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When Economics Destroys Press Freedom

November 17th, 2007 · Posted by Who Knows? · 30 Comments

Money corrupts. It’s just one of those things.

Deon Maas wrote a column in the Sunday newspaper, The Rapport, that aimed to point out the differences between people and encourage people to listen to one another. By listening to one another we can understand each other. However, ironically, the exact opposite happened. A mass-hysteria campaign via sms (texts) and email called for a boycott of the newspaper. Most people taking part in the mass-hysteria did not even realise the column was already published, thinking they’re boycotting the paper that will contain the column.

The column pointed out that Satanism is also a religion and has the right to be practised. (Viva “freedom of religion”.) Instead of reading the column, most “Christians” in this country prefer to bury their heads in the sand, rather than listen to someone that thinks differently. That is not what Jesus would do, sorry. Understanding does not mean agreeing. Can’t we aim for greater understanding? Please? Would it help if I point out that most people don’t even know what Satanism is? Probably not, they’re all too scared.

The Rapport believes in press freedom, however, the boycott turned this into an economic issue, rather than a free speech issue.

<sigh>

Categories: Religion and Science
Tags: · · · ·

30 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bertus! // Nov 17, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Daar is so ‘n bumper sticker:
    WTFWJD?

  • 2 Steve // Nov 17, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Erm, how is economics destroying press freedom here? The press is free to publish what they want (within legal guidelines – which actually does limit freedom of the press), and the community is free to buy what they want.

    I reserve the right not to pay money to read things which make me feel awkward/unhappy. Not that it’s necessarily a good idea.

  • 3 Steve // Nov 17, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Another question: how does the first paragraph of this post link to the rest. I’m really a little puzzled. The common understanding of the first sentence, to my knowledge, is that those who have/get lots of money tend to become more corrupt than they would otherwise have been. Do you mean it in this sense, or should I be interepreting it in another way?

  • 4 Hugo // Nov 17, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    *sigh*… yea… now I wonder, should I go edit this post? No, communication aint perfect, and my posts aren’t either. I must get used to that. ;-)

    I meant it corrupts in the sense that the need for money impacts the ideal people would like to strive towards, not dependent upon large quantities of it.

    And yes, the newspaper provides a service/product, and people that like that service/product buy it. If they provide a service/product that people don’t want to buy, I suppose it makes sense to change. The mass hysteria is the bother here though, people don’t even know what they are boycotting. The problem of mass hysteria increases as communications-technology and connectivity develops… Combined with uninformed economic voting…

  • 5 Hugo // Nov 17, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    The same goes for churches. There’s certain stuff that congregations just don’t want to hear. The leadership might want to share it, to say something thought provoking, to stir the pot, like Deon Maas stirred the pot, but in the end, the congregation making their donations are there for a specific product.

    To work within that framework and stretch the congregation’s thinking, is much harder than some people think.

  • 6 Hugo // Nov 17, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Here’s the column that cost Deon Maas his new job, please read it, and tell me if you think this mass hysteria was anything other than absurd hysteria? Oh, and it’s Afrikaans…:

    http://www.news24.com/Rapport/Rubrieke/0,,752-801_2214403,00.html

  • 7 Steve // Nov 17, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    Heh. I’d think the Muslims have better reason to be upset by that article than the Christians.

  • 8 Steve // Nov 17, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Oh, and serious? He lost his job? Hectic.

  • 9 gloep // Nov 18, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    “Propageer hierdie rubriek Satanisme? Nee. Maar as ons wil hê ander mense moet ons punt insien en ons idees respekteer, moet ons hul punt insien en hul idees respekteer. Om iemand anders se idee te verstaan, beteken nie dat jy daarmee hoef saam te stem nie. ”

    So wat is die probleem nou eintlik? Dink nie enige van die ooms/tannies/mense het dit ooit gelees nie. Dis sad. So sad.

    Arme dude.

  • 10 gerhard // Nov 19, 2007 at 11:39 am

    actually, i think this is why atheists are so sensitive and on the attack. (this can happen to them _anytime_ on a mass scale)

    seriously, satanism isnt what the media has made it out to be. you get fundamentalist satanists just as you get liberal ones . liberal ones still do the s’ing and f’ing , but dont do the blood sacrifice (at least not human baby kind) … but anyway , judging ‘satanism’ on the crazy satanists is about as logical as judging christainanity on crazy fundamentalist christians :P
    its hate doctrine that spills over and makes christains react this way towards satanists as with atheists. think about it. Atheist and Satanists are similarly seen as under the influence of anti-christ or satan himself.
    just think of the reaction towards the golden compass :P he didnt say he is out to kill the christain god , he said the book is about killing god , _any_ god … ie. gods don’t always have to be ‘friendly’ , (u know , like the christain god is when u read the bible literally) , and might need defending against ;)

    why was Deon Maas fired? was it because religious people tend to feel that freedom of religion only applies to religions/movements they don’t feel contradict their own view of religion?

  • 11 macro // Nov 19, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    A more worrisome sign was the argument used by Rapport’s editor that Maas’ article would result in the loss of sales. One has to wonder then what the role of a newspaper is in society? Are the stories which sell well the only one’s that are going to make it and be given attention? this lends itself to sensationalism. Journalists need to be given the space to air views and some of them may be on uncomfortable topics. Columns represent opinions, and we have to take it for what it is – just somebody’s version of reality.

  • 12 Hugo // Nov 19, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Yea… newspapers are turning into just another form of entertainment. sigh.

    I think I spend too much time thinking about the future of media. Less time thinking, more time doing. ;)

  • 13 gloep // Nov 20, 2007 at 1:07 am

    Ai, ek het gister op RSG (ja, dit gebeur soms dat my ore daarop val) ‘n gesprek tussen ene Deon Maas en Ander RSG-Dude geluister oor hierdie onnodige herrie. Ander RSG-Dude was van mening dat dinge soos op jouself skribble tydens skooljare dalk mag lei tot Satanisme eendag op ‘n reëndag. Mwahahahahaa, what bullshit. Shut up.

    Dan was ek op 8 jaar al ‘n Satanis-ghoeroe.

  • 14 Steve // Nov 20, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    In addition, Rapport’s editor has just made it blatantly clear that the next time a journalist says something which upsets a substantial portion of their readership, they’ll likely take the same action.

    Of course, the other side of the coin is that Rapport has a target market whom their articles are written for.

    Some might view this like putting a typical FHM “article” in Sarie. There may be perfectly good reasons for people to write and read the FHM article, but Sarie will be shooting themselves in the foot to do it.

  • 15 Rinus // Nov 20, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Hier is Koos Kombuis se gedagtes oor die saak, vir die wat belangstel.

    http://www.litnet.co.za/cgi-bin/giga.cgi?cmd=cause_dir_news_item&cause_id=1270&news_id=27954&cat_id=177

  • 16 Hugo // Nov 20, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Steve, yea, I suppose. I guess I just should not buy Rapport then, if it’s pandering to the masses. I should go get my meat from serious newspapers then, rather than expecting to find it in the Sarie/Rapport. ;-)

    Then again, it seems the blogosphere/internet is taking over… I just miss the page-layout.

    Rinus, thanks! I read about half of it. (And skipped/skimmed to the end.) Looks good… now back to work with me!

  • 17 Hugo // Nov 20, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    Say, it seems boycotts are the way to get your voice heard. What about we start a boycott of Die Rapport, because they fire people that make people think? Maybe that way the two economic forces will balance out, and they could do what’s right instead?

    Naah, silly idea. We won’t be able to create that kind of hysteria. Not without resorting to serious lies, in excess of the lies the anti Deon Maas meme depended upon.

  • 18 gerhard // Nov 21, 2007 at 12:26 am

    the news papers have the responsibility to report the objective truth, that means including opposing views reported objectively. If news papers don’t do this , then they may as well be a fhm or heat or governmental propoganda machine. the ‘ignorant’ masses rely on the news papers and other forms of news media to enlighten them past ignorance. fail to do this and you breed ignorance. wasn’t this well illustrated by the news reporting leading up to the iraq war?
    check out this , http://www.therealnews.com/web/index.php, its the real news tv network, it works with on a independent funding model. they are asking for 10dollar donations :)

  • 19 Steve // Nov 21, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Why should the newspapers have that responsibility? It’s not like they’re state-subsidized or anything, are they?

    The problem is that I am unlikely to believe any state-sponsored newspaper either – the apartheid era illustrates quite well how biased state-sponsored news coverage can be.

    So, effectively, I think the key is to be open to any number of sources, and to be aware of the biases inherent due to the target market. Thus, if I want to get both sides of a controversial religious story, Rapport isn’t where I’ll be going.

    Independent funding actually sounds like a decent idea, unless someone starts pocketing funds, and starts directing the news to stories likely to attract more funds.

  • 20 gerhard // Nov 21, 2007 at 10:33 am

    what do you mean why should news papers carry the responsibility of objective reporting?
    all news media carries the responsibility. why? because they are the historic record. because they are the sole source of enlightenment for many people. because their influence means they can easily be turned into propaganda tools. they arent considered opinion media, thats what heat etc is.

    i agree tho , that there always will be some form of bias but diversification of opinions heard isn’t always a possibly. (take your apartheit media for example)

    have you read norm chomsky’s manufacturing consent? he discusses the current mass media and how it gets manipulated by companies rather than government, in some cases its the government that manipulates the media via the companies. he compares the linguistic meanings of the articles/reports between european and american media and shows awesome examples of how the meanings get completely scrambled .. infact , fundamentalist chrsitains are doing that atm with movies. tv stations get to adjust a cut a couple of minutes from shows (docus and movies) for advertisement placement , so they cut things like ‘billions of years’ and ‘this is due to evolution’. they don’t change anything major , but they do it so that the meanings of what is said changes enough for them to be right.
    david attenborough was first for this until he saw one of his movies and noticed how much of what he was saying changed.

  • 21 Hugo // Nov 21, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Where are the journalists? Johan Swarts, can you help out? I want to know what the journalistic equivalent of the medical “Hippocratic oath” is… ;)

    And for more on the “censorship” of Attenborough’s documentaries by creationists, see
    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/10/dutch-petition.html
    Follow the links at the bottom for examples of what they’re cutting. I’ve only watched the first one. Someone loves searching for Johan Kruger quite often. Maybe it’s Johan Kruger checking if I’m talking to him again. So there, I’ve written Johan Kruger. If it’s you, Johan, can you take a look at the comparative cuts of Attenborough’s work, and tell me what you think about it?

    Most of the people that comment on this site, me included, would likely call the creationists “liars” for doing this kind of thing. If I understand your position well enough though, and I think I do, I believe your opinion on such matters is that “because evolution is a lie, the cuts made to the documentaries are removing lies”. I.e. you sincerely believe the censorship is performed in order to remove what you believe to be lies. Am I correct?

    Thanks.

    (And guys, please, don’t fight with Johan Kruger. This battle is mine. I request that you respect that and don’t chase him away with “bullying tactics”.)

  • 22 gerhard // Nov 21, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    some how i get the feeling the last comment was directed at me :P

  • 23 Hugo // Nov 21, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Hehe, nope, the other people I’ve reprimanded for bullying creationists are quite likely lurking, it’s directed at them as well. ;)

  • 24 Steve // Nov 22, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Gerhard: WHY do news media have that responsibility? Simply saying they do does not make it so.

    My statements are also part of the historic record. What makes it my responsibility not to give my own statements a personal bias?

    The influence of the news media is influence we give it ourselves. We can’t blame the media for our own shortcomings.

    No, I haven’t read that book by Chomsky, but I’ve read some of his articles, and am totally in agreement that media _does_ have power, and biased reporting is not desirable in principle.

    I disagree, however, that any privately owned company has the _responsibility_ to present balanced opinions, unless it’s reporting is illegally biased. Or at least, that their responsibility exceeds any other normal person’s.

  • 25 Steve // Nov 22, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Since we’re discussing the David Attenborough debacle, I thought I’d mention this little gem I found this morning:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/11/creationist_crooks_pilfer_harv.php

  • 26 gerhard // Nov 23, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    steve : they may not have a _legal_ responibility. but they have an ethical responsibility.

    your statement that the repport is a privately owned company is wrong, i think its a public entity :P
    i know that nas pers is most definately a public entitiy and i think the repport is owned by nas pers.

    but anyway that is beside the point, i just wonder what u would have said , had government not cencored this apartheit suff and had their been a negative reaction towards calling those who used to be called ‘kaffirs’, people of gods creation who deserve equal rights :) i’m sure that would have resulted in economic oppression of this kind during the height of apartheit sentiment:)

    personally , i will never buy repport again :) not because of the article , but because of the editors preference towards economics than the truth.

  • 27 Steve // Nov 24, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Who are we to assign other groups ethical responsibilities?

    Naspers shares are traded on the JSE. It’s owned by the shareholders. Is that what you mean by public entity? I view it as private ownership, by the shareholders.

    I wouldn’t have said much during the apartheid era ‘cos I was too young to understand what was going on. In fact, I only really figured out that there was such a thing as apartheid in my teens, in the ’90s. Shows what an effective job the media (or lack thereof) did.

    But besides that, I’m a little confused by your question in the 3rd paragraph. Could you perhaps restate it a little more clearly?

    You’re totally free to do business with whoever you want, or not. If that includes not buying Rapport, feel free to do it. But I’d recommend that you take note that if Rapport is owned by Naspers, it’s likely the rest of Naspers’ publications are edited with the same mandate.

    I don’t generally buy the Rapport, or any other newspaper, but this incident won’t affect my chances of buying the Rapport measurably. It’ll just hopefully increase my effectiveness at filtering out their slant on news.

  • 28 Hugo // Nov 24, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    Deon Maas gets another chance:

    http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2226725,00.html

    hehehehe…

  • 29 Hugo // Nov 24, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    Maybe everyone should now go buy the “Sondag”… I’d love to see that paper’s sale figures skyrocket because of this. ;)

  • 30 gerhard // Nov 24, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    yeah, i think i will do this, will probably buy a couple of extra copies.
    i just need to figure out where to buy them.

    steve: just mean young(ish) white people don’t know that calling someone a kaffir, in the day , as a white person wasn’t a big deal. it wasnt used as a derogetory statement. it was a matter of label. much like one would lable a dog a bitch or bastard. and at the time the average white person didnt think black people deserved their equal rights because they had the feeling this was right , which was self-reinforced in society. the mass of society might be oblivious to it and therefor not know or have a chance of knowing that they are ‘supposed’ to choose something differently. so now that we know that actually calling someone a kaffir is bad it has become a swear word :) because of the meaning it had at the time. it meant you weren’t one of us, the better ones. Ignorance begets ignorance. they would have bitched about the questioning of this as much as and would have used just as much pressure.

    without people like Willem Pretorius and without a situation where he let people like deon maas do their work then we would be left with a broken system like the one. I’m not saying we should dictate what the news media is allowed to cover and how it should react to social pressure. but what we should do as a society is at least figure out a way in which we could counter act ‘unjust’ social pressure. (maybe one could have a fund for a case such as this, where people could contribute towards it, like for instance, a anti-anti-evolitionism media pressure group that would make up the deficit? thereby giving the editor/naspers some form of relief?)

    now lets go support media24 , Willem Pretorius and deon Maas. buy buy buy
    btw..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_ethics_and_standards
    think the idea of an ethical hotline is quite fun. i wonder if we should tell bush about it :P

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