SLR: Responsibility of SA media highlighted by chilling misrepresentation of riots

The events which nearly brought South Africa to its knees last week – violent riots and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng – are tragic enough, without arbitrarily skewed to downright false reporting of the facts. This article by Simon Lincoln Reader, a London-based technology investor and popular columnist at BizNews, looks at the manner in which the trauma endured by South Africans last week has been misrepresented to the world by mainstream media. The BizNews team may be small, but we are in no way ‘keyboard warriors’ – as Reader indicates by referring to BizNews founder Alec Hogg’s interviews last week. Again, the critical importance of the media’s role is thrust into the spotlight. In order to get as close to the events on the ground, multiple interviews were conducted with individuals that actually were in ‘the war zone’. From these interviews, one thing is very clear – while South Africa certainly has a growing host of problems to address, we are blessed with incredibly brave and resilient citizens. – Nadya Swart

Before ordering the country to transform, South African media first needs to change

Back in the day when there were still adults in prestige media, you could speak of South Africa in other countries with the conviction that reporting would largely substantiate what you understood to be true. But last week I didn’t answer any questions – firstly, because I didn’t know enough and, secondly, because I suspected that the ideologues contaminating prestige media would rush to frame the riots and the looting according to their own political allegiance and beliefs. I was quickly vindicated: the UK Guardian’s coverage of the events trended on Twitter as being ‘a response to social injustice’. New Frame, a woke start-up operating out of Braamfontein, arguably shafted the pooch first by perpetuating the entirely selective and contentious narrative – but even by the Guardian’s usual standards this was repulsive. 

Not without irony. This coverage occurred in the same week that the Guardian presented – as a ‘scoop’ – the festering corpse of the Russian hoax once again, claiming ‘evidence’ they had found ‘appeared’ to suggest Vladimir Putin had personally authorised infiltration into Trump’s 2016 campaign. 

Not only has this crap been comprehensively debunked, and its lead reporter Luke Harding unceremoniously humiliated, but there are inalienable facts about dates in this theory that are just wildly inconsistent with what actually happened. It speaks not only to the incompetence of the Guardian’s editor, Kath Viner, but to the concern that the absence of a figure to hate in Donald Trump has wrecked the Guardian’s (and others) prominence – so they are reduced to squeezing out innuendo and supposition. 

Insofar as South Africa’s coverage of last week is concerned, an amusing realignment: both the Daily Moron and Beijing24 were before then within touching distance of the social justice model beloved by their awful peers in Now This, Vox, Daily Beast et al, wherein its highly politicised reporters refer to countries as ‘projects’ and ordinarily condemn the measures communities protect themselves with as narrow and non-inclusive. But this shifted: in his weekly attempt to ape Hugo Chavez’ ‘Alo Presidente’, Beijing24’s Kommissar on Monday wrote: 

‘If there was ever any doubt that the majority of South Africans, irrespective of race, economic status or culture, are good citizens, who want a peaceful life for them and their children, it should be put to bed by the events of last week’. 

This is true. It also happens to be what the ‘far-right’ Afriforum, frequently a target for ridicule by Beijing24’s reporters and that wizened little sheriff Max Du Preez, has been saying for the last decade. 

The least spoken media battle of 2021 has been the scorn that arguably the finest and most accomplished reporter of his generation, Glenn Greenwald, has blitzed upon prestige media. He has attacked the Guardian for being an establishment shill. He has embarrassed The Intercept – the website funded by the world’s weirdest billionaire (and which Greenwald himself co-founded) – for perpetuating the myth that its pyjama clad millennial reporters, sitting on their sofas, know what is happening on the ground in Syria. He frequently mauls profiles attached to the Daily Beast, CNN, MSNBC, etc – always producing verifiable evidence that these pronoun beclowned, over imaginative fools are just manufacturing consent. 

Were he on the ground in South Africa last week, I imagine Greenwald’s reporting would mirror some of BizNews’. Alec Hogg has interviewed business leaders, the always entertaining GG Alcock – and even published remarks from an email from Steurt Pennington, whose view of the looting is allied to the New Frame’s claims. Through this style of analysis, space is made to consider poverty and deprivation, but also, the appalling state of the police, defence force and crime intelligence under ANC leadership. In affording the eloquent Chris Hattingh of the Free Market Foundation a platform, we see how destructive ANC policies kneecap small business prospects. And then there is the lockdown and its effects, criminally interpreted as a scientific – not political – policy by Fauci fanboys incapable of grasping the unintended consequences of impeding access to the little that people have. 

The scope of history to document here is wide, and – as far as the ANC is concerned – deservedly cruel. But it is imperative: if South African media does not unshackle itself from the political and cultural pathologies that have poisoned its international peers, then it is not fit to occupy any role in transforming the country.

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