The Mau Mau: Myths and Misrepresentations in US News Media
Silvia Hernandez Benito
American University, School of International Service, US
Silvia Hernandez Benito is an undergraduate student at American University seeking a bachelor's degree in International Studies at the School of International Service, American University with a concentration in Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution, and a regional focus in Sub-Saharan Africa. Silvia is originally from Alicante, Spain, and is fluent in Spanish, English, and has professional working proficiency in French.
The purpose of this research is to analyze the meanings and ideas evoked by discourses on Africa and the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya in The New York Times, in order to demonstrate structural biases and operating frameworks that perpetuate negative attitudes towards Africa and Africans by representing Africa as synonymous with terror, hopelessness, and conflict. These representations are perpetrated by stereotypes and myths, the four Structural Media biases, and colonial discourses. These biases, in turn, make it difficult to extricate from language and thought patterns, and the structure of the media which makes it difficult to present news from Africa in ways that counter stereotypical ideas. This research paper provides the case of media coverage of the Mau Mau movement in 1950s Kenya, which was focused on discrediting the movement by representing them as terrorists, a criminal enterprise, and with links to communism, while never properly explaining the movement. Because elite US newspapers saw national liberation movements as products of the radical and communist influence that threatened US interests in the post-World War II period. This analysis utilizes a methodology rooted in genealogical media approaches, media, and post-colonialist theory, structural media framework biases, and African political thought. These help map and visualize representations of the Mau Mau Uprising and Africa as continuous, while advancing the claim that US news media valued and prioritized the delegitimization of the Mau Mau Uprising. The implications of these representations are the shifting behavior and cultural attitudes towards Africans, and more specifically Kenyans as the combination of the already entrenched stereotypes and myths regarding Africa and the media’s framework made it possible to continue to misrepresent and underrepresent Africa several decades after most African countries had already achieved independence.