South Africa’s left-wing media has done it again. It has managed to divert attention away from its own ethical bankruptcy onto a scapegoat individual. That individual – who, oddly enough, is always a white male – in the left-wing fanatical tradition, is now unemployed and humiliated. But Marius Roodt, like Gareth Cliff and Chris Hart, has done nothing but stand up for the values of a free and liberal society. And he has been crucified for that.

Roodt was recently outed as the infamous ‘Shelley Garland’, a vociferous Huffington Post South Africa contributor who called for the disenfranchisement of white males. The Post’s inquisitors allegedly tracked him down by “tracing his email” and using “facial recognition” technology. The effort it expounded in this witch hunt clearly indicates that it was the identity of the blogger, rather than the vile content of the article, which concerned the Post most.

In a recent ‘expose’ by the Post, they posted a video of Roodt being caught off-guard (finishing a snack, awkwardly) by inquisitors Ferial Haffajee and Pieter du Toit. What follows is a cringeworthy video where blame for the entire episode is shifted onto Roodt, when he was merely the vehicle for exposing the intellectual vileness of South Africa’s social justice-inclined media.

Roodt claims that the article was aimed at testing the quality of South African journalism – a test which South African journalism failed. As was to be expected, the Post, which is known for shifting between tabloid swill and left-wing doctrine, published the article. After a strong media backlash, they embraced a red herring to distract readers from the real issue – not that Shelley Garland is a fake, but that the Post is willing to publish blatantly racist and nonfactual articles.

The video is painful to watch, as a man obviously not used to the camera is scolded by holier-than-thou fanatics in the same manner someone may scold a toddler. There is no attempt at compromise or understanding from the Post inquisition, only condemnation and vitriol in hushed tones.

The Post, having published its expose, did not at substantively own the fact that it published such drivel. Its initial half-hearted retraction of the article included a generic commitment to the ‘universal franchise’ without delving into the intellectual and ethical nefariousness of the modern feminist theory which underlies the article. Editor Verashni Pillay herself admitted, in no uncertain terms, that the article represented accepted ideas within modern feminism.

Pillay did venture an ‘apology’ in the immediate wake of Post’s expose, admitting that publishing the content might have been a mistake. While a commendable attempt, she did, however, write the following:

“Despite the pressure for me to recant my thoughts in my initial response I cannot, authentically, do that.

I still believe that despite the gains for equality and universal human rights in the last century, the fact is that white men still enjoy disproportionate power. And yes, I believe that a loss of oppressive power is necessary to create a truly level playing field.”

That she still sticks to her initial defence of the Garland piece is praiseworthy – consistency on the left is to be admired on the rare occasions it appears. What Pillay appears to not acknowledge, however, when she calls for “fewer accusations and growing suspicion of each other and eventual, authentic healing,” is that it is more often than not the media which causes division and tension between South Africans. This was all but confirmed in the recent media bias report by the Solidarity Research Institute.

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South Africa’s left-wing-inclined media persists in hiding behind the veil of objectivity and ethical journalism. Both Business Day and the Mail & Guardian have published editorials giving light to the underlying philosophy of editorial committees, yet have not attempted to redefine themselves as a consequence thereof.

Nothing in this RS editorial, of course, should be construed as calling upon the Huffington Post or other South African media outlets to ‘be objective’ or ‘be more thorough’ with fact-checking. In fact, we regard objectivity as nigh-impossible and defer to in-house editorial standards for the level of fact-checking. After all, RS does not as a general rule fact-check guest contributions – we believe firmly in giving authors the intellectual space to outline their position. If they dig their own grave in the process, so be it.

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Furthermore, anonymous or pseudonym contributors are a staple of journalism.

What matters is that the Post deemed the Garland piece appropriate to fit their editorial guidelines – taking on an article that echoes many of the thoughts the social justice left espouse daily. Only after sufficient condemnation did they apologise, and pretend they had bungled. Au contraire, they very much meant to publish such a piece and get behind its ideas.

What bothers us about this episode, is transparency and honesty. Nothing, as of 22:50 PM on 19 April 2017 on the Post’s website elucidates the fact that that publication takes an explicitly progressivist, social justice, Critical Theory, postmodernist, or any other related school of thought approach to journalism, when, in reality, they do. In contradistinction, the Rational Standard has made it clear, from the outset, that we take a distinctively libertarian, free market approach, and we restate this continuously in articles.

Had the Post been open about its blatantly-obvious bias, the Garland piece would not have been newsworthy in the slightest, because the lens through which we would have approached it would have been different. We would have known that an authoritarian left-wing argument was being made on a left-wing platform. Instead, an authoritarian left-wing argument was made on a platform masquerading as an objective outlet adhering to journalistic ethics, when, in fact, we know that any article even hinting at the disenfranchisement of anyone except white males, would have been binned by whatever sub-editor received it first.

In the video inquisition of Roodt, Ferial Haffajee attempts to lay the blame of the article firmly at his feet, as if he actually supported what he wrote. She is, of course, ignoring the fact that he wrote it to test the Post’s journalistic ethics – that they failed. Haffajee continues to defend Pillay’s defence of the fake Garland piece, when Haffajee herself condemned calls to disenfranchise anyone. While the latter is to be commended, the former highlights the fact that tracking Roodt down had nothing to do with author verification, but was a mere witch hunt to ensure the Post’s is able to divert attention away from what truly matters in this episode.

It is a travesty that Marius Roodt resigned and was publicly humiliated in a tale where he is the protagonist. He did what many rational, level-headed individualists around the world have wanted to do for years – show the left the toxicity and authoritarianism of their own philosophy, by using their own words and logic. He pulled it off, and should be commended. Even though Roodt claims not to be a libertarian, he is certainly now a worthy activist and proponent of journalistic transparency.

While the rest of the world is waking up to the horror and authoritarian nature of the social justice movement (unfortunately, often replacing it with equally authoritarian right-wing thought), South Africa sadly lags behind. Calls for ‘radical economic transformation’ and condemnation of bogeymen have placed us further down the road to serfdom, as the African National Congress grasps desperately to retain its relevance against an opposition that tends to just be a ‘lite’ version of itself.

South Africa does not have a healthy intellectual discourse and our lack of journalistic transparency does not help. Outlets such as the Post and others have not succeeded in encouraging healthy discourse – on the contrary, South African media has succeeded in drowning out rational voices in favour of hysteria. The Post, The Daily Vox, Daily Maverick, Mail & Guardian, etc. have as a substantial majority of contributors individuals who toe the social justice line. RS and a worryingly limited amount of other publications continue to pursue an explicitly classical liberal approach where the freedom and dignity of the individual is placed center-stage.

The Huffington Post South Africa, however, must be commended, as it has hereinto had a far cleaner, more respectable portfolio than its American counterpart, where articles of the nature of the Garland piece are a weekly occurrence. Pillay’s maturity in taking responsibility for the questionable publication of the content (author aside) is furthermore a tentative indication of the Post’s commitment to rectify some of the problems which led to this episode.

The Editor

The Editor is a joint-account for the posting of organisational updates and editorials on behalf of the Rational Standard.