South Africans of all political camps seem to have a tough time effectively communicating their ideas. This is to be expected in a political culture that values singing and dancing as a substitute for actual discussion. But it wasn’t the professional protesters who bungled up this time.
This week has seen the erection and subsequent condemnation of posters explicitly copying Nazi propaganda at Stellenbosch University.
The minimally adjusted posters called for readers to “fight for Stellenbosch” and mentioned such ludicrousness as “the Anglo-Afrikaner student” and “the New Right”.
As is customary in South Africa, a witch-hunt ensued and three suspects are being questioned. More on that later.
What immediately comes to mind with this entire debacle is not so much the genuine sense of worry that is rising from many around South Africa, and even the world, but rather anger that such idiots exist and thought this was a good idea.
While I do not wish to labour the point, I feel it is needed. What type of idiot puts up Nazi posters at a university, much less anywhere? Have these morons finally awoken from a pre-1940s slumber? Are they from an alternate reality where Nazism isn’t seen as widely distasteful and an all-round stupid system?
Unfortunately, I know the answer.
These idiots aren’t from another dimensions, or from any context that excuses this stupidity. They are a symptom of the ever-lasting edgy culture that deludes people into thinking that Nazism was a good idea because it isn’t mainstream. They are the beardless hipsters of political discourse. Contrarians for their own sake, with no real substance or sincere political agenda.
I cannot stress enough how stupid these posters were. In a climate of over-zealous racialism, even genuine neo-Nazis should have realised that this was a bad idea. The only rational actor that could have known this was a good idea would be a fallist or black racist who wanted to further stoke the flames of racial conflict to support their fallacious land theft agenda. A neo-Nazi should have realised that a race war will not end well, especially for them.
The True Intent?
But, as to be expected, this wasn’t some genuine neo-Nazi group erecting the 4th-Reich’s recruitment posters. The intent was much more symbolic, but not less ill-thought out. Dean Dart, not the erector of the posters, but a spokesperson for what he called “a social project,” had this to say:
“We were just hoping that people were going to arrive in protest and have a discussion about what is happening to the left.”
“We used extreme imagery because what has happened to the left is that they have become that which they despise. By not being allowed to speak, the crowd proved my point.” (MatieMedia)
Effectively, the escapade was aimed at opening the proverbial dialogue, and forcing leftists to interrogate their own intolerance and hypocrisy. By being condemned for posting up hate symbols, the perpetrators wanted to show the hypocrisy of the left-wing hegemon not simultaneously condemning calls for violence against whites.
But they failed.
How many times are we going to do this?
Even if this intention is sincere, it does not excuse it. Not because of the offensive nature of the posters, or the fact that they copied Nazi material (plagiarism is bad, kids), but that they should have known better. Too often, South African politics is based around vague symbolism, artsy statements and apparent clever hidden meanings. Very rarely do these ever succeed.
The left needs to introspect, but engaging them like this solves nothing. All it accomplishes is alienating third parties and driving them into the arms of the left.
Stop doing it! Stop trying to play clever mind-games. The left isn’t going to suddenly be tricked into having a brain just because you faced them with a Nazi poster. Pseudo-clever art and symbolism belongs in a modern art museum, not the political discourse.
What we need is to be explicit and honest. Business has realised this. You don’t force your market to think. You tell them what they need to know. Remove the steps to conversion. You don’t see a grocery store posting riddles and reverse psychology to get consumers through the entrance.
Politics shouldn’t be any different. The problem with the left is that they shut down discourse. The solution isn’t to troll them, or to attack the genuinely unproblematic views that they may hold – and it isn’t to use vague symbolism to spark introspection.
If the goal of this idiotic escapade was discourse, then the group should have attempted to start a genuine discourse. Find a lefty to argue with. Challenge them politely. Maintain etiquette. Be better than the enemy. This doesn’t mean steel-manning them (empowering their view), it just means ensuring an external aesthetic that makes you and your cause appealing to decent folk.
What this accomplished was demonising a cause and an entire institution. Nothing more. For the media doesn’t care about the symbolism of “Nazis” being shut down by the intolerant left. They’ve never cared, and they aren’t going to start now.
While the blame of this escapade is 99% on the shoulders of those who perpetrated it, I must add the 1984-feeling that I’m getting from a lot of the response.
It is the norm for speakers to be shut down on campuses. It is sad that it is the norm, but it is to be expected. My concern is with names. Throughout this debacle, each article was peppered with names of institutions that were very illustrative of the political state of the country.
The Equality Unit and the ‘transformation office’ are two poignant indicators of the pervasiveness of the left-wing hegemony. The Equality Unit stinks of a thought-police. The fact that is expends so much time and resources tracking down non-dangerous, at best, stupid, individuals, illustrates the concerns of an institution that is meant to be concerned with education.
The fact that there is a ‘transformation office’ is also troublesome, but to be expected. All it illustrates is the further legitimisation of a radical and dangerous ideology.
SEE ALSO: How ‘Transformation’ Is No Transformation At All by Martin van Staden
It is clear by many articles that this event has only served to empower the vitriolic left. As to be expected by those with sense, the debacle did not instigate any sort of introspection of discourse. Rather, it has encouraged Africanist groups and pushed many moderates to truly believe that there is a white supremacist threat.
We need to stop playing games to start discourse. The battle of ideas is just that, a battle of ideas. Present your ideas – honestly! If the left doesn’t engage, find someone who does. Their loss. Go for moderates. Convert the reasonable majority. Don’t hang bloody Nazi posters!
If the goal is discourse, don’t play the modern art game. Compete in the arena. Spread your ideas. Live them. Be explicit. Otherwise, you get misunderstood, vilified as a Nazi (when you should be vilified as an idiot) and serve the enemy more than yourself.
Let this be a warning to the edgy among us. A 4th Reich is not thought provoking and dialogue isn’t started by risking a race war.
P.S. An advertising expert examined the poster and has condemned its use of a small font that doesn’t stand-out sufficiency from the dark background. In the future, please keep in mind good design-sense. And, you know, not hanging Nazi propaganda.