Quotulatiousness

February 25, 2013

Western media suddenly notices problems in South Africa

Filed under: Africa, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:33

In the Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill shows how the western media has managed to ignore horrific things in South Africa, but suddenly the murder of a pretty white woman has them all utterly rivetted to what’s happening in that country:

Last year, 34 black striking miners were gunned down by South African police at the Lonmin mine in Marikana. Some were shot in the back as they attempted to flee. Some were killed as they surrendered. Others were killed 300 metres from where the main massacre took place, suggesting they had been chased — that is, hunted down — by the armed servants of the ANC. Yet there was no outrage in the Western liberal press. There were no fuming leaders; very few angry columns. Amnesty International, guardian of the modern liberal conscience, issued a weak, almost uninterested statement about this act of mass murder, and then went back to throwing money and staff at the campaign to have Pussy Riot — prettier and way more fashionable than those dead miners — freed from jail in Russia.

This month, a pretty white woman, Reeva Steenkamp, was killed by her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, in a gated community in South Africa. And this time, right-thinking observers went crazy. The shock and outrage have been palpable. Feminists have popularised the Twitter hashtag #hernamewasReevaSteenkamp, to draw attention to the scourge of domestic violence in South Africa. Column after column tells us that the Steenkamp killing shows that the New South Africa is sick, that it’s a fear-ruled, crime-ridden, corrupt nation. This tragic shooting and the fractured court case and debate it has given rise to have cast a “lurid light” on South Africa, commentators tell us, calling into question its image as a “Rainbow Nation”. Where the massacre of 34 black workers elicited a collective shrug of the shoulder among observers over here, the killing of Steenkamp has got them tearing their hair out, demanding answers, wondering what the hell went wrong with the country they once admired (the New South Africa) and its ruling party that they once cheered (the ANC).

All of which raises a very awkward question: why is the shooting of a white woman in a domestic setting more shocking to liberal commentators than the massacre of 34 black miners at a public strike and demonstration? This isn’t a complaint about how the media elevates celebrity news over all other forms of news. I can understand why there is so much media and public interest in the Pistorius/Steenkamp case: it isn’t every day a global sports star shoots his famous, beautiful girlfriend in questionable circumstances. But what is striking is the fact that it took this incident — and not, say, the ANC’s massacre of 34 miners — to open Western liberals’ eyes to the profound problems, the moral and political decay, in modern-day South Africa.

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