IOL forced to apologise for smear campaign targeting Daily Maverick

INDEPENDENT Media have been forced to apologise for their smear campaign. “During March 2020 Daily News published an article titled ‚ÄėDaily Maverick asked me to write and do negative tweets about Dr Iqbal Surv√©‚Äô in print and on its digital platform within Independent Online. The article accused Daily Maverick and its editor Branko Brkic of orchestrating and financially sponsoring a fake news smear campaign against prominent politicians, businessmen and executives, including Independent Media executive chairman Dr Iqbal Surv√©.”

The source of the article, Modibe Modiba, was later ordered by the High Court to unconditionally retract, apologise, and pay damages for his unlawful and defamatory allegations against Daily Maverick and Mr Brkic. Daily News Editor Ayanda Mdluli, and Independent Online editor Lance Witten hereby unconditionally retract the article and apologise to Daily Maverick and its editor Branko Brkic for the harm that was occasioned through the publication of Mr Modiba’s unlawful and defamatory allegations.

IOL-Brkic ‘forensic report” nothing more than a list of scurrilous multi-baby questions?

THE EDITOR of an ‘elite investigative unit’ , housed deep inside Independent Media, the so-named Falcons claims to have uncovered evidence linking the Daily Maverick to Jackie Selebi and the underworld. A report emanating from Paul O’Sullivan’s ‘Forensics for Justice’ (FFJ) used to back the piece, claims to have publisher Branko Brkic under investigation. It appears to be nothing more than a scurrilous piece on a website posing strange questions.

None of the supporting documents demonstrate any links. Nor do they support any of the claims being made.

The so-called FFJ ‘report’ conveniently follows a months-long spat between IOL and Daily Maverick. With editor Sizwe Dlamini utilising the list of questions provided by FFJ to create a rather fancy organogram — a diagram whose arrows appear to be absolutely meaningless.

If either FFJ or IOL has actual hard evidence or even a prima facie case, then surely the public would appreciate if they could publish this information in the public domain? Until then we can only suggest readers ignore the posting of salacious online claims posing as questions, questions whose answers would essentially require not only the discovery of information under oath, but a prima facie case, — surely an abuse of the justice system?

The resulting triumphant article fails to use qualifying words like ‘alleged’ nor does it provide any objective distance.

Its all facts, I tell you.

One may as well ask questions: Is Paul O’Sullivan an alien from Mars? If there is smoke there must be fire, what next, alien babies? An alien trafficking ring?

The bizarre allegations include strange claims that Daily Maverick is running an online subscription racket that provides membership access for R200 ‘without any tangible benefits’. Err, isn’t this usually called a ‘pay-wall’, as used by News24 and Mail and Guardian? Nope, that would be a paywall, what Daily Maverick have is a ‘supporting subscription’ model.

A cornerstone of the IOL claim is that Daily Maverick is passing itself off as an altruistic charity for public benefit when in fact the company is ‘in business for profit’. This is the first I have heard that Daily Maverick aren’t actually in business.

The specious claim of a scandal, seems to revolve around the failure of a subsidiary magazine company of Daily Maverick which appears to have been liquidated, resulting in write-off of a R4 million loan from the IDC. To give some context the size of the loan is an order of magnitude smaller than the double digit millions borrowed by Sekunjalo from PIC, to purchase IOL.

If anything the claim demonstrates why capitalism is more efficient at dealing with risk than statism, and why government support of media and other state-run companies creates a situation of ‘too big to fail’, with the resulting drain on treasury? Isn’t this why business exists in the first place, either to make a profit or to shutdown?

To spice up the piece, state capture and the Guptas are thrown into the mix. I suspect, next up will be an all-boys Choir performing underwater?

Medialternatives has reviewed all the legal-looking ‘supporting documentation’ currently available on the site, all of the affidavits appear to have no links to the actual story. The Falcons story further fails to demonstrate any links, and there are thus no details as to why the mysterious arrows may be leading us to Pyramids under the Sea?

Then again the farcical ‘incomplete investigation’ may just be click-bait for Iqbal Surve’s top-notch multi-baby unit, remember the unit run by Piet Rampedi? If so, IOL have certainly swallowed the bait.

Ivo Vegter’s rampant denialism

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A Breitbart Trump Manifesto?

THAT people like Ivo Vegter get given column space on the strength of¬†an untested book purporting to debunk campaigns against fracking, nuclear power, climate change and environmentalism in general, is a sign of the insatiable rise of right-wing politics, of the kind that has lead to the ascendency of ¬†President Donald Trump. In Vegter’s latest missive published by Daily Maverick, the columnist makes the bold claim that “Rich environmentalists oppress poor people.”

In order to support his thesis, he refers to campaigns to save the Sumatran Tiger and rainforest habitat in Indonesia, the battle to counter deforestation, and a¬†supposedly “alarmist film” by one¬†Leonardo de Caprio, whom Vegter labels variously, a “climate change hypocrite” and a rich celebrity with a ‘carbon footprint the size of small countries’ who has merely ‘poked his nose into the fight’.

De Caprio’s film Before the Flood ¬†about climate change and¬†presented by National Geographic was an official selection at both the Toronto and London Film festivals. In comparison Vegter’s 2012 book “Extreme Environment: How Environmental Exaggeration Harms Emerging Economies” failed to make any notable book lists and hardly ranks in terms of global sales.

Vegter’s writing has been labelled as “staggeringly na√Įve and shoddy research“, “elastic research“,” a man who passes himself off as an environmental journalist, but consistently backs the right of those with money and power to destroy the environment” and a “cherry-picker of facts“.

After poo-pooing De Caprio’s fact-finding¬†epic, Vegter turns to geothermal energy, making the point that instead of being seen as a good thing by environmentalists, such projects, particularly in Indonesia, have raised the ire of earth-centric activists wanting to save habitat from human intervention. David Attenborough is thus chief on Vegters hit-list, as any deep green ecologist would be — one who places a higher value on ecosystems than human beings in general and who is thus opposed to our supposed God-given right to destroy nature.

Hence what can only be termed a rather limp but convoluted preface, tame in comparison to earlier postings, (the man’s writing has spawned a veritable cottage industry of conspiracy theory), begins Vegter’s perennial opining on the subject:

“Environmentalists often try to appeal to our common-sense instincts to preserve our world from harm. Nobody would dispute that a healthy, productive environment is desirable, and indeed essential for continued human welfare and prosperity.

“However, in their zeal to oppose environmental degradation, environmentalists routinely overstate their case. When infrastructure or other development projects are proposed, their knee-jerk reaction is to object, and never give ground. Instead of seeking to minimise harm, they insist that no environmental price is worth the benefit of development.

“There are strong incentives for environmentalists to become fundamentalist extremists, who brook no human development that might disturb a supposedly pristine environment. To understand why, allow me to propose four possible motivations: environmentalism as a religion, environmentalism as a political tool, environmentalism as sensationalism, and environmentalism as an industry.”

That Vegter willfully misstates the case, is unable to tackle apartheid and related environmental issues in his own backyard, and thus resorts to cherry-picking issues half-way around the world, issues that readers do not have any immediate interest in the outcome of events, save from what they see on their Nature television screens, is par for the course, for a man who lost the debate on Fracking and Fukushima. Vegter painfully misjudged the geology of the Karoo, made spurious claims without any science about Fukushima, supported Big Oil at the expense of Water, and continues to disregard the environmental struggles of millions of South Africans living in the townships.

His characterisation of environmentalists as nothing less than ‘wealthy oppressors’, must be rejected as insulting and offensive to all activists on the ground struggling for a healthy environment and better conditions for all¬†humans living on the Earth. This week, saw a major climate victory for Earthlife Africa, an organisation with a predominantly black membership, and thus an organisation which carries my DNA, and notably, one to which I contributed its founding charter and principles.¬†Part of the story of the rise of ELA and environmental activism during apartheid can be read here.

While there is no dispute regarding the need for criticism — yes, white conservationists were considered fair game during the dark days of apartheid, and I published profusely on the subject, forcing the Wildlife Society to become the Wildlife and Environment Society ¬†— and since as I argued, human beings were intimately part of the habitat, thus saving our climate and ending apartheid, was equally important, both for wildlife and all human beings, especially those who lacked clean water and basic sanitation — Vegter goes too far in his own extreme, and one should add, obnoxious alt-right¬†point of view.

The¬†convoluted dispatch¬†from the self-proclaimed “never wrong” pundit (read: Never right), may also be considered a form of back-peddling, for in admitting the need for some form of environmentalism in geothermal energy, and thus in part a recognition of the energy debate central to climate change, and ergo, a part revision of an objectionable thesis, Vegter’s borrowed critique of shallow environmentalism, not all environmentalism per se, is in reality, an attempt to destroy the environmental movement by incorporating some of its own ideology and criticism.

Thus like the Rupert’s who wish to be seen as pioneers of transfrontier parks, without dealing with their contribution to apartheid, Vegter’s sudden sympathy for the poor, in essence greenwashing, cannot mask an otherwise abysmal career as a proponent of resource exploitation.¬†Such nitpicking is unlikely to bother¬†the strong non-racial green movement which has arisen post-COP17, nor will it remove the guarantees of Earth Rights in our constitution, and the campaign for the inclusion of ecological sustainable development, of which I was one of the authors.

Vegter’s latest views, therefore need to be discarded as nothing less than fallacious and false argument, the utterings of a dyed in the wool racist, and the work of an opponent of science. One has merely to review the latest debates around the Anthropocene, and certainly, my view is that we appear to be at the end of this geological era (1). Far from being “monopolisers of truth” environmentalists, are deploying science – evidence-based research and empirical data in their campaign to avoid the devastating consequences of climate change. Ivo the Terrible, on the other hand, appears to offer nothing more than a theological counter-point, providing a hazardous litany of argument — one of many, self-ordained saints of alt-speak making a quick buck out of roasting the green movement.

(1) NOTE: See this documentary on the great Permian extinction. A 5 degree increase in global temperature caused by massive release of CO2 albeit via basalt eruption and volcanic activity was enough to extinguish all life on the planet. The documentary makes the apt point that the increase in global temperature resulted in the melting of methane hydrate (CH4·5.75H2O) on the ocean floor and thus the release of CH4 which resulted in a further 5 degree increase in global temperature, a trophic cascade if ever there was one.

SEE: Top Ten global warming skeptic arguments debunked