Former City Press editor Ferial Haffajee exposes photo-shopping Zupta propagandists

Dr Eschel Rhoodie, the propaganda and misinformation architect of the apartheid era, would be proud (or perhaps jealous of the new tools today’s propagandists have) – the Zupta information contortionists are going at it cyber-hammer and matrix tong. That’s according to former City Press editor, Ferial Haffajee, who is taking on and exposing the fake news that the Twitter trolls are carpet bombing readers with. However ridiculous the images and distortions are, they find purchase among tens of thousands and keep those perhaps beginning to doubt the truth of their own party’s claims, on-side. Interestingly, so called ‘hearts and minds’ campaigns, while ‘legit’ when it comes to voting (or war) time, always peak when a regime has its back pressed hardest to the cold concrete wall. Witness PW Botha’s regime and consider how different or similar the Goebbels look-alikes are now. Goebbels once famously said Truth was the greatest enemy of the State and was quoted thus; If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it’’. Well, we’ve seen the lies of Swart Gevaar, Rooi Gevaar and more recently Wit Gevaar exposed for the voting fodder nonsense they all are. Now it’s all about eye-catching instantly-accessible images. It seems the simple ring of truth is impossible to apply as a principal of governance virtually anywhere. When it was, those leaders made history and changed the fortunes of mankind. We’ve had our fair share of them and can only pray for more. – Chris Bateman

By Mpho Raborife

Johannesburg – Huffington Post SA’s editor-at-large Ferial Haffajee is on a mission to hunt down trolls who have been attacking her and other journalists on Twitter.

Speaking to News24 on Sunday, Haffajee said she and journalists who had written at length about State Capture had been victims of trolling on the social media platform.

Ferial Haffajee in the old Biznews studios.

She said the most recent attack was linked to the Gupta-owned Oakbay Investment Company.

On January 21, Haffajee was linked to a tweet purporting to be from the Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPostZA) which said, “Ferial Haffajee: #Gordhan is clearly WMC stooge, going out of his way to clip wings of #Guptas #OakBay”.

The rest of the account’s comprises retweets of other posts that accuse Gordhan of being a “stooge” for WMC (White Monopoly Capital) and controlling certain journalists, which include Haffajee.

Another post, on a fake City Press website, has a picture of a woman sitting on a man’s lap with Haffajee and business tycoon Johann Rupert’s faces photoshopped on the bodies.

She told News24 it had been an ongoing campaign, which started gaining traction in December after she wrote a column in the City Press titled “4 days in December – the year of State Capture”.

“After that I really got a lot of them and then at some point I noticed that they began to use real media handles or designs.”

So far, the media titles that have been targeted included the City Press, Sunday Times, 702 and Huffington Post SA.

“It’s all coming from what’s called an automated Twitterbot, so it’s a very orchestrated propaganda campaign. It is broad and linked to people in the Oakbay set of companies.

“This weekend’s campaign was actually hashtagged Oakbay so it wasn’t too difficult to surmise where it is from,” Haffajee said.

She said she would be investigating the origins of the tweets and those behind the account. So far, she had reported those she had seen to the social network.

“I reported it to Twitter. I recorded all the ones I could find and they say it has to come from the actual company. So I think those companies are going to start doing it. But I think there are so many thousands of them that it’s a very difficult thing to do.”

Commenting on the trend of fake news that appeared to be on the rise, Haffajee said, “Technology has made it really simple to create fake sites, and they’re not parodies… These are actual fake news sites meant to deceive the public.

“All you need is a free design tool on a computer and not even very great skills, if you look at some of the work. So technology has made it cheap to do. I think we’re just in an era of fake news now, where people either want to sow confusion and propaganda or they have a specific purpose.”

She urged all journalists and media houses to start analysing the accounts.

“I think it’s worth engaging Twitter in a more coherent, bigger form. Assess and show them that this is a bigger problem and see if we can get them to [assist],” she said. – News24


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