Categories
Morality Politics

Credibility depends on where you live (apparently)

Many, many years ago, I wrote something about how Barry Ronge was talking nonsense when he said that we can’t take Breyten Breytenbach calling South Africa a “kleptocracy” seriously when he (BB) doesn’t even live in South Africa.

Today, Helen Zille is talking the same nonsense, in response to a Justice Malala column (probably paywalled) that includes this paragraph:

The less said about Helen Zille’s appearance the better. She wore her “I am an African” T-shirt, got her usual detractors hot under the collar on Twitter, and left knowing that she had achieved her goal for the day: to trend on Twitter.

And which concludes with the sentence “Zille, Malema or AfriForum’s Kallie Kriel will not give a toss about them [victims of farm murders] unless there are cameras rolling.”

Those are the only references to Helen Zille in the column. And yes, they aren’t kind, but refuting anything that Malala says is surely not best achieved by saying “you have moved to California, and I visited Senekal”, which is pretty much what Zille response says.

Malala might well be wrong, or even malicious in how he describes what happened in Senekal last week. But, all that this response does is to affirm a polarised segment of supporters who hold one position, and to demonise opposing positions, simply for the sake of their being “outsider” views”.

What are the logical boundaries of this epistemic authority? Do you need to go through passport control before losing the capacity to have a view? Can one express criticism after leaving one job for another, or after moving from the suburb of Gardens to Observatory? Or moving from the Democratic Alliance to the Institute of Race Relations (or maybe in the other direction, a few years later)?

And, do we have a neat way to separate this denial of argumentative credibility – based on the fact that you have emigrated – from the denial of respect for your rights based on the fact that you have immigrated, or have refugee status?

(And, do your arguments (whether awful or not) ever matter at all?)

Categories
Politics

Politics in a pandemic: the rationality of restrictions

South Africa has been under lockdown for seven weeks now, in what seems to be one of the most restrictive Covid-19 lockdowns anywhere in the world. And while most people I talk to still support the lockdown in general, there seems to be increasing dissent regarding some of its regulations – even outside of the Twitter echo chamber of outrage.

Categories
Morality Politics

The City of Cape Town and management of public spaces

Last week, I suggested on Twitter that Capetonians might want to comment on the City’s “management of public spaces” by-law amendments before the deadline of May 17, but didn’t say why, hoping that people would read the amendments and decide for themselves.

But in case it’s useful, here is a short summary of my concerns. You are free to copy and paste them into your responses if you choose, or to submit a version of them under your own name.

Categories
Politics

FW de Klerk, [some of] the DA, and crimes against sanity

Sometimes a technical definition of something matters significantly less than the demonstrable effects it has had. If Harvey Weinstein is acquitted of the various rape charges he’s facing, that would have no implications for the women he has abused (if he is indeed guilty, as I believe he is).

Categories
Politics

The Democratic Alliance and its uncertain future

One of the few positive recent developments for the Democratic Alliance is the fact that Mbali Ntuli will be contesting for leadership of the party at their elective conference in May this year.

I say this because, as a current ex-supporter of the party, I’ve long been trying to persuade friends that there are still liberals of the “right” sort in the party, but that they are mostly younger leaders who have not yet (for the most part) occupied the top positions in the party.

Categories
Politics

The Democratic Alliance “2.0” and how they have (allegedly) killed the liberalism of Suzman et al.

With critics like Ismail Lagardien about, it’s not so obvious that political parties need to spend time defending themselves, rather than simply pointing to negative opinion pieces about them while trying to resist guffawing. This is because while much of what Lagardien says contains a kernel of truth, this contribution is hyperbolic – and prolix – enough that it would only entrench existing biases rather than change any minds.

Categories
Morality Politics

Race-based party membership: Steven Friedman on BLF

Steven Friedman is right to say that BLF should be allowed to compete as a political party, even though they limit membership to black voters only. He makes this case in his Business Day column of July 31 (paywalled), but you can also read it on his Facebook wall.

The South African Electoral Act says that parties may not discriminate on racial grounds, and while that means the BLF is legally in the wrong, it tells us nothing about whether the Act deals with this matter in an ideal way.

Categories
Free Speech Morality Politics

The glorification of violence, and the case of Andy Ngo

Early this morning, Quillette (a conservative-leaning online magazine, founded by Australian writer Claire Lehmann) editor and photojournalist Andy Ngo was the target of antifa (anti-fascist) protest while covering a rally in Portland, Oregon. The banner photograph is from when he was admitted to the emergency ward for treatment. He also had some of his photographic equipment stolen during the incident.

I don’t like many of the views that authors on Quillette espouse, even as I’m happy to concede that Quillette is on the whole more objective than some of their critics claim them to be. But the point of this post is that this doesn’t matter: you don’t need to agree or disagree with a writer or speaker to know that it’s wrong for them to be assaulted for holding the views that they do.

Categories
People Politics

Election thoughts: South Africa, 8 May 2019

Along with many of you, today I made a difficult decision regarding which party to vote for in South Africa’s National elections – more difficult than any of the previous 10 (if you include the Municipal elections) were.

In one respect, I take that as a positive thing, because competition is good, and more than one option on the ballot today had merits to consider. It’s sometimes a sign of a more mature democracy that the choice of whom to vote for isn’t utterly obvious.

Categories
Politics Religion

On banning the Christchurch manifesto

The mosque murders in Christchurch on March 15, 2019 made me aware that New Zealand has a “chief censor”, which seems a somewhat quaint title in the 21st Century. It’s nevertheless true that someone (or some group of people) have to make determinations about when – if ever – something should be deemed unsuitable for public distribution, and the title of “chief censor” is at least unambiguous.

I’m not going to discuss if speech should ever be censored in this post, having addressed it on numerous prior occasions, for example here and here. To summarise my view, I regard free speech as a very important value, that should be among our top priorities, but I don’t think it always, or necessarily, trumps any other value.