      I don't think that the commenter was bringing it up in an effort to instruct John because he is African, but because he is human, and it is never cool for one human to make light of the suffering of another.

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  23. Forget the criticism, we will live.
    critical thinking is not measured by the level of English.
    Big hug!
    Brazil.

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  24. Yo.
    Got linked here from the hateful trash known as reddit.

    Just gotta say, your opinion is your opinion, and I respect that. And those redditors? Mostly ignorant and incapable of higher brain function. Should've ignored them.

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  25. Nice of you to assume that all the comments are coming from Americans. Redditors tend to have a virulent knee-jerk anti-American streak. A large portion of those comments probably came form "enlightened" Europeans, Canadians and Australians.

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    1. I am an American redditor living in Africa.

      I moved to Africa because I realized that I had no idea what it was really like over here and I wanted to see for myself. Before coming here I mostly had images of wide expanses of nothing with small groupings of circular mud huts, but I knew that could not be correct, so I came, and I learned.

      It is very easy to think that you know something about what you have never experienced yourself just because you have seen pictures of it or heard an expert (or self-proclaimed expert) spout opinions. It is very easy to try to make yourself one of those "experts" on whatever the conversation turns to. Why is it not okay to say that you don't know anything about the subject so you cannot speak on it?

      I feel like that is usually a big problem with people from developed countries, especially Americans, and don't get me started about how alive that spirit is on reddit.

      But John also spoke to a prejudice against Africa and Africans. He attributed this to the Americans on reddit, and I certainly agree that quite a few of them were likely at fault in the comment/votes, but as Anonymous (above) pointed out, there are also "enlightened" Europeans on the site.

      I think that one thing I have learned from the reddit community is how shockingly xenophobic and racist many otherwise liberal Europeans are. At first, I too assumed that almost all of those comments I read on reddit came from Americans and I was confused. I know that, unlike sexism, racism is usually not spoken aloud, but comes out more strongly when anonymous, and that parts of the United States struggle with racism more than where I am from, but I still could not understand what I was seeing.

      Eventually I began to learn that many countries in Europe consider immigration to be a hot-button issue, and what I was seeing was a response to the fear and resentment felt by people who thought that other races/cultures were attacking their economy/historical culture. I do not agree with this stance, but understanding what it was I was seeing helps me a lot when I encounter it.


      (PS. I love Africa. If I had a gym, air-conditioning, and hot running water then I would be in heaven here. Africa>America in many ways. I can even accept my amazingly slow internet connection as worth it to be in Africa.)

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  26. FYI, when you are commenting on line, it is a good idea to look competent, because everyone judges. Use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling. It only helps to set you above the rest of the crowd.

    And, hey, I remember when we in the US used 56k modems. Bandwidth matters. If IE doesn't suck, for you, then it doesn't suck for you. People just don't get that the world also exists outside of their domain.

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  27. I won't apologize for those people or your experience around them but you have my sympathy around your insult.

    reddit is an excellent example of what has happened to the American part of the internet in general. reddit is not where the most intelligent minds go to communicate. reddit is like an American upper primary school with juvenile primate behaviors being expressed behind a smarmy condescending facade of access to inexpensive technology.

    It is this access to inexpensive technology that has Americans on reddit, and indeed any population with access to inexpensive technology thinking they're onto a big secret no one else knows and a knee-jerk generalization of basing one's worth on being better than others, another inherently primate behavior.

    The ones that commented on what they believe to be your situation are not really indicative of all Americans nor all Americans on reddit but the way your story was presented brought groups of people who are reactionary and very closed minded, xenophobic and grossly ignorant together as one so they could shake each other's hands in an internet forum.

    The internet allows everyone to be exposed to everyone else and unfortunatly that allows the reality of 90% of everything being crap and 80% of the work being done by 20% of the people to be demonstrated very effectively.

    People with access to inexpensive technology think they are more knowledgable than others but the opposite is true. That inexpensive technology makes them far weaker in many many ways.

    I am an American and my advice to you is the advice I try to follow. The internet has been wrecked by people. When the buzz of the blizzard of noise becomes bothersome, remove it from the locus of your attention and continue as before.

    There is so much typical psychology behind this incident. Experiencing your part of it will strengthen you in the long run.

    Kudos on making it to an IE ad via a random tweet.

    Chrome is no longer the best browser. Safari 6 currently outperforms it. I have little negative blanket statements to say about other browsers. I have seen almost every kind of device and os get pwned. Beleiving one is better than another leads to every kind of failure.

    This is bread and butter for people who pay attention.

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  29. They took a stab at your background because you said that IE was better. When it really is, and has been for the last decade, much worse than any other browser out there. Yes, the guys on reddit are in many cases retarded misfits. Every sane person that has ever hung out on that site sooner or later realize that.

    But that doesn't necessarily make them wrong and having a magna cum laude, doesn't necessarily make you right.

    IE < Firefox < Chrome
    heck. even opera is a better browser. If you didn't know you were supporting microsofts browser-monopolizing campaign then to bad for you.

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  30. Hi, I'm on reddit as bgugi.

    First of all, I wanted to say that I'm sorry. I certainly didn't post that to hurt your feelings. I am an american, and I certainly do suffer from the america-centric world view.

    Then again, I feel you may have misunderstood me. I didn't mean to say you don't have valid opinions. The point was that microsoft had to look all the way across the world to find anybody who held that opinion. If you advertise with people's opinions, you should use people similar to your customer.

    I will admit, my comment could certainly seem aggressively rude. I don't discount you as a person. My comment could certainly have been worded more appropriately, and been more accurate and descriptive. however, that was not the tone of the conversation. My comment was lighthearted, and meant to mock microsoft.

    Now i feel you are making some unfair judgments. How can you criticize us about assuming africans are destitute, when the imagery you choose to represent yourself, to represent your people, is of extreme poverty? You chose to use your origins to represent yourself. Less than 1% of your entire continent has broadband access, not to mention language barriers. African internet users interact with those in the west very, very little. And the apparent majority of those interactions that are identified with Africa are scams.

    Again, I didn't want to hurt you. I didn't want to put you down. If you would like to talk about it, feel free to send me a message on reddit.

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  31. Bgugi's condescending attitude is probably what got him 'misunderstood' (like he wants us to believe) in the first place. Your comment was light hearted so were the pictures he used as profiles, should he use the picture of a mansion to avoid misjudgement? The problem with your kind is the know it all attitude refer to " Less than 1% of your entire continent has broadband access, not to mention language barriers. African internet users interact with those in the west very, very little. And the apparent majority of those interactions that are identified with Africa are scams" name your source of data. I scoffed at your remark about us AFRICAN INTERNET USERS interacting very very little with the west, pray tell WHY do we have to interact with the west and why is it a benchmark for advanced internet use? We do have lives you know.
    Again I find your comment mentally exhausting because it is a display of your very little knowledge about a subject you want to sound an expert on AFRICA. Now please if you may, spend less time on reddit and do some READING, you will be shocked.

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  32. Notwithstanding the apology offered above, the internet is populated with fools who can't get attention anywhere else. You are a gentleman, and clearly a nice and normal person. I hope to address getting unnecessarily flamed, next time it happens, with your good grace.

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