Amplifying the voices of outliers

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It seems that the media are less conscious or perhaps more confused about their responsibilities in covering newsmakers who advocate intolerance.

While some issues are genuinely complex and not amenable to simple ethical formulas; best practice entails alerting society to agents of hate, but without giving them a free ride that exaggerates their importance and amplify their views. ‘Reverend’ Oscar Bougardt from the Western Cape, is a case in point. As well as, certain local government critics who blamed the ‘DA Zionists’ for fabricating the entire water crisis so that they could divert money to Israel.

While we accept that hate speech presents a major challenge to today’s journalism. The socially conscious are rightly alarmed at how rapidly hate-filled messages overwhelm, news feeds on the internet. Less talked about is how journalist’s own professional procedures — including how news is defined — may amplify the voices of hate propagandists. Then there are the media outlets that purvey intolerance, serving as ideological spokesmen for forces of hate, from Xenophobes to religious extremists.

At a time when tension runs high around the water shortage in our region, should an outlier such as Bougardt’s opinions be given any attention? Blaming the ‘gays’ for the drought in the Western Cape, besides being outrageously false; dehumanises a minority group and this kind of hate speech against it, makes it sounds normal and unobjectionable to many people. Mass media publications and websites with limited or extensive reach, should realise that hate speech is a constantly evolving phenomenon, with new perpetrators, targets and tactics; and should be weary of being ‘played like fiddles’.

We say — don’t elevate the ‘Reverend’ to the status of a major player by giving him airtime and to the LGBQTI community, in the words of Prince William, “You should be proud of the person you are and you have nothing to be ashamed of”. Based on scientific evidence and all the mitigating circumstances, we certainly know that the ‘gays’, nor us ‘Zionist Jews’ caused the drought.

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