www.inside-politics.org

Analysis of and commentary on South African politics from a liberal perspective.

Category: The Media

The media’s short-sighted hostility to the DA’s 2009 ‘Stop Zuma’ campaign


I am going to try and post to Inside Politics more often. One way of doing that, relatively easily for me, is to post some of the many archives I have produced over the years, perhaps with a bit of analysis upfront. Here follows an example: a collection of quotes from the commentariat on the DA’s 2009 ‘Stop Zuma’ posters, which were widely derided as evidence of fearmongering, poor strategy and the unfair personalisation of the election. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, the campaign and the message were clearly both important and prescient. The DA’s message is often overlooked in favour of such considerations as style and tone. Nothing makes the case better than the story of the ‘Stop Zuma’ posters.

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The anti-democratic demagoguery of LeadSA


InsidePoliticsFEATURE: In a mindless bit of populism and in response to the horror rape and murder of Anene Booysen LeadSA has called for bail for rape suspects to be abolished. That is a profoundly ignorant and anti-justice notion that runs directly against those rights established in the constitution. Were it to be acted upon, we would take the first step down a slippery slope that would pervert the criminal justice system itself. It is indicative of an unprincipled organisation with no sound moral compass.

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Zille, the Guptas and the Weekend Argus’s shoddy journalism


WeekendArgusFEATURE: This past Sunday the Weekend Argus ran a story which reported that the Democratic Alliance had received a donation from the Gupta family and that Helen Zille had personally organised it. It relied on a single source to make that claim, in a front page banner lead. However, that particular piece of ‘news’ was actually broken in March 2011, some 23 months ago – every, single element of it, almost word-for-word; and all the Weekend Argus did was disingenuously rehash and reframe an old story as new. It is an example of journalism at its weakest and the question now is, what is the newspaper and the media more generally going to do about it? Time for a bit of that famous self-regulation, one would think.

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The Sowetan, Zuma and Zille: A critique


FEATURE: Shortly after her 2009 election as Western Cape Premier, the Sowetan newspaper decided to make an issue out of Helen Zille. Because it didn’t have anything suitable, it decided rather to manufacture some news. So it took a comment Zille had made about President Zuma and blew it out of all proportion, setting off a media frenzy. What follows below is a 2009 article on the incident, setting out how the Sowetan manipulated ‘the news’ in order, presumably, to do nothing more than sell newspapers.

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On moral outrage and bad journalism


FEATURE: In late 2010 the DA removed Sowetan journalist Anna Majavu from its mailing lists. In 2011, the mainstream press found out and the response, fuelled by the ANC, was so hysterical looking back it puts the outcry over The Spear in a whole different light. We seem to specialise in hysteria and moral outrage in South Africa. In the 2011 article below, I responded to all the vitriol and tried to put the decision in its proper perspective. I note with some irony that today the DA is still around, Anna Majavu, however, has abandoned South Africa for Australia.

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The many-tentacled cash cow, and other mangled metaphors


FEATURE: Before there was Marius Fransman – the reigning king of convolution – there was Edwin Naidu, who would, week-in and week-out, generate for the Sunday Independent a series of metaphors so mangled they would produce in equal quantities much laughter and confusion. And not just mixed metaphors but a wide range of cliches, unoriginal and over-used, if that isn’t redundant.  In the 2008 article below, I look at some of them and set out just how bizarre and devoid of meaning many of them are. So, if you want to see why Vodacom is a many-tentacled cash cow, read on!

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The sad decline of the Sunday Times II


FEATURE: This is the second piece I wrote in 2009 about the decline of the Sunday Times. It concerned a story given exclusively to the Sunday Times, by the Democratic Alliance, which it turned down in a rather incoherent fashion, only for the story subsequently to be prominently carried by other print, radio and television media outlets. The question I tried to answer was: had the Sunday Times lost the ability properly to identify the news?

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The sad decline of the Sunday Times I


FEATURE: Over the past decade or so, the Sunday Times has suffered sustained damage to its reputation, as number of internal problems manifested in a series of external crises, most of which revolved around stories that were simply not up to scratch. In 2009, I wrote about two such examples, the first of which follows below. Essentially the newspaper served up a seven week old story as if it were breaking news, ignoring everything that had been said about it up to that point in doing so.

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SA Journalism: Prizes for everyone


FEATURE: Yet another round of South African journalism awards has just passed. Did you know there are some 82 of them? That’s an awards ceremony every four and a half days. Is South African journalism really such a worthy recipient of so much self-reflecting praise? Look at the Fourth Estate more closely and it seems rife with problems. But it would be you alone looking, certainly the mainstream media, despite so many protestations about its import and the value of self-regulation, is the last institution to cast a critical gaze over its own condition. But with so many awards on offer, why would it? Not when it can rather remind itself every few days just how excellent it truly is.

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The new Zuma painting: What have we learnt since ‘The Spear’?


FEATURE: The new ‘controversial’ painting of President Zuma, by Ayanda Mabulu, provides for us an interesting benchmark, against which we can measure what effect Brett Murray’s The Spear had on South Africa. Put another way: what did we learn from The Spear? Has our capacity for tolerance increased or decreased? And is our commitment to Freedom of Expression enhanced or denuded as a result of it? Time will provide the full answer to those questions. In the meantime, here are a few preliminary thoughts.

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An analysis of the Press Ombudsman’s rulings: The best and worst


FEATURE: Which newspapers in South Africa have the most complaints made to the Press Ombudsman upheld against them? In order to answer this question, I analysed all of the last three years worth of rulings on the Ombudsman’s website and categorised them by paper. Want to see who fares best and who fares worst? It is a crude analysis but, I believe, it does offer some valuable insights. For all the answers, read on.

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The media’s stony silence on racism concerning the DA


FEATURE: Here is a question: Is Lindiwe Mazibuko a ‘house nigger’? That might seem like a grotesque enquiry but it is one that has been openly asked of her on Twitter. That together with a myriad other forms of racial abuse and hatred. But is it met with the same intensity of outrage that follows any perceived slight on the DA’s part? Not a chance. DA public representatives, and its black members in particular, are routinely labeled everything from ‘darkie’ to ‘kaffir’. My question is, what is the media going to do about it?

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Driving Ms Mbete: Part 2


FEATURE: Having set out the details of former Speaker Baleka Mbete’s fraudulent driver’s licence in Part 1 of this retrospective, today we look at how the press responded at the time. The various editorial comments are helpful not only because they gives a sense of the outrage but because they capture nicely the various ethical considerations at play, which are perhaps lost in a factual account of the incident and, certainly, were lost on the ANC at the time.

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Refugees: The ANC’s xenophobic bigotry revealed


FEATURE: Moral outrage often says more about those outraged than the issue at hand. The hysteria surrounding Helen Zille’s use of the word refugee – particularly from the ANC – makes the case: the meaning of the word is beyond dispute, the prejudice which has fuelled the way it has been perceived, however, has hardly been touched on. And a closer inspection of the ANC’s actual response on the matter suggests it has a lot of answer for – a new target for South Africa’s media to focus its moralising on. Whether or not it does so, however, is different question, the answer to which is revealing.

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How political correctness makes for bad analysis


FEATURE: There is a tendency in South African political analysis to explain away problematic behaviour or positioning by being optimistic about it. That is, to suggest it is not a problem and that it needed be cause for serious concern because everything is going to be alright. That, however, leads to poor analysis. In the piece below I look at a piece by Eusebius McKaiser that illustrates this kind of thinking and how it lends itself to misunderstanding the politics of the ANC.

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Learning the hard way


FEATURE: When Jackie Selebi was appointed police commissioner in 1999, and despite much evidence suggesting his appointment would be problematic – least of all that he was first an foremost an Mbeki loyalist, not an expert – the decison was widely welcomed by the mainstream press. Today, Selebi’s successor, Bheki Cele, is also disgraced and so it worth asking: what did the press say about his 2009 appointment? Did they praise it? Or where they critical? Because the problem with the appointment was essentially the same. Have a read and find out.

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