Sunday, April 13, 2008

Clueless About Press Freedom

Not only did the Sunday Times fail to read David Bullard's column before publishing it, but they failed to uphold the press freedom they so ardently espouse. We are expected to become alarmed when a media buyout threatens their independence, or the editor is arrested, but agree with them when they fire a columnist without even the option of an apology. Clueless.
What is even more stupid is that they have pulled all navigation links to Bullard's columns from their web site. Clearly they have no idea. Once an article is on the web, it's on the web. There is no "unpublish" button:
Uncolonised Africa wouldn’t know what it was missing
Imagine for a moment what life would be like in South Africa if the evil white man hadn’t come to disturb the rustic idyll of the early black settlers.
Ignored by the Portuguese and Dutch, except as a convenient resting point en route to India. Shunned by the British, who had decided that their empire was already large enough and didn’t need to include bits of Africa.
The vast mineral wealth lying undisturbed below the Highveld soil as simple tribesmen graze their cattle blissfully unaware that beneath them lies one of the richest gold seams in the world. But what would they want with gold?
There are no roads because no roads are needed because there are no cars. It’s 2008 and no one has taken the slightest interest in South Africa, apart from a handful of botanists and zoologists who reckon that the country’s flora and fauna rank as one of the largest unspoilt areas in a polluted world.
Because they have never been exposed to the sinful ways of the West, the various tribes of South Africa live healthy and peaceful lives, only occasionally indulging in a bit of ethnic cleansing.
Their children don’t watch television because there is no television to watch. Instead they listen to their grandparents telling stories around a fire. They live in single-storey huts arranged to catch most of the day’s sunshine and their animals are kept nearby.
Nobody has any more animals than his family needs and nobody grows more crops than he requires to feed his family and swap for other crops. Ostentation is unknown because what is the point of trying to impress your fellow citizens when they are not impressible?
The dreaded Internet doesn’t exist in South Africa and cellphone companies have laughed off any hope of interesting the inhabitants in talking expensively into a piece of black plastic. There are no unsightly shopping malls selling expensive goods made by Asian slave workers and consequently there are no newspapers or magazines carrying articles comparing the relative merits of ladies’ handbags.
Whisky, the curse of the white man, isn’t known in this undeveloped land and neither are cigars. The locals brew a sort of beer out of vegetables and drink it out of shallow wooden bowls. Five-litre paint cans have yet to arrive in South Africa.
Every so often a child goes missing from the village, eaten either by a hungry lion or a crocodile. The family mourn for a week or so and then have another child. Life is, on the whole, pretty good but there is something vital missing. Being unaware of the temptations of the outside world, nobody knows what it is. Fire has been discovered and the development of the wheel is coming on nicely but the tribal elders are still aware of some essential happiness ingredient they still need to discover. Praying to the ancestors is no help because they are just as clueless.
Then something happens that will change this undisturbed South Africa forever. Huge metal ships land on the coast and big metal flying birds are sent to explore the sparsely populated hinterland. They are full of men from a place called China and they are looking for coal, metal, oil, platinum, farmland, fresh water and cheap labour and lots of it. Suddenly the indigenous population realise what they have been missing all along: someone to blame. At last their prayers have been answered.
In his justification of the firing, the editor writes,
At the outset, I must state that the column should never have been published in the first place.
Our systems failed us badly. [How convenient. Blame it on the system.]
I will make no excuses for the mess [you just did] and I will not blame anyone else for that system failure. [How about just saying that you didn't read the article. That's called dereliction of duty]
I am the editor of this newspaper and take full responsibility for having allowed the poison to pollute the pages of the Sunday Times. [Then you should resign for dereliction of duty.]
We have now begun a process of assessing our internal systems and how to tighten them [read: an internal purge is under way and you can kiss media freedom goodbye] without compromising the right of columnists to speak their minds. [I see, fire the columnist but he is still allowed to speak his mind - as long as it is somewhere else.]
The right to free speech is something everyone on this newspaper holds dear. [Oh, please, give me a break!]
Over the years Bullard had fun with the space. He espoused views that were contrary to the views of the newspaper and did so without any hindrance from me or my predecessors. He made people angry and he made them laugh. [He also had the courage to raise matters for debate and discussion that need to be discussed.]
Last Sunday he crossed the line. For those who have not read the column, it would be useful to log on to and see if you can hold the food in your stomach. [You deleted all links to the article from your web site. DUH.]
In the subsequent conversation I had with Bullard, it was clear that he holds the views he expressed in the article — which was essentially that black people are indolent savages. [Blame the white man. It happens all the time.]
The Sunday Times respects its readers and — while it is our mission to provoke, challenge and entertain — will not insult or abuse them.
Bullard did that last Sunday; by publishing him we were complicit in disseminating his Stone Age philosophies. [Thanks for insulting me with your savage knee-jerk reaction. How about a discussion about colonialism and the myth of the noble savage?]

The sad fact is that this idyllic pre-colonial existence is taught in schools and universities, but the irony is that this myth is the invention of a French colonialist. Once again, euro-centric political correctness is suckered by euro-centric colonial claptrap.
It seems to be a national pastime that whenever someone is accused of incompetence or stupidity, the race card is played. And if it isn't the race card, it's the colonial/imperial card.
Face it: Africa is a hard place with hard leaders who cling to power and amass vast personal fortunes while destroying their country. While some of the moderate leaders sing songs about machine guns, others buy them in bulk and use them against their rivals, when they are not torturing them or locking them up on Robben Island.

"David Bullard's weekly Out to Lunch column is the finest example of the benefits of a free and unshackled press. Let's hope it continues to be so."
Quote from the dust jacket of Bullard's book "Screw it, Let's Do Lunch", written by Sunday Times Editor Mondli Makhanya, the same person who fired him!?


Anonymous said...

It does seem very stupid for the Editor of the Sunday Times to admit that he did not have editorial control of the newspaper - and that he has now abused press freedom by firing a journalist. It is also odd that the label 'racist' has been attached to the article, but we do not have an explanation as to what was racist about it.

Is there a complaint or petition to the Press Association about this abuse with the option to sign it?

Would a formal request for the removal of the Editor be proper in these circumstances?

Anonymous said...

Bullard got some of his facts wrong - gold was being worked 400 years ago, and agricultural societies do progress (albeit slowly).

However, it's dissapointing that the editor doesn't debate the facts of the article.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It's all just a publicity stunt. Their circulation mist be slipping.

Anonymous said...

You would vote Bullard as President? interesting, unfortunately you'll never see that happening my friend...

I would like to congratulate Mr Makhanya on a decision well-taken, ol Dave had it coming to him, I have thoroughly enjoyed his column over the years, but the man was starting to lose the plot, maybe it was a case of running out of people to insult, he'd done, Zuma, Mugabe, Msimang etc to death so hey, why not insult the entire race?

The problem with our "democracy" is that the decision to have a non-racist society was taken on behalf of the country without much consultation really,from this we can assume that people like bullard, boeremag,"ofs against integrasie boys" and little white boy who randomly shot black people, never really wanted to co-exist with black people all they wanted like Miriam Makeba says is their own piece of ground in somebody else's backyard nogal..

The more I see this type of behaviour from white people, the more I tend to start thinking that black people are being taken for a huge ride,the more I see SA turning into Zim in 20yrs time (and it doesn't even scare me, which is quite disturbing). White people should be given a chance to express their true feelings about a non-racist or rather, racist society just like Dave did and from this, black people should take notes and stop being so damn naive, it couldn't be done 500 years ago, what makes us think that we're so special now? as to change racist mentalities, the same problems exist that did then, it's about time we stopped sucking up to people that don't and will never like us.

European-Africans will remain the same till thy kingdom come, Mugabe tried and he is failing (at least he didn't pretend, he has been true to himself just like Bullard...but that doesn't make it ok does it?)..Africans need to wake up and smell the racist attitudes that exist in this country, we should stop fooling ourselves into believing that white people are "cool", not all of them are, and its beyond me why I should tolerate anyone who doesn't tolerate me (maybe because I'm a better person..rubbish, that nonsense doesn't work!)

furthermore, those that are now going to "boycott" the Sunday Times, please do pop in sometime on this site and let us know what it is you've started reading..City press? Sunday world, Beeld or even the Independent maybe, pls do let us know of all the stimulating content you find there, maybe you could even lobby the Sunday world to hire bullard...Peace!...Tax.. how's that for some freedom of speech?

Anonymous said...

Check out the funny take on Bullardgate from South Africa's best satirical website

They suggest Minister Shabangu now wants to kill Bullard!

Anonymous said...

So. *ahem* Bullard contends that African parents "mourn for [a lost child] for a week and then have another [baby]." That is absolutely incredible, since the gestation period for the rest of humanity is ~9 months. Astonishing. Does he have a newsletter that the curious among us may subscribe to?


Anonymous said...

Re-read the sentence. He didn't say anything about how long it would take to have another child. The "week or so" period refers to the MOURNING period.

Don't you recognise satire when you see it? DUH

Anonymous said...

The naivite of the press these days is truly astonishing but should not be surprising when one considers the average age of the various newsrooms ( 22?) and the experience in years of the editors ( um...5 years) and the educational levels ( BA if you are lucky, and luckier still if it is a university of note).

The supreme joke of it all is that censorship of views goes on all the time in the press. Editors refuse to accept "unpopular" views or if they do are quickly terrorised into apologising, ironically, by the new imperialists -- those "progressive" white intellectuals who are continuing to patronise,guide and otherwise influence Blacks by what they seem to assume is divine right.

The British Empire in Africa still exists in other ways too, in the shape of the aid agencies who increasingly are interfering in the governance of the continent, just as their grandfathers and great grandfathers did.