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Analysis of and commentary on South African politics from a liberal perspective. Winner: Best Political Blog 2012.

Month: February, 2012

A cesspool of negativity


SERIES: A good quote can hold within it a thousand separate insights, just as surely as some poorly constructed thought can reveal someone as a fool. Quotable Quotes looks at what is said, what was said and, on occasion, how the two compare. Today, the ANC regularly accuses the DA of ‘opposing for the sake of opposing’ but what of its record in opposition, in the Western Cape legislature? Does it practice what it preaches or, like so much the ANC says and does, is that criticism little more than hypocritical posturing?

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A desolate shack no more


SERIES: The instantaneous and dramatic nature of current affairs lends itself to a kind of historical amnesia, one where the captivating nature of those things unfolding today, causes one to forget the bigger picture. From the Archives aims to put forward the odd reminder that, more often than not, history is merely repeating itself. In all likelihood, somewhere, someone has already experienced and commented on those all-consuming issues that appear to have materialised only yesterday.

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The liberal individual, group identity and human solidarity


FEATURE: The case is often made that liberalism, by its nature, is a cold, selfish ideology. Former President Thabo Mbeki, for example, went out of his way to paint the DA in this light. Ryan Coetzee responds to this criticism in the piece below and draws a distinction between ‘identity politics’ and the liberal individual, arguing it is in fact the former, rather than the latter, that entrenches alienation.

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On offence


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective.  In this column, a look at the idea of offence – something so often evoked by the insecure and hyper-sensitive to try and suppress those views and opinions with which they disagree; usually, ironically, in the name of tolerance.

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On the Couch: Tim Harris


VIDEO SERIES: Every now and then Inside Politics will get a key political roleplayer ‘on the couch’, to talk about the politics behind politics – essentially, a conversation about the mechanics of current affairs and the kind of developments and issues that don’t always make it into the mainstream media. In this edition, we talk to DA Shadow Minister for Finance, Tim Harris MP, about the ideological confusion that currently defines the ANC’s approach to the economy.

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A known unknown?


SERIES: Hundreds of thousands of words are printed in South Africa’s mainstream media everyday, so many that the occassional perculiarity often passes by unnoticed. Take a moment to think about it though and the perculiar can be quite revealing. Between the Lines highlights the odd and incidental in the news. We ask the questions, you provide the answers.

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The straw man fallacy


SERIES: South African public discourse is awash with bad logic and poor reasoning. So much so that much of it is not even identified, let alone criticised. Illogical Logic is a series designed to look at the different kinds of crooked thinking out there, to identify and understand each in turn and, hopefully, to help promote better argument. In this edition we look at the Straw Man.

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On sophistry


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Today, sophistry – the kind of crooked thinking that uses logical fallacy and deception to make an argument seem stronger – what is its nature, and how best does one indentify it?

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On the Couch: Mmusi Maimane


VIDEO SERIES: Every now and then Inside Politics will get a key political roleplayer ‘on the couch’, to talk about the politics behind politics – essentially, a conversation about the mechanics of current affairs and the kind of developments and issues that don’t always make it into the mainstream media. We start with a discussion with DA National Spokesperson Mmusi Maimane about the state of South Africa’s media.

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Church and state?


SERIES: Hundreds of thousands of words are printed in South Africa’s mainstream media everyday, so many that the occassional perculiarity often passes by unnoticed. Take a moment to think about it though and the perculiar can be quite revealing. Between the Lines highlights the odd and incidental in the news. We ask the questions, you provide the answers.

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On status


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. The column below looks at the idea of status and asks, does the fact that someone qualifies for a title mean they have in effect achieved some status in the eyes of others? Or is status, like respect, earned? Very often status-seekers simply assume the former, never pausing to question the possibility that the latter might, in fact, hold true.

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Vigilance and McCarthyism


SERIES: The instantaneous and dramatic nature of current affairs lends itself to a kind of historical amnesia, one where the captivating nature of those things unfolding today, causes one to forget the bigger picture. From the Archives aims to put forward the odd reminder that, more often than not, history is merely repeating itself. In all likelihood, somewhere, someone has already experienced and commented on those all-consuming issues that appear to have materialised only yesterday.

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Animal Farm


REVIEW: From time to time Inside Politics will seek to review those books central to a liberal understanding of best democratic practice and those things that stand in opposition to it. We start with that classic metaphor for democratic meltdown and the insidious nature of totalitarianism – Animal Farm: a book pretty much every political commentator has refered to at some point or other but the full richness of which is seldom given the proper space or attention.

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‘Proper accountability’


SERIES: Weasel Words: “Words of convenient ambiguity, or a statement from which the meaning has been sucked or retracted,” [Brewer’s Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable]. A great deal of what is said – particularly those contentious statements made in response to sensitive issues – obscure meaning with vagueness and ambiguity. And Weasel words – empty clichés and jargon – often the mechanisms by which this is achieved. Weasel Word Watch is series dedicated to highlighting this kind of misdirection, with a view to cutting through the obfuscation.

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The ad hominem attack


SERIES: South African public discourse is awash with bad logic and poor reasoning. So much so that much of it is not even identified, let alone criticised. Illogical Logic is a series designed to look at the different kinds of crooked thinking out there, to identify and understand each in turn and, hopefully, to help promote better argument. We start with the ad hominem attack, possibly the crudist kind of sophistry.

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On prejudice


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Today, a look at prejudice. Prejudice appears in many forms, but it is at its most insidious when it denies its own existence. One has a duty to identify that kind of prejudice for what it is, but it also constitutes a danger to rational criticism – because, unless properly done, almost anyone can then be accused of prejudice.

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[In]famous ANC promises 1: free media


SERIES: A good quote can hold within it a thousand separate insights, just as surely as some poorly constructed thought can reveal someone as a fool. Quotable Quotes looks at what is said, what was said and, on occasion, how the two compare. In this edition: Believe it or not, the ANC has not always advocated for state regulation. Indeed, there was a time when it spoke out against the very idea.

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Zuma on Jesus and democracy


SERIES: A good quote can hold within it a thousand separate insights, just as surely as some poorly constructed thought can reveal someone as a fool. Quotable Quotes looks at what is said, what was said and, on occasion, how the two compare. In this edition a look at Jacob Zuma’s ANC centenary speech and how it contradicts some of his earlier ideas on Jesus and the power of the voters.

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