Thursday, April 26, 2012

Memo to Tarek and Natasha Fatah: "Fixer" Does NOT Mean "Paki"

Remember when Tarek Fatah had a strange and very public meltdown over the "f" word? Joanne Hill described the episode for the Jewish Tribune:
Fatah became enraged after panelists used the term “fixer” to describe people who are hired to help journalists working in foreign countries.
Fixers can arrange security, facilitate border crossings, set up meetings, or act as interpreters.
Fatah dubbed the term racist and said Western journalists in foreign countries sit in expensive hotels while local journalists do their work for little money and no credit. He said he had been a fixer in Pakistan.
“The term used to be the ‘stringer,’” he said. “The stringer today is...disgustingly called a fixer, almost as if he is the pimp over there, getting the cab and the drinks and arranging everything.”
When the other panelists disagreed, Fatah became infuriated.
As Kay spoke positively about using a fixer in Ramallah and added that he had spent $500 on gifts at the woman’s store, Fatah interjected, “I’m shocked by your racist view!”
The three journalists and Benlolo laughed in seeming confusion, as did the audience. Fatah stood up and shouted that he was leaving because of racism...
It all went downhill from there.

Later that evening, Mr. Fatah's daughter, Natasha, who witnessed the outburst,
wrote on her Facebook page that it was a terrible night “...when people you thought were good and decent, reveal their racism, and you find out your offence isn’t worth their time because you’re just another Paki.”
Well, guess what? It seems that "fixer" is the accepted, non-racist terminology for such helpful locals. Here's a post on the Ceeb website explaining it:
When correspondents arrive in foreign countries they have to hit the ground running, and do it with the help of savvy local hires we call "fixers."

They give us the lay of the land and help us find the people and events that tell the story of the place.

But for the CBC's Latin America correspondent Connie Watson, her fixer turned out to be the story of a new kind of Cuba, even as he guided her through the Pope's recent tour of the country.
In view of the above, I think an apology from Mr. and Ms. Fatah is appropriate, although it's likely not impending.

1 comment:

Carlos Perera said...

Down here in the States, one regularly sees the following sign at Tea Party and other conservative gatherings: "It doesn't matter what I put on this sign, you're going to call me racist anyway." I think that says it all.