The World Bank has a “channel” on YouTube. The 23 videos assembled there are pretty much what you might expect: Propaganda touting the Bank’s achievements fighting poverty all over the world — in Cambodia and Uganda and the Philippines and Mozambique. Also included are a handful of one-minute shorts in a series called “Low Carbon — High Hopes” — in which the World Bank pats itself on the back for combating deforestation and supporting renewable power. Because, you know, “we can reduce poverty and emissions at the same time.”
The most unusual entry is “1 World Manga: Poverty — A Ray of Light,” an anime short in which “Rei” — a young boy living off his wits and thievery in an unnamed developing country — rescues a cute little puppy from thugs. The puppy then leads “Rei” on a spiritual journey in which he learns the wonders of microfinance. Along the way the talking dog is replaced by a talking chicken and fish — all of whom speak in the same posh British accent. It’s kind of like Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone” except about poverty in Africa instead of chivalry in England. I kid you not.
Who this is aimed at is hard to say. It somewhat strains one’s credulity to imagine, say, a youngster in Angola gaining access to the Internet and choosing to watch a cartoon about microfinance. (UPDATE: However, my own children were captivated by the clip, so I’ll concede that the creators, a Singapore outfit called Peach Blossom Media Productions, understands its target audience.)
What is much more likely is that a curious young man or woman would simply enter the words “world bank” into YouTube’s search engine interface.
The first hit: a mildly funny mashup of Paul Wolfowitz video and stock World Bank footage with scenes from the sitcom “The Office.” Highlight: after Wolfowitz grim-facedly declares “I made a mistake” during a press conference, there’s a quick cut to a character in “The Office” whispering to a colleague: “I heard they made out, and had sex.”
The second hit: Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul calling for the abolishment of the World Bank: Highlight:
“The World Bank is not an organization devoted to capitalism or the free market, but to state-run corporate capitalism. Established and run by a multitude of national governments, the World Bank promotes managed trade by which politically connected institutions and individuals enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and the middle class.”
A little further down; five minutes of spiffily produced video on famine in Niger placing the blame for soaring rates of malnutrition and starvation on neoliberal structural adjustment polices inflicted on the country at the request of the World Bank.
Also of interest, a nine minute speech by former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz, a compelling dissection of the neoconservative rise to power under George W. Bush, and assorted news clips about the appointment of Robert Zoellick as Wolfowitz’s successor and related World Bank adventures.
Not until the fourteenth entry do we get “The World Bank Report on Cambodia.”
There is definitely an education to be had on YouTube. It is chaotic and rife with agendas, a platform for dueling propagandas where the spoils of victory go to the best editor. But the more you watch, the more you can learn, which is not necessarily true of broadcast television. Just avoid getting stuck on any particular “channel.”