Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Death of a Fat Racist Brings Out The Racist in The News


One downside of having a beautiful girlfriend born in South Africa, is that I now care rather a lot about South Africa and have been eagerly consuming literature and knowledge on the complex and difficult history of what is a fine, fine country.

This complexity seems to have passed much of our news by, which, with the forthcoming World Cup and now the death of a vile, daft racist; has been turning it's poorly informed lens onto the country. I was away in Paris when Eugène Terre'Blanche was bludgeoned to death by some of his workers, whom he'd stiffed on payment, thus I had only access to CNN, Sky News and the trusty BBC for reference and none of them shrouded themselves in reportage glory.

First up, they fell for the myth that South Africa would now plummet into some Charles Manson, Helter Skelter scenario of blacks killing whites...or angry whites killing blacks...or someone killing someone else...please? Basically, South Africa was on a race-hate knife edge and the murder of a fat, daft racist was the spark to ignite the touch-paper; so get your popcorn, roll on the 24 hour news coverage of blacks killing whites. Oh I can see the blood now and the Africans fulfilling their stereotypes, as the journalists churn out their material...

But it got worse, when it became clear that the media invented race-war would not occur because, let's face it, why should it when a daft racist has been killed (imagine if, God forbid, Nick Griffin got beaten to death for example. It would not spark a race-war, more of a street party), they tried to hype up the funeral as the next thing to pull the blacks-smite-whites hair trigger.

Apart from it didn't.

And then the penny dropped as to why the Western media was being so spitefully presumptuous, it was riddled with a deep-set racism.

Racism that confused the extremist and fringe beliefs of Eugène Terre'Blanche and his dolt followers with all white South Africans. Racism that was ignorant to South Africa's large and growing black and coloured middle-class and preferred to imagine all the non-whites as machete welding savages living in tin huts, just desperate to hack some whitey meat to bits as revenge for Apartheid. Racism that refuses to shine a light on the 3,000 white farmers murdered since the end of Apartheid (my blog post on this can be found here) for fear of appearing, perversely, racist, whilst at the same time never truly engaging with the plight of 'the Poors' in South Africa, offering merely vengeful soundbites.

It embarrasses me a great deal that our media cannot grasp or fathom that fine country and when South Africa does not fulfil it's grim stereotype and confounds all myopic media expectations, all that can be offered is a repetition of the mantra, in the vain and insidious hope of perhaps making it become a reality.

After all, South Africa wracked by a race-war would make just divine news darling...

9 comments:

  1. It seems from where I'm sitting that this isn't limited to South Africa, nearly every breaking news story feaures a crowd of reporters running around demanding to know who are "the BAD guys" and who are "the GOODIES", as if we're still in some kind of Cold War paradigm of them and us, rather than a nuanced, many shades of grey reality where good people do bad things and vice versa.

    It's as if they can't expect us, the audience, to understand that there may be many facets to a story, all interlocking and of varying degrees of importance at one time or another. Sometimes when I'm watching the news I'm reminded of those newsreels they used to show back in the days of cinema, where the announcer brays some platitudes over a rousing soundtrack and everyone goes away feeling reassured somehow. Sure, we have rolling news now, but if you relied on the news programmes alone, you'd be no more informed than our grandparents were - and it's only when a story comes up about a country you have a better understanding of, like you have with South Africa, that you realise how much they're bluffing it on all the other stories too.

    Julia

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  2. South Africa is indeed a fine country. With wonderful people and some not so wonderful people. Like anywhere.

    When I lived in a village away from any frequent contact with white people, the black people of my community took me in with warmth and true friendship. Hardly a white-hating experience. Sadly, the year after I left a fellow (white) volunteer was killed whilst dropping off one of her (black) colleagues. A sad event. Not indicative of RSA. Rather of a mob mentality, which happens anywhere.

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  3. Julia:

    Thanks for stopping by here and your intelligent comment, appreciate it a great deal and of course, you're right.

    It is only when, for me anyway, the news turns its beady eye onto a subject I have some knowledge in or care for that it occurs to me how bad it is at doing its job, how it is, in your words, bluffing.

    And I am in total agreement with regards to the shades of grey, this is how I view most of modern life, it is complex but yet, perversely, we seem to be moving backwards with regards to our abilities to digest and appreciate complexity.

    Thanks again for stopping by.

    Ellie:

    Bad and good everywhere yes but I get the feeling that many in our Western media and indeed society, view non-whites with a degree of suspicion, as if at any moment they will fulfil racist stereotypes of brutality and being ungovernable.

    A real shame we have moved such a few, poxy steps, forward...if at all.

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  4. You're most welcome Daniel, mind you, it was a very intelligent and thought-provoking post to start with :)

    I think your reply to Ellie's point is also a good one and would have to agree with that too. Take, for example, Haiti, where there were a good few reporters in the country waiting with slightly too much anticipation for the "unfortunate victims" to start running amok as it would fit their narrative and "make for some really dramatic images for the 6, yeah?"

    They spend so much time covering the minute-by-minute stuff that they forget that to understand most of what's happening you need the perspective of a couple of centuries. So as you can tell, I think the News is getting more stupider, but then who does that reflect most badly on: them? Or us?

    - Julia

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  5. It is a great shame that we live in a time that demands a flipping off of centuries old perspective, to sate short attention spans and our media's dereliction of duty.

    As to whose fault it is, I think both parties can shoulder some blame, we get what we deserve but I also think that big business is playing a greater role in our news and its influence, as well as political toadying, is doing great harm to our news providers.

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  6. Eugène Terre-Blanche may have been murdered after trying to fuck a black boy in the ass...I think it quite a poetic death, really. He was my favourite racist. I liked his big horse and his feathered hat. I would love to have a big horse and feathered hat like that.

    Roll on the World Cup and those high profile tourist robbery murders... zzzzz...

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  7. You're a funny man Darren and yes, it'll be a real blast to watch those reports won't it?

    I hate the news.

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  8. I've never been to South Africa and to be honest, the non-stop drip, drip, drip of bad news stories has had an effect on the way I view safety in that country. Yet I know several (white) South Africans through work and they love the place.

    What prompted me to write on this post though was to do with a series of adverts being run on the South African sports channels we get here. They are all set up as a black South African reminiscing about SA2010 some 20 or so years later and what a wonderful memory it had left them. Now that's fine so far as it goes, but every one of them is set up with the protagonist perched in front of some tin roofed shack, presumably in a shanty town of some sort. Perhaps I'm over analysing, but if that's the level of progress SA's own media percieves for its people over that timespan, then I'm not overly surprised that the place is suffering in the public perception elsewhere in the world.

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  9. Indeed, great spot and much of the advertising how played to racist stereotypes of the 'happy Negro' living in a shack, satisfied with their lot.

    Speaks volumes of what they are trying to sell.

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