Fight big­otry with rea­son, not sup­pres­sion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

rapid so­cial change make for a danger­ous com­bi­na­tion. The in­ter­net also al­lows all kinds of vile crea­tures to slither into your in­box.

The most re­cent one was a col­lec- tion of farm-mur­der pho­to­graphs round-robinned by an ed­u­cated man who pre­sum­ably be­lieves he is per­form­ing a use­ful so­cial func­tion. If the in­ten­tion was to evoke fear and anger, in that he suc­ceeds.

Th­ese are scenes of al­most un­be­liev­able vi­o­lence. A sharp­ened broom­stick is stuck up a vagina; a child is blud­geoned to death; and a young woman is dis­em­bow­elled and hung by her heels from a meat hook.

The text rages against a me­dia and gov­ern­ment that deny the truth about crime. It talks of Afrikaner geno­cide, a po­lit­i­cal war to drive white farm­ers from the land, and it links to web­sites that are vir­u­lently anti-ANC, reg­is­tered to the tiny is­land of Nauru in or­der to hide the iden­ti­ties of their op­er­a­tors.

The web­sites, in­clud­ing one lob- by­ing against the World Cup next year, have been re­peat­edly tar­geted by hack­ers. The as­sump­tion of many is that such cy­ber at­tacks are the work of South African gov­ern­ment agents.

A week ago, the iden­tity of the owner of ZASucks.com was re­vealed when po­lice ar­rested him in a dawn raid. Al­bert Oosthuizen’s site claims its mis­sion is “to bring news to the out­side world of the crap that has be­come of SA”.

Oosthuizen was held overnight and re­leased without charge af­ter the pros­e­cu­tor re­port­edly re­fused to pur­sue a 1993 fraud charge against him. ZASucks is now off­line, Oosthuizen ap­pears to have dis­ap­peared, and the lo­cal me­dia is cu­ri­ously dis­in­ter­ested in a con­tretemps that goes to the heart of free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

At is­sue is what tol­er­ance should be ac­corded to those who patently dis­tort statis­tics and events to stir up emo­tions and to serve a po­lit­i­cal agenda most peo­ple find rep­re­hen­si­ble. The an­swer is ac­tu­ally easy: ev­ery bit we can muster.

As ANC Youth Lea­guer Julius Malema demon­strates, hate speech and venom are not the pre­serve of the right. Big­otry is best fought not by sup­pres­sion but with rea­son.

Sure, whites are cru­elly mur­dered by psy­cho­log­i­cally sick peo­ple and, in some cases, this is fu­elled by racial ha­tred and the de­sire to drive whites off the land. There also must be many more pic­tures of black peo­ple sim­i­larly tor­tured and cru­elly mur­dered, and their suf­fer­ing changes the story some­what.

The other side of the story tells of tens of mil­lions of peo­ple who don’t be­have this way, de­spite grind­ing poverty and harsh con­di­tions. That side of the story ar­gues that the best hope for a trau­ma­tised South Africa lies in de­vel­op­ment that de­liv­ers bet­ter lives and the grad­ual nor­mal­i­sa­tion of a vi­o­lence-plagued so­ci­ety.

The World Cup will help in a small way. So, too, would clar­ity on the strange events sur­round­ing Oosthuizen and his ac­tiv­i­ties.

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