The Cape Party has stated its intention to charge Dean Hutton, infamous artist of the controversial ‘Fuck White People’ artwork, for hate speech. They said that they will be submitting papers to the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on the 25th of January.

“We will request the court to declare the offensive piece as hate speech (and to) order its removal from the public gallery,” Jack Miller, leader of the Cape Party, told News24.

This follows a physical attack on the piece at the National Art Museum in Cape Town. The video posted by the Cape Party on the 17th of January, shows Cape Party members placing a sticker stating “Love Thy Neighbour” over the artwork. This was followed by Jack Miller calling for an end to racism. Gallery guards half-heartedly confronted the group, but were restrained and blocked long enough for the sticker to be placed.

Dean Hutton, the artist, stated that criminal charges will be laid against the members of the Cape Party. A typical public discussion has been scheduled for the 16th of February over the exhibition and the topic of race that it is meant to inspire.

The act is vandalism by definition. The sticker will, as the cameraman states, damage the artwork. Any supporter of private property rights has to condemn the act. This does not mean support for the artist and the artwork, however.

Dean Hutton, the artist
Dean Hutton, the artist

Personally, I have great distaste for uncreative, intentionally-controversial art that is merely provocative and not truly thought-provoking. Art is not meant to be merely sensationalist. It is meant to tie together creativity with thought-provoking content. This piece is distasteful, indicating no technical artistic skill and only acting as a taunt towards sensitive members in society – not making them think, merely making them angry.

But distaste is aesthetic. It isn’t meant to be ethical. The lack of artistic merit in this piece does not justify its vandalism. The piece is owned by a private individual, and thus protected by the principles of liberty we hold dear. The Cape Party was out of line in attacking it in this matter.

In addition, the charge of hate speech is inappropriate in terms of definition. Hate speech is, by definition, a direct call for violent action. This is insulting, but isn’t hate speech. The proposed Hate Speech Bill cannot, and will not, change the actual definition of hate speech. Ridicule and offence isn’t just cause for attacking private property. If you believe that, then you become as bad as the hateful left.

The call by the Cape Party seems more a statement to highlight the hypocrisy in our society, however. Jack Miller has stated that he wants Hutton to be fined R150 000, the same amount as Penny Sparrow. If the intention of this accusation is to highlight the hypocrisy of punishing whites for pseudo-hate speech and not anti-white pseudo-hate speech, then I am pro the act. While the Cape Party must also face criminal charges for vandalism, our society must face the fact that many people are unfairly treated by the law in terms of speech.

What needs to be fundamentally remembered is that private property rights are important.

The Cape Party members involved must be brought to justice for vandalising a private artwork and for the assault hugs levelled at the guards. What we must also remember is that Dean Hutton’s work is antagonistic. It doesn’t deserve a defence for its own merit, but rather only due to our inherent right to freedom of speech and private property. Rather, the Cape Party should have only levelled the hate speech accusation (to highlight societies hypocrisy) and sought other means of getting the artwork removed.

The physical attack comes off as merely a publicity stunt, which I understand the need for a political party to undertake, but is still just as distasteful as the artwork they protest.

Nicholas is a co-founder and Marketing and Technical Director at the Rational Standard. He is a Council Member of the Institute for Race Relations as well as the Regional Coordinator for African Students For Liberty. Nicholas has written two science fiction novels. He is currently studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Cape Town.