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Morality Politics

When a muppet takes on a puppet – Steve Hofmeyr vs. @ChesterMissing

downloadForeign readers, if you want a snapshot of how weird and emotive racial politics in South Africa can get, here’s one for you: A man who thinks that “Blacks were the architects of apartheid” has now filed a harassment charge against a ventriloquist’s puppet.

Chester Missing (whose book I previously reviewed) is the puppet of ventriloquist, comedian, anthropologist (and friend), Conrad Koch. The puppet’s Twitter account has recently been quite vocal in denouncing the racist – and bewilderingly contrary-to-reality – statement captured above, in part because it was made by someone with a large audience (on Twitter, but more importantly as an award-winning musician who has sold truckloads of records to people who like Neil Diamond, but in Afrikaans).

Missing has also been asking Steve Hofmeyr’s sponsors whether they are concerned about the negative impact on their brands that might accrue from being associated with Hofmeyr. According to Hofmeyr and some of his followers (from what I’ve seen, mostly folks who are routinely associated with Afriforum and/or Praag, organisations that are overwhelmingly white and Afrikaans, and who are – charitably – tone-deaf and emotionally crippled when it comes to race), this amounts to harassment and defamation.

I don’t think it’s defamatory in principle, as you can see above. However, as I’ve argued in the past, I do think it’s possible for criticism to be sufficiently abusive or misdirected that it should be reined-in. (Having said that, the issue in the piece linked just above, on Mozilla and Eich, was for me more about picking the wrong target – Eich – rather than his religion and religious beliefs.)

In this case, though, I don’t see anything in Missing’s Twitter stream that crosses any kind of threshold into abuse, harassment or defamation. By contrast, I think that Hofmeyr needs to take responsibility for the statement he makes above, and others he’s made over the years, which give clear credence to an interpretation of racism, as commonly understood. (Conrad Koch has explained why he thinks the most recent statement is racist on his website, in case you’re Steve Hofmeyr or Dan Roodt, and need this explained to you.)

I’ll close with an example of a absurdly wrong-headed understanding of free speech and censorship, from the Institute of Race-Relations’ Frans Cronje (their name is misleading, in that you’d think they’re about improving race-relations, but I’ve rarely found that to be the case).

Why I say it’s wrong-headed is that obnoxious opinions need to be tolerated. He agrees with me on that, or so he says in the last (chronologically) of the three Tweets I’ll embed here.

But he gets there via chastising Chester (without naming the puppet) for trying to “silence” Hofmeyr.

Chester is doing exactly that, in challenging Hofmeyr’s idea that black South Africans are the architects of apartheid. If Hofmeyr chooses to fall silent in shame (or whatever), that’s his choice. The only entity that has the power to forcibly silence Hofmeyr are the courts, and guess what – only one of the two parties involved (Hofmeyr) has approached the courts.

Cronje’s argument works entirely contrary to his objectives here, in that this is precisely an argument against Hofmeyr approaching the police or courts to silence Missing.

To close the circle of absurdity with regard to South Africa’s racial politics, remember that Missing, in this case, is the puppet who is reminding others that Hofmeyr thinks blacks designed Apartheid, and Cronje is the CEO of the Institute of Race Relations.

And, he seems to want Missing to stop criticising Hofmeyr, while having no problem with Hofmeyr’s lawsuit. Go figure, indeed.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.

13 replies on “When a muppet takes on a puppet – Steve Hofmeyr vs. @ChesterMissing”

Actually Conrad/Chester called Steve a “fucking cunt” and was said he was going to take him out. I am no fan of Steve but Conrad was puerile at times

Sure – if Conrad responded in that way, he is unfortunately sinking to Hofmeyr’s low levels.

Koch is deliberately sabotaging Hofmeyr’s business interests by targeting his sponsors.

Hofmeyr is entitled to express his opinions. The vendetta launched by Kock aims to silence Hofmeyr.

Nothing difficult to figure out what is happening. Don’t be so bloody naive.

No Steven Hofmeyr is sabotaging Steve Hofmeyr’s business. Maybe its the fact that Steve is losing his mind trying to keep track of all his kids, that is why he making racist, idiotic statements. Black being the architects of apartheid?!! Seriously. Maybe he should start reading something other than the YOU magazine…Something intellectual.. it was actually when the English took over SA that they pushed segregation, but it was the National Party that brought it into law..and the fact that he is getting upset about what a comedian is saying, with his talent peaking with Ägter elke man, he should be happy someone is actually speaking about him. Steve Hofmeyr is a celebraty that is fighting to stay relevant and known, even if it means blowing hot air…

There is a difference between expressing your opinion and mobilising society to punish someone you disagree with.

“punish”

I have a right to do mobilize business to act appropriately – all citizens have that right.

Chester is hardly the angel you portray him to be, Jacques. Calling Steve Hofmeyr a “fucking cunt” is rather childish, to be honest.

Cronje is a different breed of slow, defence of blatantly racist apartheid denialists really exposes the intellectual “I am not racist but…” group

And if you ask anyone at all how his tweet was racist you might need to quickly devise a way to kill yourself.

All support to Conrad Koch for exposing the corporate sponsorships. Such sponsorships directly or indirectly allow racism, hate and divisions
in SA to thrive and grow. The sponsors should withdraw urgently.
Like Hofmeyr, I am Afrikaans (maiden name Pienaar) but very PROUD of my existing national anthem. His insistence on recognition of only Die
Stem-part of the anthem is greatly offensive to me. I speak for other
Afrikaaans-speaking people in SA.
Unlike the middle-aged Hofmeyr, I am older than him and have far more PERSONAL experience of the cruelty of Apartheid and the pain it caused to my fellow citizens. Hofmeyr prolongs this type of racism and hate through his public performances on stage and at music festivals. It is entirely unacceptable to grant him sponsorships while he continues with his divisive and inflammatory actions.

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