Defend Truth

Opinionista

Where did the centre go? A sporting guide to finding it

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Clinton Nortje is a content professional, specialising in creation, syndication and licensing. He spent many years hosting radio talk shows, building feature bureaus and likely had some involvement in at least one piece of content that you have watched, read or heard.

It’s time to take off that team jersey and start supporting moderate media with views different from yours.

South African politics have always been something of a sport. You support the team your dad supported, you have a shirt you wear on game day (or maybe a beret), and even though you might be disappointed by your team’s performance from time to time, there is no real chance of you shifting your allegiance and supporting their biggest rivals. At worst, match attendance drops.

In this context, one could say I shout for Team Left. I am for social welfare programmes, progressive taxation, am generally pro-environment and would support reasonable restrictions on what businesses should and shouldn’t be allowed to do when it comes to exploiting natural resources.

Recently, my self-identification as a good middle-class lefty was starkly called into question when I watched my fellow left-leaning compatriots consume dangerously undercooked chicken in an effort to escape a braai where I had suggested that we farm rhino.

I was wearing a Wallaby jersey at Loftus.

As I realised how many of our opinions are informed by the team we think we represent and not our actual views on the issue, I began to wonder about precisely where on the political spectrum I actually fell and which organisations and platforms publicly represented my views.

This is when it dawned on me that, while I regularly encounter moderate people on both the left and right in my real life, I very rarely encounter them in the public discourse. It seems that pundits on either side very often represent the extreme views of the spectrum.

While some of this can be attributed to the fact that modern media revenue models incentivise publishers and broadcasters to promote emotive, one-sided content, thereby resulting in journalists and commentators with more extreme views rising to top echelons of the profession, I believe that the extreme nature of punditry can also be attributed to a certain level of Newspeak that has started to proliferate political commentary.

One of the purposes of Newspeak, explained so frightfully in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, is to simplify language to such a point that complex or heretical thought would become impossible. Simply put, it removes the grey areas in which most complex issues reside. Despite the fact that we have not yet found ourselves with an all-powerful government actively pushing this upon the people, there does appear to be a dumbing down of debate through the manipulation of language.

Somewhere along the line the terms left wing and right wing stopped being used as descriptors to establish what side of a political or economic spectrum one’s views fell on, and started becoming a slur to be used by one side against another. To be described as “leftist” or “alt-right” is to be smeared as a caricature of the extreme views held by the fringe supporters on either side of the political spectrum.

The cryptic term “alt-right” is regularly used by the left to describe anyone who disagrees with any point someone on the left is making. The phrase has become interchangeable with the terms racist, bigot or supremacist and conveniently has no widely agreed upon definition. It becomes a catch-all to describe those the left disagrees with, while the right bandies about the term “leftist” or “cultural Marxist” in order to depict their opponents as economically illiterate social justice warriors who allow their emotions to over-run their logic.

I, like many moderates, have been accused of being both. Idealogical debates seem to be run by the extremes of either side and moderates have effectively become the fringe. Moderate is the new extreme.

To illustrate this, consider the following issues :

  • BEE
  • Border Control
  • Abortion
  • Gun Control
  • Land Reform

These are complex issues and from a strictly ideological stand-point, there is no reason why moderates from either side of the political spectrum could not share similar positions or disagree positions emanating from their side of the aisle. I find that the infrequency with which a left or right wing pundit strays from the traditional dogma around these issues is a clear indication that punditry has come to be controlled by the extremes.

The temptation is to homogenise the media and deliver a blanket criticism of the role they have played in creating and perpetuating the status quo just as we habitually homogenise the left and right. This, in my view, would only exacerbate the problem. The real answer comes in the form of cold hard cash. If you want the media to become more moderate, then you need publishers, broadcasters, and advertisers to start competing for the “moderate dollar”.

Subscribe and donate to platforms that exhibit an honest intention of uncovering the truth whether you agree with their conclusions or not. The question whether your view of an organisation is a fair assessment of their ideas and actions or if it is fuelled by a desire to shut down competing arguments. Unfollow blue tick journalists who are clearly building a brand or fighting a cause, whether that cause is yours or not.

Take off that team jersey and start supporting moderate media with views different from yours. DM

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