How Big is Big? The Issue of Mammoth Proportions

Supersized Media: Part Four (from

TO DATE, Independent Media owns 18 titles in the Western Cape’s newsprint sector alone. This does not include vast media holdings worldwide, over 120 newspapers in 12 countries, a considerable online presence, and supersized media holdings in and around South Africa. More recently the group’s entry into the lucrative tabloid market with the Daily Voice has meant a break with local tradition. The previously staid, often progressive “English Press” is now delivering scare stories about penis enlargement, lesbian orgies and an extremely well-endowed page 3 girl. Nothing out of the ordinary as far as international tabloid journalism is concerned, so why all the fuss?

The Cape Times, one of South Africa’s “negotiators of consent”, was founded by F Y St Leger in 1876 to counter the gossip and scandal which he believed to be “the literature of the gutter”. More so, the paper achieved a remarkable reputation for being outspoken and independent of the influence of billionaires like Cecil John Rhodes. St Leger would be turning in his grave, to see money and influence-peddling the big order of the day — (Indeed, the demands made by the new mammoth media cartels of latter-day capitalism represent chiefly the interests of todays empire-builders — the Cecil John Rhodes’ of the 21st century )

In relating criticism of the English Press, including the Cape Times, Communications Historian, Gordon Jackson in his “Breaking Story”, a 1993 review of the South African press, says: “because of their ownership and consequent ideological bias, the English press are riddled with shortcomings….the main charge being that they present a biased and distorted view of reality that reflects only a highly selective and inadequite view of South African Society.”

It is by and large, the failure to present reality, in anything other than highly selective terms — terms which favour a few exceptional billionaires and not ordinary people — that helps to construct a pernicious super-power maelstrom. However difficult, the only solution is to limit media ownership and the subsequent creation of cartels, by disentangling the hydra-headed beast that seemingly gives society the appearance of a “consensual discourse”. One might also refer to Gramsci’s “hegemonic principle”, and the debate about consent which Noam Chomsky points out is actually “manufactured” and in some instances, “fabricated” by media into the appearance of rational discourse.

It is precisely Independent Media with its concommitent Anglo-American New World Order that drives attempts to globalise and forces us all to accept the supersized status quo. In fact writers like Howard Barrell, P Eric Louw and the Tomasellis generally criticise this uniformity and conformism:

In comparing the English and Afrikaans papers, Louw argued: “Both are owned and largely staffed by elements of the same ruling elite. Both clearly paint a picture of the world that reflects the interest of various … “class fractions”. Hence both 1) justify the status quo…and 2) both serve to exclude alternative perspectives (that is to say perspectives fundementally at odds with those held by the ruling class.)

The Tomaselli’s reiterate: “The popular press views those who transgress or threaten dominant social norms (like drug users, criminals, soccer hooligans, homosexuals, political extremists and so on) as ‘outsiders’. By casting such groups in the role of folk devils the media serve to strengthen our degree of commitment to ideas of normal behaviour, and to create a climate of opinion that supports the operations of society’s sanctioning agency.”

In this role as a “sanctioning agency” the Independent Group’s shortcomings become apparant, for without the manufacture of consent by transnational media corporations there would be no sanction for war, no proclamation of terror, no awareness of a master-plan for the elimination of civil liberties, human rights and so forth that all form part of the “Bush-Blair-O’Reilly” agenda.

South Africa’s supposed “free press” then, is thus one which continues to disbar journalists and writers on the basis of the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs, political views, cultural affiliations, sexual orientation and so on. The reason for this is the subsuming of local interests under the interests of a new conformity that has as its basis, the creation of a single global media cartel. In the struggle for freedom, the press have become their own worst enemy, arguing for what is essentially the opposite of diversity — a monocultural one-size-fits-all mega-media that is no freedom at all.


Madiba Art Scam: Let the Lustration of the Art World Begin.

PERHAPS South Africa needs a lustration – an institutional bloodletting in which the last of the Verenka Pashkas are abandoned along with the hemline of the past? In fact isn’t it safe to say that we all have a Verenka Pashka sitting somewhere in the family tree — an apartheid skeleton that refuses to go away?

The problem with apartheid is that it produced a terrible clique of bureaucrats – an educated and nebulous elite that still continues to cling to power, and which expects a special status quotient no matter what the outcome. In their uxorious demands for our supposed loyalty and taxes they stigmatise ordinary South Africans who would get along fine if it weren’t for the sneaking suspicion that party affiliations are no longer what they once were.

If Madiba can hang out with PW Botha’s maternal grandchild, then what’s to stop us ordinary folk from hanging out with the children of bloodthirsty Slobodon Milosovic, or playing with the offspring of killer Mengistu or the dictator of Uganda, Idi Amin? Are we such suckers for reconciliation that we are prepared to give-up on what used to be a politically-correct fixation with well-mannered progressive identity: In effect, to be castrated by ideology and disabused of power?

“Oh, not those kind of people, I hear parents muttering – they’re ex-nazis or worse,”

Now what we have is some kind of painting excursion — fascism by numbers in which the ghost of PW Botha is resurrected like a kind of evil fairy godfather along with Verenka Pashka’s wardrobe.

How much do those art lessons cost anyway?

I know a lot of people, including my own mother, who would throw in tutelage and instruction for free, with far less baggage

If you were part of the old cabinet under PW Botha, then you shouldn’t be seen, nevermind heard of as a Madiba fashion accessory.

The scent of freedom, the smell of betrayal

Madiba Magic: “Out deepest fear is not that we are inadequite”

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequite…”

The self-help movement tends to “help-itself” to nearly everything these days, and pilfering words and phrases from the truly great is not uncommon. Take Michail Gorbachov, who is known by the statement: “If not now, then when?/If not us, then whom?” Words taken from the Jewish Talmud and often attributed to Moses Maimonides a Greek scholer.

While Marianne Williamson may believe that she is the first to use the phrase: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequite” I believe the wording comes from a much earlier text on Love by Ovid. It is not out of the bounds of reason that Madiba may have read such a work whilst incarcarated in prison. Whatever the truth, words spoken by statesmen of Mandela’s calibre seem to be recorded for posterity while those attributed to cheap self-help manuals do not.

Supersized Media – probing the Independent Group’s fixation with size, Part Three

(from[updated to include critique of development in south africa]

Big is well, Bigger –Independent’s Empire – The Sheer Magnanimity of it all.

IN THE climate of a negotiated settlement, and under the benevolent regime of Mandela’s presidency, there were few words in opposition to Tony O’Reilly’s new Independent Media stable. In fact landmark transformation occurred in the company with the hiring of black editors like Moegsien Williams and Ryland Fischer. With the creation of a new petty bourgeoisie, it seemed as if institutions like the Cape Times would continue to apply a progressive veneer to the news, despite being dominated by white liberals, and notwithstanding a history of firing editors for their views.

In fact, the terrible brewhaugh surrounding the sacking of editor Anthony Heard by the Cape Times board under sustained pressure from the Botha-government on the one hand, and the Argus Group on the other, was quietly forgotten. It seemed in the hazy twilight of transformation, as if anything could happen. Gerald Shaw records in his oblique way, the machinations of a lily-white, totally-male Cape Times board acquiessing to pressure from SAAN and overseeing the wholesale transfer of assets and local interests in favour of a new supersized, global entity under the iron fist of Tony O’Reilly.

As far as liberalism was concerned, people felt empowered. Things appeared to get better. Yet the Anglo-American stake in Media South Africa Inc. was being cynically protected while jews and people-of-colour were relegated. How much of this “transformation” was simply window dressing? Local media theorists Keyan and Ruth Tomaselli pose some interesting questions with regard to the role of the media as “gatekeepers of truth” — in a well-known critique of the way in which a highly selective process evolves into the dominant world-view.

As long as editors kept quiet and accepted their subservient role to the interests of British Capital, the charade of free speech, black empowerment and liberal politicking continued. However, those who transgressed the boundaries separating liberal ideology from reality, anglo-saxon philosophy from objective fact, were simply dealt with. Ryland Fischer was deposed, Moegsien Williams, relegated to Johannesburg and underlings like Sandile Dikeni and Gael Reagan, disciplined and browbeaten into oblivion.

In the Tomaselli’s critical notion, mass media appears to include a “consensual discourse” yet they also refer to “discursive sanctions” in which journalists are forced to work within an “ideological framework” that assumes a form of retribution for violations or variances in opinion.

“Policy [at the Cape Times] is learnt through osmosis, a tacit process of, ‘learning the ropes’,” the Tomaselli’s maintain. The subtlety of this osmotic void becomes ever more bizarre as one poses such critical problems. In fact, simply questioning the status quo or seriously tackling the conditions in which South Africans of all persuasions find themselves continues to be seen as threatening and unacceptable to the new guardians of moral authority, and the experience of the Cape Times is indicative of the way transformation can simply turn into a neat sidestep away from progress.

South Africa’s blue-chip morning newspaper, The Cape Times transformed then, from a progressive establishment voice into a supplement to the national daily Business Report and to this day still lacks a viable entertainment section.

[Parts One and Two have already been published on]

Dumping Malegapura Makgoba’s Baboon Theory.

IF ANYBODY deserves to talk about his own oppression, it is Malegapura Makgoba, however the question remains to what degree individuals have constitutionally protected freedom to express their views about race in this country. It is one thing to entertain an informed debate about the “crime against humanity” known as apartheid, it is another thing entirely to suggest a new dimension to race theory, and to effect an hypothesis that instead of deracialising society, simply exacerbates the problem.

In America where there are few limitations on free speech, it is not uncommon to find oddball theories that serve to weaken progress towards a just and equitable society. In fact, the freedom to speak ones own mind is so great there, that even members of the “Nazi Youth League” are defended by intellectuals who believe that such freedoms are the cornerstone of democracy.

Not so in Germany where Nazism is banned. In South Africa, where race is still a divisive issue, we have qualifications against the use of so-called “hate speech”, propoganda and incitement to war and violence. In fact article 16. 2 (c) rules out advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm. The real question surely on every readers lips then — are Makgoba’s racial theories, really an incitement or advocacy to cause harm, however misconstrued this might seem to anybody wishing to act as a self-styled arbiter of racist discourse?

At the face of it, the kind of rhetoric that Makgoba uses appears to be tame, not entirely hateful by the standards of demogogery and less purposefully harmful than many would suppose, but nevertheless, the damage has been done, and as the editor admits, this single topic is probably the most controversial in its ability to stir emotion. Makgoba as a chancellor of a university should know better — the minute one starts advocating a theory of race, ethnicity or gender, one falls into a relativistic minefield, which is pretty well established in the ethics of discourse: There should be no middle ground between being an activist of equality and advocating racial superiority; no possiblity of being a humanist or a feminist and engaging in chauvenistic activity.

In spite of appearances, Makgoba has on numerous occasions argued against non-racialism as an idea, and his Baboon theories tend to suppose that the big stick waiting for racists, of all persuasions, is not within the constitution, but rather ensconced and cloistered within his own mind. If it turns out that his stated goal is to cause injury and to do harm, (ethnic and linguistic groups notwitstanding) then the real dilemma is that if we do not tackle Makgoba’s views with all the resources at our disposal, then these constitutional qualifications will be undone and the bill of rights will be viewed merely as a paper tiger.

What is more, there could be other more extreme racists like Makgoba hiding under a bushel of racist baboon ideology, creating a new discourse that forgives racialism and racialisation simply because the perpetrators are no longer all white. Is it still the hard and terribly truth, that officially, there were no black racists to speak of, no collaborators with the apartheid regime? Let us deal with this stigma, not by laughing it away or sweeping it under a nearby tree, but by analysing what Makgoba has to say, and if it turns out that he is an advocate of hatred against humanity then by all means, let us exile the man and his baboon to some vestry.

Are white men tarantulas?

When Charles Darwin propogated his Origin of the Species and theories of evolution, he caused a stir in polite, should one say, Victorian society? In fact a lot of the negative response to the idea that we are all descended from apes, came from wealthy members of society who were offended by the notion that our nearest relatives in the animal kingdom were baboons and bonobos as Malegapuru Makgoba the vice-chancellor of the University of Natal, quite rightly points out.

Unfortunately, like Charles Darwin, Makgo-barthes theories tend to get a lot of air-time on national television, and it is clear from debates like these that he has not evolved past the subordinated terms and inferior education of the elitist apartheid system. Only in South Africa would one get away with referring to the “white, male” in a derogatory academic fashion as part of a “new popular theory of sub-human bononoism and lesser-spotted ubuntuism.”

The question is — does this shift in articulation, to levels of pomposity not seens since US forces captured Chemical Ali, signel a major shift towards a well-endowed black consciousness movement on our nations campuses? There is a growing sense of estrangement and despair that in order to create the new reality argued for by the vice-chancellor (in his personal capacity), non-racialism, diversity and even freedom of sexual orientation would have to be ditched, merely so that an ideological fish can be thrown at those who oppose transformation?

This is not the first time that Makgoba has entertained an argument for what is essentially the polar opposite to white power and white consciousness — basically a new form of chauvenism, that culminates in an Africanist identity based upon the very racism and sexism he so bravely assails: “The white male, he writes, “should instead be excited by the prospect of imitating Africans” when what he means is “the black male should be excited at the opportunity to imitate the bad behaviour of the dethroned, depressed, and quarrelsome, spoiler of the new order” ie, the white male ape or bobbejaan.

Without examining modes-of-thought, false consciousness, ideology etc it is impossible to ring the bell on the mind-body dialectic, and the imitation of thought of a banana. Dare one say Makgoba is incapable of entering the mind of a tarantula or parosol because of his unassailable superiority as “vice-chancellor” and rabbit egg. Is this because the man is intellectually-challenged, mysterious and incapable of theorising about his own oppression?

The Cape Times’ Subaltern Studies

The Cape Times’ Subaltern Studies
Note: This is part of the Liberal Nazi’s thread, a copy has been sent to the newspaper concerned.(from

The Cape Times’ Subaltern Studies

Patrick Laurence’s pathetic attempt to exhonerate the nazi sympathiser Van Wyk Louw, in a piece published (and more than likely commissioned) by the Cape Times yesterday falls into a division of subaltern studies (the study of subordinate, dominated, marginalised or excluded “races”, castes, ethnic and linguistic groups, classes, genders and cultures) that looks at demagogues and the way their supporters contest power.

If Hitler wasn’t all that bad, the logic of Laurence’s argument goes, then Himmler and Goering could be forgiven for what they perpetrated against the Jewish people. It is easy to fall into the trap of equating the Nazi Holocaust with the apartheid state, but the real travesty is if we ignore the history of our nation, brushing aside growing concerns that we have not been fully reconciled as a people, nor totally in possession of the truth about the perpetrators of hate-crimes, especially when it comes to poets and writers.

Laurence manages to turn a “brief flirtation with Nazism” into an eloquent defence of Grand Apartheid and Separate Development. And while not a “devotee of Verwoerd” N P Van Wyke Louw, it is admitted, contributed to theories about racial superiority, and indeed, as Laurence recognises, justified Verwoerdian notions of seperate development in his own, unenviable way. It would take a grant from the Helen Suzman foundation to produce a closer reading of the texts in this debate, but from what I can gather, Laurance is dangerously close to prevaricating on the crime against humanity (known as Apartheid) and indeed, fabricating history.

If Apartheid wasn’t all that bad, goes Laurence’s own monologic, because it carried within it, the seeds of its own demise, then Nazism was even better, since only Hitlers suicide ended World War 2. It is impossible to retrace history, to correct mistakes and deviations in thought — all we have to go on is the solipsism of hope that future generations will not make the same mistakes as those of our forefathers, some of whom went to the grave denying that such a strange notion as non-racialism could ever exist in reality.

Before SIze Became an Issue

Before Size Became an Issue

SHORTLY after the election in 1994, South Africa joined the Commonwealth and in return for various guarantees, most notably the Sunset Clauses negotiated by SACP leader Joe Slovo that protected white interests, the wholesale discounting of various elements of the old regime began. Most notably the privatisation of state assets such as Telkom (Telephone), Transnet (Transport), Iscor (Steel), Sasol (Petrol) and more recently the pending sale of Eskom (Electricity).

The preditory capitalism unleashed by the forces of transformation had created a strange new ball game that would reshape the economic landscape, effecting consumers for decades to come. In the brief months preceding the epochal 1994 elections, and in a climate of uncertainty before size became an issue, Tony O’Reilly’s Independent Group seized control of the Argus Group, formerly owned by the South African Associated Newspapers, “a radical transformation had begun in the newspaper industry,” records Gerald Shaw in his informal history of the Cape Times.

In March 1994, after buying titles like the Argus, Weekend Argus and Star, the group went on to poach the jewel in Times Media’s crown, the Cape Times: “Before the deal could go through, [Independent] had to satisfy the Competition Board that the continued existence of the Cape Times and the continued editorial independence of both the Cape Times and [renamed] Cape Argus were not in jeapardy, and that the need of all sections of the community served by these newspapers to have a ‘meaningful voice’ in the running of them would be respected.”

Shaw observed wryly that “as far as the Competition Board saw it, a monopoly system already existed among English language newspapers at the Cape, and a change of control of the Cape Times and Argus from [Anglo-JCI] to Independent Newspapers would not alter the situation in the city.” In other words, whatever the deal, Anglo-American interests still appeared to be be served.

Next: Big is well, Bigger…log onto The Size Issue to find comments on the Independent Group and South Africa’s Supersized Media: