Opinionista Karyn Maughan 18 April 2017

Fake Huffington Post blog subverts debate about economic transformation in South Africa

The attacks on the characters of Verashni Pillay and Sipho Hlongwane of the Huffington Post, and overt glee in tearing them down, doesn't feel like fair criticism. It feels like a lynch mob.

I have major disquiet over the Huffington Post fake blog scandal. This is why.

Huffington Post made significant mistakes in not checking where the “White Men Vote” blog came from – or the veracity of the statistics used in this piece. They’ve apologised, and promised to interrogate their systems and how this could have happened.

It’s unfortunate that people have nevertheless felt justified in launching often quite racist abuse at the Huffington Post’s Verashni Pillay and Sipho Hlongwane. I know both Sipho and Verashni. The attacks on their characters, and overt glee in tearing them down, doesn’t feel like fair criticism. It feels like a lynch mob.

More than anything, my real concern is that what was essentially a premeditated plan to discredit HuffPost – and perhaps, subvert a necessary debate about economic transformation in SA – will not be subjected to the same level of interrogation as this entire sorry affair has been.

The fact is a white male wrote a poorly articulated blog with deliberately shaky/incorrect data to argue for possible disenfranchisement of white men. He did this, he later says, to “show that one can write absurd racist and sexist hogwash as long as the target is the right one”.

Up until now, he won’t reveal who he actually is.

He pretended he was a feminist woman writer – and he made distorted claims about the land ownership and economic power of white men to make her “fake” argument.

In an explanation for the blog, he says he doesn’t believe that “white men are under threat globally nor that there is a genocide happening against white men in South Africa”.

But he wants to show, that white men have become the “right” target.

There is a lot that needs to be questioned here.

My fear is that an extreme and distorted fake blog aimed at showing that white men are “targets” and victims will take us away from the necessary societal debate we must and should be having about this country’s dangerous and unsustainable social inequality.

This Huffington Post saga must provoke a necessary conversation about journalism checks and balances. But we shouldn’t let that inequality debate – arguably at the heart of that fake piece, albeit in deliberately poorly argued form – be subverted.

Especially when the source of that subversion is anonymous, and seemingly not open to interrogation.DM

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