26 August 2006

The Street Is A Medium Of Mass Communication

What is now called “spin” is what used to be called “gloss”. A good example of gloss is the opening line of the Sapa article printed by The Star yesterday. It says: “Reaction to Desmond Tutu's calls for Jacob Zuma to abandon his presidential ambitions has been muted.” But the article actually reports that a Zuma supporter wrote that Tutu "was crying like a baby during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for us to forgive apartheid murderers, but now he urges the public not to forgive Msholozi. What hypocrisy, bishop Tutu." How is such a statement called “muted”? Writing of The Star's, and Sapa's, usual kind is not for the purpose of telling you something you don’t know. It is rather for the purpose of telling you what to think about something - often something that you do already know. Another example is yesterday’s Mail and Guardian article by the paper’s anti-Zuma hired gun, Sam Sole. After no less than ten preliminary paragraphs of his own private composition, Sole arrives at the matter upon which he is reporting, which he calls “court papers” (actually an affidavit). Then there is a short quote, followed by a shameless invention of Sole’s, namely the rubbish idea that Bulelani Ngcuka was “suckered into withdrawing charges against Thint”, the French arms manufacturer. Readers of the Star (see here) know very well that former Justice Minister Penuell Maduna offered this withdrawal of charges on his own initiative through the agency of Tony Georgiades, Frederick de Klerk’s wife Elita’s ex-husband. This was in exchange for Thint (also known as Thales) standing up the flimsy “encrypted fax” so as to convict Schabir Shaik, as a stage in their campaign against Zuma. Maduna continued to pester the Thint company for money and free travel, together with his wife, right up to last year. All this is clearly spelled out in the same affidavit. Yet Sole glosses this as Maduna “representing Thales as an attorney”, which is an outrageous lie. Sole rises to his climax towards the end of the article, writing: “the overwhelming impression is of a strategy designed to make sure Zuma never has to meet the case we all want him to answer.” Who is this “we”? Not COSATU, for sure, because COSATU has demanded that all charges against Jacob Zuma be dropped. Neither is it the huge crowds who fill the streets of South Africa in support of “Msholozi”, (Jacob Zuma). No, the “we” is basically Sam Sole and his boss, Mail and Guardian editor Ferial Haffejee, hoping to speak for an indeterminate (but certainly small) number of middle class snobs who oppose Zuma for basically racist reasons, in other words because they don’t think he is sufficiently assimilated for their liking. The Mail and Guardian’s circulation is around 40,000, out of 40 million South Africans. See the link below for this example of despicable journalism. Terry Bell’s glossing (see link) is even more devious than Sole’s. He starts in the same way with several deceptively general paragraphs and then goes for his target using passive aggression. “The press has taken a lot of flak from COSATU”, he writes. The fact that this is not true doesn’t bother Terry, and of course he quotes no examples. Passive aggression is the tactic of falsely accusing people of attacking you, so as to create an excuse for you to attack them. Sure enough, Terry’s attack follows and it carries the unmistakeable stench of red-baiting in the form of a lot of guff about democratic centralism. Then comes this classic weasel line: “Many trade unionists, even at the most senior levels, admit that it is silly to maintain that there is unanimous support within Cosatu for the positions adopted in support or defence of Zuma.” The word “many” is a sure sign of sick journalism. How many? And then how many dissenters does it take before support is no longer “unanimous”? One dissenter, actually, among 1.9 million members of COSATU, means that support is not unanimous. That one might even be Terry Bell himself. Who has ever claimed such “unanimous” support for Jacob Zuma, or any other policy of COSATU? Nobody. What, then, is Terry Bell saying? Nothing. He is just making a bad smell. Democratic unity is about winning a majority, and more especially about the minority accepting the decisions of the majority. Unanimity has nothing to do with it. Unanimity is for fascists. Thank goodness for Neva Makgetla. She writes: “many commentators love the labour movement — it’s unions they can’t stand.” Terry Bell, nailed, with one sharp line. See her excellent article linked below. Those who can’t see popular unity under their noses probably just don’t want to see it. Others, and especially communists, are thrilled by the knowledge of masses of people in combination for a common purpose. The heroism of tens of thousands of Lebanese people returning to their shattered towns and villages without even one day’s hesitation will be an everlasting inspiration to us. See the link below for a full appreciation of what this extraordinary and world-historical mass action really meant. Click on these links: Only God judges, Tutu told, Sapa, The Star (295 words) Zuma, Thint go for broke, Sam Sole, Mail and Guardian (1121 words) Sleight of hand by Terry Bell, Business Report (793 words) In praise of labour movement virtues, Neva Makgetla, Business Day (743 words) Lebanese Civilians Thwarted Israel, James Marc Leas, Counterpunch (1156 words)


  1. Please also attach interesting articles from other regions, ie, Cape Argus/times, EP Herald etc. I believe the communist university readers would be interested in the following article: http://www.epherald.co.za/herald/news/n07_25082006.htm

  2. Well, o.k., but let's also remember that Bishop Tutu was in Cape Town when he preached against Zuma, Terry Bell is in Cape Town (what does he know of the Booysens Hotel that he mentions?) and Sam Sole is in Durban as far as I know. Then there was a story about Lebanon. So, even if you count Neva's article as Johannesburg, that is still four out of five outside.

    Thanks for the clip from the Herald. I would have to sample the whole country to do justice to the question of which way the ANC is going.

    I think I'll just keep doing the best I can, and also encouraging others.


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