blogings

The Huffington Ghost: A New Low For SA Media

On Thursday, the South African version of HuffingtonPost, a website owned by Media24 and curated by former Mail&Guardian editor, Verashni Pillay, published an article called “Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?”

01 original post

The author of the piece was one Shelley Garland, an “MA Philosophy Student”. Her Twitter bio said that she was a “Perpetual Feminist causing the retreat of patriarchy”, and that she was in Auckland, New Zealand.

Soon after it was published, the column was picked up by a number of right-wing websites, including Breitbart.com. The response was a predictable wave of outrage, ranging from condemnations of a clearly unconstitutional suggestion to outright, frothing-at-the-mouth misogyny.

If you’d visited HuffingtonPost SA on the 26th of January, you’d have encountered this:

clickbait

If you’d recovered from choking on your coffee and clicked the most-read story, you would have discovered that it was, in fact, an opinion piece about the dangers of fake news. Geddit? See what they did there? See how they showed how easy it is to fall for clickbait by, er, well, engaging in some primo clickbaiting?

In other words, Pillay and HuffPo SA are already experienced clickbaiters, and when Garland’s piece found international traction they were ready to cash in. Within a day, Pillay had written a piece called “This Blog On White Men Is Going Viral. Here’s Our Response”. In it, she listed some of the vilest responses the original post had received. Inevitably, it also elicited a flood of clicks.

Trending1

At HuffPo SA it wasn’t just Easter: it was Christmas, too. Sipho Hlongwane, head of the blogging division (or as professional writers call it, “the Helping Destroy Actual Journalism By Getting Amateurs To Write For Free And Thereby Keeping Rates So Low That Nobody Can Afford To Be A Journalist” division) was beside himself at all the clicks.

SiphoOh how we laughed. (He has subsequently deleted that tweet.)

However, angry white men, raving woman-haters and sweaty-palmed bean-counters weren’t the only people who’d noticed the posts.

Cape Town editor and writer, Laura Twiggs, had smelled a rat and soon started doing some of the best journalistic sleuthing I’ve seen in many moons.

The first alarm bell was the fact that Shelley Garland had only just joined Twitter and had no online presence whatsoever.

no trace

Things got odder, however, when she spoke to Garland on Twitter.

Laura2

A proud student of the University of “Johannesberg” would, of course, be known by her institution, even if she didn’t know how to spell the city in which it was. But again, Twiggs discovered a peculiar void where Shelley Garland should have been.

Laura3

And then, two even stranger things happened.

Firstly, in a direct message to Twiggs, Garland denied writing the piece and suggested that it had in fact been written in-house by HuffingtonPost SA.

Garland DMs

And then, hey presto –

Laura4

Shelley Garland, or whichever person, people or organization was claiming to be “Shelley Garland”, deleted her/their Twitter account.

On Friday evening, Twiggs began Tweeting questions to HuffPo SA, asking how they found Garland, if they were aware that she apparently didn’t exist, and what they planned to do about it.

HuffPo responded at once. Not by addressing Twiggs’s questions, of course, but by continuing to pump out Tweets advertising Pillay’s follow-up column.

Undeterred, Twiggs persisted, bombarding HuffPo staff with questions, even Tweeting Arianna Huffington and her successor, Lydia Polgreen, to inform them that their South African pup had just left a large turd on the carpet.

Of Pillay there was no sign, except for a couple of Tweets about geopolitics and her favourite flavour of hot cross buns.

But then, just as Saturday evening arrived, a full 24 hours after Twiggs had first raised the alarm, she re-appeared…

took it down.jpg

The “Garland” piece was gone. So, too, was Pillay’s “Hey look at all the hits the assholes are giving us!” follow-up. In their place was an explanation of why they’d taken them down.

“We have done this” wrote Pillay, “because the blog submission from an individual who called herself Shelley Garland, who claimed to be an MA student at UCT, cannot be traced and appears not to exist.”

Assuming that “Garland” told Pillay that she was at UCT (given her spelling of “Johannesberg” I can imagine her claiming to be at the University of Cap Toun), I would have thought a quick email to UCT might have been a good idea before they hit “Publish”. But maybe that’s unfair. I mean, clickbait waits for no man, whether real or imaginary, and checking Garland’s credentials would have taken precious time away from HuffPo’s busy schedule of cashing cheques from Sun International for explaining that golf is totally groovy in a drought-stricken, water-scarce country.

golf

But don’t worry. They’re not going to do it again. According to Pillay, they “will hold discussions on putting in place even better quality controls”.

Given the fact that they have just published a highly controversial, probably divisive piece, without having a clue who wrote it (or in the interests of which paymasters it was written), I have to ask about their “even better quality controls”: even better than what? Is Pillay planning to enlist a team of squirrels to do fact-checking, as opposed to the team of air molecules she’s been using until now?

It’s tempting to roll one’s eyes and laugh, or to dismiss this because it was “just a blog”, but Pillay and her team have done enormous damage to causes I’m sure they care about deeply.

For starters, they have handed megatons of ammunition to misogynist trolls, who will now cry, “See?! They’re so desperate they’re resorting to making stuff up!” Some of South Africa’s most prominent right-wing trolls are already making hay with this online.

Secondly, they have confirmed the current creeping paranoia that we cannot believe anything we read in the media.

Pillay has already contributed to this state of affairs. In February last year she had to apologise for a largely fabricated story in the Mail&Guardian claiming the Mmusi Maimane was being “tutored” by FW de Klerk.

Of course, HuffingtonPost SA is not the Mail & Guardian. I don’t know anyone who takes HuffPo SA seriously as a credible news source. But it is part of the Media24 stable and its stories regularly appear on News24, the country’s most widely read news site. Given this debacle, News24 readers would be forgiven for becoming more suspicious than ever.

Just one day before she signed off on this fakery, Pillay was quoted in an article on Al Jazeera titled “Fake news ‘symptomatic of crisis in journalism”.

Al Jazeera
I’ll ignore, for now, her use of the word “audience” to describe readers, with all its implications of passive, wide-eyed consumers wanting to be entertained rather than informed. Likewise, I’m going to give her the benefit of enormous amounts of doubt and assume that this was simply rank incompetence on her part rather than an example of “open disdain” towards her audience. After all, she knows about how important vetting is: at the end of March she published this…

Fact Checking HuffPo
But if HuffingtonPost South Africa had a shred of credibility left, it has evaporated along with Shelley Garland.

South African journalism – underpaid, understaffed, under pressure – cannot afford this kind of ineptitude. When people no longer believe what they read, journalism loses its ability to shine a light in dark places. And when that happens, we’re all in deep trouble.

But perhaps there is a silver lining to this mess. Perhaps we can use it as a reminder of the importance of proper editors running proper newspapers staffed by proper journalists.

So, in the coming week, how about we all go out and pay actual money for a copy of our favourite newspaper or news magazine? How about we support actual journalism?

Niemöller Redux

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was staying in my lane.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I did not want to derail the positionality of the discussionality.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because Mcebo Dlamini says they’re devils and, I mean, he speaks for Wits students
And also did you see that thing on Facebook about how the Rothschilds rule the world
And are basically funding genocide pretty much everywhere?

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me
But that’s OK because I’m really awful so I probably deserve to be
Put up against a wall.

The Freedom Charter – Rebooted!

pen_write_text_manuscript_old_letter_retro_script_diary_parchment_historic

We, the Connected People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: screw you.

We know we once said that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, but that’s obviously a ridiculously naive position, so from here on South Africa belongs to anyone with enough non-sequential, unmarked dollars in a brown paper bag.

To help you understand your place, here are some important principles to remember:

The people shall govern. From Dubai.

All national groups shall have equal rights – unless their rights get in the way of our rights, in which case you’ll find that some rights are more important than others. This discovery is calling “marikana-ing”, derived from the verb “marikana”, “to remind the public about whose rights matter and whose don’t”.

The people shall share the country’s wealth. Mostly people who live in Dubai, or whose last name is Zuma. Mines and SABC soaps don’t come cheap, you know.

The land shall be shared among those who work it. And since our National Executive Committee has been giving this land a proper working-over for the last few years, we think it’s only fair that it be shared between us. (If you disagree, please see “marikana-ing”.)

All shall be equal before the law. Except for those who don’t ever have to come before the law because they know where the bodies are buried. Also this obviously excludes rich people. But if you’re poor or don’t know the dialing code for Saharanpur, India, the law will take its course, all over your face.

All shall enjoy equal human rights. Except, obviously, poor people. Because, honestly, screw them. Also, please see “marikana-ing”.

There shall be work and security. But mostly work in security. Signal jammers and email-readers are a major growth industry in our South Africa. Also, those iron gates at Nkandla and Saxonwold aren’t going to patrol themselves, you know.

The doors of learning and of culture shall be opened. By a government messenger, arriving at 3.15pm for his 11am meeting, to tell the Vice-Chancellors that they’re getting fokkol from  Treasury because we blew it all on Dudu over at SAA.

There shall be houses, security and comfort. Hell yes. So many houses. So much security. And so, so much comfort.

There shall be peace and friendship. Actually, on second thoughts, no, there probably won’t. Because those 25-year-old “military veterans” are itching to earn some combat medals, and elections are so goddamn unpredictable.

Adopted by an untouchable cabal, printed on buffalo-skin (thanks, Cyril) and signed in Veuve Clicquot.

If you have a problem, if no-one else can help…

airwolf

In The Unauthorised History of South Africa, I reveal how the apartheid government resisted letting television into the country because it believed TV was ‘a colonoscopy straight up Satan’s poephol’. But once the demonic machine arrived, there was no stopping it…

*

Slowly, the nation’s television-watching public became more sophisticated and more demanding. No longer were people content to watch the SABC test pattern from noon until 4 p.m.

They wanted action, drama, romance, intrigue and danger, and so the SABC debuted Police File, a show which combined true-life crime with grade two Remedial Art. Every night the white population tuned in to see badly drawn identikits of black people accused of crimes including murder,robbery, failing to scoop the leaves off the pool, forgetting to take the Chihuahua for its walk and thereby causing it to wee on the kitchen floor, and so on. And every night they enjoyed a secret sexual frisson as Colin touched his eyebrow and said, ‘And remember: keep ‘em peeled!’ Had Colin been referring to peeling eyes or had he been thinking about peeling off pantyhose? It was all too exciting for words.

DIGITAL CAMERA

The state had resisted importing foreign programming, as it worried that blacks would see more democratic societies in other parts of the world and whites would see just how ugly safari suits were, even when compared to the paisley bell-bottoms and pink tuxedos on Dallas. But soon it became clear that Colin Fluxman, the talking duck on SABC2 and the test pattern could not sustain the SABC forever. At some stage, the government realised, it would have to allow American shows onto South African television.

However, there was a shock in store for the Minister of Telegraph Poles and Mini-Bioscopes, Spartacus ‘Sparky’ Schmidt: in a dramatic speech to parliament on 9 September 1984, he revealed that Americans did not speak Afrikaans. Once the cries of outrage and fear had subsided, he explained that Americans spoke English and that all American shows would have to be dubbed into Afrikaans, with their original soundtracks simulcast on Radio 2000. And so it was that all American doctors, private investigators, vigilantes, cowboys, time-travelling astronauts and test pilots reconstructed out of metal at the cost of $6-million came to sound like Lochner de Kok.

man van staal
For a while it seemed that television was achieving its political goal of pacifying the population. The whites were content to listen to Lochner de Kok’s voice coming out of the mouths of fourteen different American actors, and black people had developed a grudging respect for the talking duck, although more and more were opting for the Saturday night variety show, Ngomgqibelo, which revolved around Brenda Fassie’s thighs.

But in 1986, P.W. Botha woke up in the middle of the night, screaming and sweating. First Tannie Elize panicked, thinking that the revolution had started, and pressed the launch button on the nuclear switchboard next to her bed, remotely detonating a twenty-kiloton mushroom pie that had been placed at the Beitbridge border crossing into Zimbabwe. But P.W.’s fears were not about an internal rebellion. Calling his cabinet together for an emergency meeting in the Leopard Lounge, he told them of his fears: that a giant international plot was being hatched to liberated South Africa, and that it would be led by the do-gooders on TV.

‘Black South Africa claims to have a problem,’ he shouted. ‘Nobody else can help them. So how long will it be before they hire the A-Team? We’ve all seen Airwolf fly to Russia and back on one tank of petrol! How long until it flies down here and shoots seven kinds of kak out of Lugmagbasis Racheltjie de Beer?’

Soon panicked ministers began their own feverish speculation. Would the trio from Riptide hover their pink helicopter over Robben Island and rescue Nelson Mandela? What if MacGyver used some chewing gum and a tampon to dismantle apartheid? And what if Thomas Magnum was already fornicating with a secretary from the Defence Ministry, coaxing state secrets out of her with his moustache and his rubber chicken?

magnum
Pik Botha tried to calm them. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, he had been ‘to the overseas’ on a few occasions and had seen more television than his colleagues. He tried to explain to them that most shows were fiction. When they did not understand this word, he said that they were ‘made up, not real, like the Bantustans’. But P.W. would not hear it. After all, many of these Americans had spoken with Lochner de Kok’s voice. Lochner was real. Therefore it followed that the characters were real too. He declared a State of Emergency and ordered the security police to arrest anyone who looked like MacGyver – that is, had a mullet or a Swiss army knife. The ensuing raids netted 1.2 million white men and 1.8 million white women (1.2 million of whom lived on the East Rand). However, they were soon released with an official apology and a year’s subscription to Huisgenoot.

If you want to find out what happened next, buy the bladdy book by clicking here. Please. Every copy I sell makes me, like, fifteen bucks. C’maaahn!

April fools

The-New-Age

On April 1st, the Western Cape government squeezed out this bone-dry little bonbon on its website:

Media statement: WC Cabinet to use remote controls for traffic lights

Premier Helen Zille announced today that as an alternative to using blue lights, members of the Western Cape Cabinet will each receive a remote-control device to change the traffic light (or robots) from red to green as they approach.

Premier Zille’s directive comes after several cabinet ministers complained that because they are not permitted to use blue lights in the province, they were late for most of their meetings.

After consulting various IT professionals and Minister of Transport and Public Works Donald Grant, who has signed off on the project, Premier Zille obtained permission to issue the traffic light remote control.

The remotes will be issued by next week Monday.

Members of the public are urged to approach every traffic light with caution as they may change at any stage if a Minister is approaching.

“It basically works like your TV remote control. As you approach the traffic light, you can just change it from red to green, all at the click of a button,” said Premier Zille. “None of our Cabinet Ministers will ever be late. It’s part of our good governance strategy,” Premier Zille added.

Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde added that the remote controls were “part of our commitment to be an innovative government”.

“When we visit Gauteng and those other provinces, blue light convoys are a bit much. They are loud and disruptive. But in the Western Cape, we’ll be quiet about it. Just a click of a button and we can go through to our meetings with no delay,” said Minister Winde.

“We would like to thank the Premier for this great idea,” he added.

Media Enquiries: 

Michael Mpofu
Spokesperson for Premier Helen Zille
Cell: 071 564 5427
Tel: 021 483 4584
Email: Michael.Mpofu@westerncape.gov.za

It was a brave attempt at comedy from Helen Zille’s Department of Drollery, but it went largely unnoticed, mainly because April Fools jokes are by definition, horrible:  the last refuge of people holding onto a childlike infatuation with contrived, low-stakes trickery.

Of course, a lot of people thought it was real, partly because most people are illiterate, but mainly because the content was plausible (remote-controlled traffic lights are no more outlandish than remote-controlled presidents, a cool new toy designed by the Brothers Guptas) and the format looked ultra-legit.

Having written a lot of fake news, I know how eager people are to fling themselves off the Cliffs of Credulity. I’ve also learned that unless you want your inbox swamped by the garrulously gullible blaming you for their inability to read, you need to throw your reader a small bone. Just a hint that all is not as it seems. Perhaps some quotes attributed to a spokesperson with a BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS NAME, say, Plenty O’Quotes or Nom de Plume or Chatty McTalkyson. Not Helen Zille or Alan Winde, both of whom are, I gather, real people.

This didn’t help either…

bad idea

Was this post brought you by Spindoctor Mpofu, Remote-Clicker for Premier Robotrunner Zille? Is he reachable on 082-APRIL-FOOL, or at April@fools.gov.za?

No. For Media Enquiries, please contact Michael Mpofu, Spokesperson for the Premier. Plus the flag. Plus the Chicken Of State (or whatever our national crest signifies). Plus, it’s an initiative of the Western Cape Government.

It’s possible that there has been a more earnest, legitimate-looking sign-off to a joke, perhaps to a state-sanctioned 1923 German jape about a slight delay to the start of the asparagus-planting season. But I suspect that that little block above might be the greatest comedy-killer in human history.

Which is why I don’t blame anyone who thought this story was real. But I wasn’t ready for what happened next. (Yes, I know. That’s pure clickbait. But I’m about to talk about crap journalism, so I think it’s appropriate.

On April 4, this appeared on page 3 of The New Age.

New Age page 3

The news report, written by a certain Vincent Cruywagen, reads as follows:

As an alternative to using blue lights, members of the Western Cape cabinet can at the click of a button on a remote-control device, change the traffic light (or robots) from red to green as they approach the signal.

The measure announced by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille on Friday comes after several cabinet ministers complained that because they were not permitted to use blue lights in the province, they were late for most of their meetings.

“Zille obtained permission to issue the traffic light remove control after consultations  with various IT professionals and the MEC for transport and public works,” Donald Grant, who has signed off the project, said.

Members of the public are urged to approach every traffic light with caution as they may change at any stage if a cabinet minister is approaching.

“It basically works like your TV remote control. As you approach the traffic light, you can just change it from red to green, at the click of a button. None of our cabinet ministers will ever be late for appointments again. It is part of our good governance strategy,” Zille said.

Western Cape MEC for economic opportunities, Alan Winde, said the remote controls were part of their commitment to an innovative government.

Winde said whenever he visited other provinces especially Gauteng blue light convoys were “a bit too many”.

“They are loud and disruptive but in the Western Cape, we will be quiet about it.

“Just a click of a button and we can go through to our meeting with no delay. We also want to thank the premier for this great idea,” Winde said.

news@thenewage.co.za

 

OK.

So that just happened.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “My god! Didn’t an editor see this and think it looked fishy and check the source?” You’re thinking that because you think The New Age is a newspaper. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are at least 19 other South Africans who believe that The New Age is staffed with journalists who do things like fact-checking and so on.

So no, I’m not amazed or outraged that a non-newspaper printed a fabricated story as news, especially one that would paint the official opposition in a bad light.

I’m also not surprised that a “newspaper” published this “story” three full days after it had first appeared.

But I am very, very amused by how it ran said story.

For starters, there’s the glorious, charge-the-cannons chutzpah of Vincent Cruywagen putting his byline on a story he cut and paste off a website.

Actually no, that’s unfair. He didn’t just cut and paste it. He cut it, then butchered it, then stitched the bleeding bits back together. And sometimes he added entirely new bits. Like when he read not-Alan not-Winde not saying that blue light convoys were “a bit much” and decided that “a bit much” should become “a bit too many”, a completely new phrase in the English language.

Then there’s the Python-esque moment where Vinnie C takes an invented reported statement and re-invents and invented quote.

The original: After consulting various IT professionals and Minister of Transport and Public Works Donald Grant, who has signed off on the project, Premier Zille obtained permission to issue the traffic light remote control.

Vinnie’s Version: “Zille obtained permission to issue the traffic light remove control after consultations  with various IT professionals and the MEC for transport and public works,” Donald Grant, who has signed off the project, said.

But I think what tickles me most is that little email address stuck on the end: news@thenewage.co.za. Insisting that this is news; that they haven’t made it all up; that they’re a proper newspaper and not just clumsy propaganda. Begging someone – anyone – to email them, to reassure them that their drivel is read by at least one human who isn’t a Gupta or a Zuma.
Bless you, Vinnie. Long may your mouse right-click.

The memo you weren’t supposed to see

arms dealRemember Thabo Mbeki? Remember what a train-wreck his presidency was? The AIDS denialism? Rubber-stamping Mugabe’s rigged elections? Anything ringing a bell?

I don’t blame you if you don’t remember. Jacob Zuma comes in for a lot of stick but nobody can deny he’s got magical powers: after almost seven years in power, he’s largely erased our memories of what life was like before he giggled his way into our dreams.

But I’m sure there’s one Mbeki-era cock-up you do remember: the Arms Deal. That little moment when Nelson Mandela’s government decided we needed billions of rands worth of weapons to fight nobody instead of billions of rands worth of jobs, houses and flushing toilets; and Mbeki made sure it happened.

A few years ago I wrote a book, The Unauthorised History of South Africa (certified 10% entirely true) and I revealed for the first time the memo circulated around Cabinet, outlining the Arms Deal. I can now reveal those details to you…

*

By 1999, as Mbeki took office, the time had come for the Arms Deal to be finalised, and the following top secret memo was circulated inside government. [Note: This is the only surviving copy of the memo. It was supposed to be shredded along with the rest, but the job of carrying this copy down the corridor to the shredder was subcontracted to Ubuntu Shredding & Construction (owned by a deputy minister’s wife), which went bankrupt halfway down the corridor.]

* TOP SECRET * ARMS DEAL STUFF

PURCHASE OF AWESOME NEW WAEPONS WEPPONS WEEPONS GUNS

Saab fighter jets – henceforth to be known as ‘Ubuntuceptors’

REASON FOR PURCHASE: So we can look totally hot, like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. But obviously not in a gay way.

COST: R2 billion. (Tell public they cost R200 million each. Most voters can’t count past 500 anyway. Shot, Education Dept!)

CAPACITY: We currently have no pilots trained to fly our Ubuntuceptors, but this isn’t a problem as the nearest regional threats do not have air forces as kick-ass as ours. In fact, according to Military Intelligence and our Ubuntu-Eye satellite, Zimbabwe’s air force currently consists of three crop-dusters and two weather balloons. Namibia’s air force (one zeppelin, circa 1938) is currently on deployment carpet-bombing baby seals. Mozambique’s air force is currently grounded, having chosen Betamax instead of VHS as its basic targeting system.

INTERNATIONAL THREATS: America.

Note: some defeatist counterrevolutionaries have pointed out that the United States has more firepower in one of the toilets on one of its aircraft carriers than the whole of our air force, and could swat us like a bug if it wanted to. Please ignore this, even if it is true. Also, please ignore the recent study by a defence expert who suggested that our Ubuntuceptors might be more effective as a deterrent if we put them in giant catapults and fired them at the enemy. This is very hurtful, even if it is true.

CONCLUSION: Our new Ubuntuceptors are an awesome purchase, and we will totally rule the skies, as long as the skies don’t also contain any American, Russian, British, French, Israeli, Chinese or German planes, or large birds, or flocks of small birds, or clouds.

German submarines – henceforth to be known as ‘U-boats’, which is short for ‘Ubuntuboats’

REASON FOR PURCHASE: Patrolling the fisheries.

NOTE: We are not totally sure what ‘patrolling the fisheries’ means, given that the whole point of submarines is to sink ships, and as far as we know, it is a war crime to torpedo small rowing boats full of poachers. However, we might squeeze off a torpedo at a particularly aggressive shark or giant squid, just to see what happens. Basically we are going to go all Hunt For Red October, except with less nuclear war.

COST: A lot. We’ll let you know once the arms dealers’ middle-men give us a clearer idea of how many unmarked dollar bills we have to put in brown paper bags for them we’ve established market value.

CAPACITY: Super high. The SA Navy is the best in the world at looking after submarines in dry dock. We estimate that we will be able to have at least one submarine on bricks by 2004, where crews will train for emergency situations, e.g. what do to when penguins nest in the torpedo tubes or pelicans cover the periscope lens with poop. We are also confident that by 2015, all new submarines will be at peak dive readiness, thanks to large holes rusted in their sides that will allow them to sink the moment they are put in the sea.

CONCLUSION: We’re going to take a bit of stick about these, but they’re totally worth it, even if we just end up stuffing them full of Arms Deal paperwork and sinking them.

South Africans were suspicious. It seemed odd to them that South Africa would be spending billions on weapons when the biggest threats to their country was the HIV/Aids pandemic and the imploding education system. Would the submarines wear condoms on their periscopes to raise awareness? The navy had no comment. Perhaps the Ubuntuceptors would be deployed to drop laser-guided textbooks down the chimneys of rural schools? Again, no: SADTU vowed to prevent this from happening by using schoolchildren as human shields.

South Africans wanted answers to their questions. Mostly, because of outcomes-based education, their questions were “What is five plus six?” and “Is rain made of God’s tears?”, but a few of them wanted answers about the Arms Deal. However, the government had bigger concerns.

The night before, the Red Phone in Thabo Mbeki’s bedroom had rung, startling Mbeki out of a dream in which he was riding a unicorn bareback through a field of Aids denialists. Disoriented and groping for his beard wax, he answered. Over the crackly line he could hear the sound of laughing and shouting, and someone singing ‘I’m A Barbie Girl’ on a karaoke machine. He recognised the voice: it was his old friend Robert Mugabe. Someone shouted, ‘Comrade President Field Marshall Liberation Ninja! Your call to Pretoria has gone through!’ The singing stopped and Mugabe wheezed warm greetings down the phone. His news was exciting: he had just won the Zimbabwean general election with fifty-five percent of the votes. This was particularly exciting because the general election was only taking place the following week.

*

If you want to know what happened next, please redeploy your credit card from your wallet and storm the barricades of economic freedom for local writers! The Unauthorised History of South Africa is available as a Kindle here and as a paperback here.

 

Stephen Fry is a monster

Fry

I don’t know if you have heard of someone called Stephen Fry but don’t worry if you have not because if you have not it probably means that you are a good person.

I have only ever seen him in a TV show called QI, which is where the sons of the ruling elite show off the “general knowledge” they got at Oxford. Obviously if you know anything about science you will know that QI has been completely debunked as a true test of intelligence, so calling your show QI is pretty damn stupid if you ask me.

So yesterday Stephen Fry closed his twitter account and wrote a blog about the reasons why he had closed his twitter account, stating why, and for what reason, etc. It was all incredibly offensive. If you want to read the blog, click on this link here => (put your cursor on the words with the different colour and press “click”) here => now => to the right => CLICK ON THESE WORDS HERE.

I will not inflect the whole blog post on you because it is elitist drivel written by an old white hegemonist, but I do want to address myself to Mr Stephen Fry and take umbridge with and to a few of the statements that he stated on his blog.

Hi Mr Fry.

In your blog you used a metaphor (classic far-right diversion) comparing the old twitter to a “secret bathing-pool” where you used to swim with your Oxford co-conspirators. Secret? Why is it secret? Who are you trying to keep out? That is clearly exclusionary. In fact, I would go so far as to say that’s a hate crime.

Then you write: “It was glorious ‘to turn as swimmers into cleanness leaping’.” That sentence made no sense, and at first I thought maybe you had had some sort of mental episode (because you are incredibly old, I say that not in the ageist sense but in the sense that physiologically you might have had a stroke or something). But then I saw that you had put those finger-marks in the text, like when you make finger-marks in the sky when you are saying something that is a joke or ironic and you bend your fingers twice, like you are beckoning someone in the sky but obviously you aren’t because there’s no-one in the sky because GOD IS DEAD. Anyway I saw those marks and I realized something weird was going on so I googled your sentence and I found that YOU MADE PLAGIARISM. “to turn as swimmers into cleanness leaping” was written by someone called Rupert Brookes, and you didn’t give a reference, so you are a PLAGIARIST, Mr Fry, and I cannot believe you ever hosted something called QI when you can’t even make up your own lines.

Then I read Rupert Brookes’s blog entry, which is called Peace, and it was complete rubbish, it didn’t make any sense at all, and I showed it to a friend who said Oh of course, it’s a fucking POEM. A POEM, Mr Fry, you elitist prick. You know perfectly well that nobody can read a poem or what it means, and by plagiarizing a poem you were DELIBERATELY EXCLUDING THE 99%. You are a white supremacist.

Then you describe how you “water-bombed” people. This is written in a positive way, and unconsciously conditions the reader into being in favour of unilateral military action. It is people like you that made it possible for George W Bush and his war criminals to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.

But, you say, the pool has now gotten “frothy with scum”. This is so typical of the patriarchy: completely undermining the contribution that scum makes to the ecosystem.

You then become even more aggressive in your othering rant, claiming that we, the people of twitter, have peed in your pool. You make it clear that this is a bad thing without ever considering our point of view. What if we HAD to pee in the pool? What if the public toilets in the forest glade were not working, or were being renovated, or someone had locked the door and taken the key home? And that’s not even considering cultural reasons which you TRAMPLE. Like: what if it is our religion to pee in the pool? By saying we are bad, you are being an intolerant BIGOT.

But you don’t stop there. Oh no. You call us “sanctimoniously self-righteous”. How dare you?! How DARE you? I am not even going to waste any time looking up what those words mean because I already know that they are horrible.

It goes on and on. You write: “It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists … the ghastliness is absolutely the same.” So the people who step up to defend the oppressed are GHASTLY, Stephen? Being a good person is GHASTLY? How can you live with yourself?

Then you claim that someone has pooed in the water, but you are so mean about it: “I would contend that just one turd in a reservoir is enough to persuade one not to drink from it.” OMFG, Stephen Fry. DO YOU KNOW HOW FEW PEOPLE HAVE CLEAN WATER, STEPHEN? ONE TURD IS A LUXURY FOR LITERALLY BILLIONS OF PEOPLE.

You end off by insulting “the slab-faced dictators of tone and humour”. Firstly, that’s disgustingly ableist: dictators can’t choose the face they are born with, and if they get a slab face, that is not their fault, OK? Take your privilege and stick it up your bum. And secondly – and this is the most important thing anyone has said up to this point – stop trying to police how we police you. Now. Or else.

Regards,
We The People of Twitter.