Update: ZA Tech Show on Bullard

ZA Tech ShowThere are some good observations on the Bullard affair by the guys hosting ZA Tech Show — a fairly new, very informative, and at times highly entertaining South African podcast.

The subject starts about 51:40 into the show, and it’s worth a visit, in particular for the apt discussion on the Streisand Effect.

The only point I’d take issue with is the comparison of David Bullard with Darrel Bristow-Bovey (the late and much lamented Robert Kirby had one take on that particular saga, in a column here.)

Yes, both were fired, but one over either perceived racism, or criticism of his employer, or both, or neither, and the other over multiple instances of plagiarism. I hardly think condescension, however offensive, is comparable in any way to plagiarism. The latter deserves disenfranchisement as a journalist, the former merely a snide rebuttal.

Update: Reader Cam Silver points to an amusing consequence of Bullard being a bastard, on Hayibo.

Let the Forum for Black Journalists be

Black Power? Is that like White Power, but better?I haven’t weighed in on the noise about the Forum for Black Journalists, whose racist admission policy was recently declared unconstitutional by the Human Rights Commission. Since the story broke days after my rant about white racists exploded into a raging inferno, I had been toying with the idea of using the FBJ issue to make a similar argument against black racists. But I admit, I was weak. I felt swamped by — and tired of — the subject of racism. Another reason I desisted is expressed well in this excellent editorial on the reaction to the ruling, by political analyst Prince Mashele.

What both whites and blacks in our country seem incapable of, however, is to subject racial questions to rational thought. And unfortunately, this failure leads to an automatic expectation of racially solidaristic approaches to issues of race. As a result, simplistic formulas take the place of dispassionate analysis — so commentary on racial questions becomes predictable and a platform to parade racial correctness.

Whenever race issues arise, one can easily tell whether it is a white or black person commenting, not on the basis of accent or style of writing, but based on their unconcealed preference for racial solidarity over sound argument.

It’s this kind of approach that has made blacks who dared to raise critical questions about the FBJ’s racial policy to be quickly labelled “coconuts”. In the same vein, a white person expressing sympathy with black people is generally interpreted as a buyer of favour. Is there nothing like a race-neutral mind?

This question makes me sorry I didn’t post my position on the FBJ. In my view, as a white journalist, it has every right to exist, and every right to exclude whites. Why should I care? I feel the same about white racist groups. If they want to congregate and burn crosses and do what white supremacists do, that’s their problem. In their case, I’d only object when they start committing crimes. When it becomes harrassment, assault or murder, we have a problem, but that problem does not affect the right to freedom of association or freedom of expression.

Similarly with the FBJ. If they feel the need to have a racially-exclusive club because they prefer to think in terms of race and solve problems based on racial analysis, that’s their loss, not mine. I think it’s rich of people who support such organisations to claim racism in others, but that’s also their loss, not mine.

Here’s my objection to the FBJ, though. I have a serious problem that a senior political figure agreed to meet with them in a closed, off-the-record session. If you’re going to have discussions with exclusive groups, by all means do so. The FBJ wouldn’t be the first group of limited membership and special interests to meet with the government or the ANC. But then disclose what was discussed.

You see, there’s an important feature of the constitution that is often overlooked. The function of a constitution is to bind government, and protect citizens. The constitution explicitly says so, making only specific provisions, “where applicable”, binding on other persons. For binding citizens, we have the statute books — regular law — which serves essentially the opposite function.

So while the FBJ has a clear right, in my view, to associate however it wishes, that Jacob Zuma meets behind closed doors with an explicitly racist body strikes me as unconsitutional discrimination on the part of Zuma. Especially since, at the time, he was refusing to grant interviews to most other journalists. His argument might be that he was acting in his capacity as ANC president, not as an agent of goverment, but that seems like a weak defence.

Zuma’s meeting with them, not their existence or constitution, is my main problem with the Forum for Black Journalists. And I disagree with the Human Rights Commission’s ruling.

Is that point racially neutral enough?