Just the other day a gigantic coal silo collapsed, creating Eskom, our state electricity utility’s latest crisis, plunging parts of the country into the dark. Photographs of cracks appearing in the edifice had already been published in January, yet nothing was done to repair it.
These more obvious signs of decay and neglect mask the deeper moral and intellectual corruption gnawing away at South Africa. Somewhere Toynbee speaks about the pain of people born in a more or less normal, productive society having to live through a “time of decadence”. It is certainly painful to witness our country and its institutions collapsing one by one, as the termites slowly devour all of its once-proud institutions.
The schools, the courts, the universities. Our legal system, known as Roman-Dutch law, with all of its age-old principles going back to Roman times. First they abolished Latin, then Afrikaans. I still had both Latin and Afrikaans at school, as well as at university.
That is why I am familiar with the finer nuances of the expression mala fides, or bad faith. In French it is translated as “mauvaise foi” and occurs in common everyday speech, with an even more pronounced meaning conveying dishonesty, trickery and falseness. In Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous existentialist treatise, Being and Nothingness, a whole chapter is devoted to it. Sartre also talks about the “double negativity” of bad faith:
A man does not lie about what he is ignorant of; he does not lie when he spreads an error of which he himself is the dupe; he does not lie when he is mistaken. The ideal description of the liar would be a cynical consciousness, affirming truth within himself, denying it in his words, and denying that negation as such.
Presumably at some level Pierre de Vos knows that he is in bad faith, but he is so far gone in the kind of “cynical consciousness” that Sartre talks about that he can only “trade in lies”, half-truths, misinterpretations, while serving what he intuits as the Power, the power of political correctness and revolutionary destruction that has South Africa in its grip.
For a professor of law, even if it is constitutional law, which is a more political branch of the law, Pierre de Vos displays a cavalier disregard for evidence or proof. At the outset he simply posits Steve Hofmeyr’s “racist statements” while leaving the reader completely in the dark about what these could be:
Steve Hofmeyr and his supporters claim that a puppet called Chester Missing has infringed on his right to freedom of expression by challenging his racist statements and by challenging his sponsors for supporting his racism.
Now, the R-word has become a kind of nuclear weapon in the hands of the politically correct, with their inquisitors, their rabid thought police sniffing out the latest thoughtcrime in Orwellian parlance. But still, but still – if we have not yet degenerated into some form of Khmer-Rougism, where zeal and a blind, secular faith have replaced all thinking – De Vos could have given us some hint as to the heinous utterances in question?
However, after having stated the accusation without offering any form of description or evidence of the crime, he launches into a whole tirade, a kind of “stairway to heaven” – if you remember the Led Zeppelin song:
There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure ‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings, Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.
However much you and I may wonder, dear reader, we shall never know what caused the imperious cry of “That’s racist!” to ring out from the throne of the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance all the way down in Cape Town, in the province that is known in Xhosa as iKoloni.
The R-word having all the occult power that it has, one would have thought that it would suffice to cast a spell on Steve Hofmeyr, as in one those computer games such as World of Warcraft, where you may paralyse you opponent by enveloping him in a purple hue, after which he dies and you win. But no, De Vos has even more “powerful medicine” up his sleeve, climbing the stairway to the heaven of political correctness.
Please also note the other introductory remark made by De Vos, speaking about Steve Hofmeyr and the remaining writing, singing, speaking Afrikaner rabble out there:
They do not seem to understand that your right to freedom of expression does not always give you a right to freedom from the consequences of your expression.
His Eminence, the Inquisitor, hath spoken and we had better all beware of using any nuance that might attract the black magic of the R-word. On the other hand, and here is a deep philosophical and legal question: Could a person be innately racist? So that everything that person says – even if he is reciting a recipe for salade niçoise – could be deemed “racist”? As in the computer games, you’ve taken a hit, lost some of your vitality, your “remaining lives” and might soon wither away and die if some powerful opponent targets you with some more “progressive discourse” or whatever hocus pocus is bubbling under the lid of Pierre de Vos’s cauldron.
The other day I actually managed to grasp the “deep structure”, as Chomsky might have said in his more linguistic days, of political correctness. You could also call it the “three semiological codes” – my goodness, this is turning into a real lecture – but then I am speaking to a so-called “professor of constutitional law”, perched upon “the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance”. So my readers might forgive me for lapsing into such an analytical mood.
Political correctness at a certain level is fascinating. Like someone on drugs, those so afflicted are completely enthralled by its hallucinatory power, having a deep physical need for the next fix. But if you step back from it, it is just some chemical that might give you hepatitis from a used needle, and you are not on the stairway to heaven but on a slippery path to Hades where Charon and his dreadful three-headed dog Cerberus await you.
Like any soap opera or cheap crime story, it has a simple logic that the reader decodes while watching or reading it. It happens over and over again, just with different names and settings, a bit like Ground Hog Day. Any politically correct litany usually boils down to the following three elements:
1. I am so clever. It follows that you are a moron.
2. You are racist or a Nazi.
3. I laugh at you.
Pierre de Vos does not keep us in suspense. In his introductory paragraph he already plays the race card (without a shred of evidence, but does it matter if you are on such a hard drug?) and he more subtly informs us that “they do not seem to understand…” which is already short-hand for saying: “But I do! I am an absolute genius! Can you not see the pearls of wisdom dripping from my professorial, divinely politically correct, pen?”
Naturally – and this is where bad faith, mala fides, comes in – Pierre de Vos is arguing, not only for censorship, but for a viciously effective witch hunt and smear campaign against Steve Hofmeyr that will silence him forever and even banish him from society. But he, Pierre – quelle merveille! – really cares about “freedom of expression”:
The protection of freedom of expression is a prerequisite for the proper functioning of a democracy… A world in which books, movies or songs are banned; comedians are censored; prophets, artists, writers or poets jailed; academics gagged; critical voices silenced; or cultural conformity imposed through court orders or threats of violence is a world in which the human dignity of every person is not respected. This is so because our agency as human beings is diminished when we do not have at least the possibility of being exposed to life-changing forms of artistic, religious or intellectual expression.
Blah-blah-blah. Pardon me for another French expression, but then I definitely want to distance me from this ersatz Anglo-supremacist with the Afrikaans surname, De Vos: this is really just what is called la langue de bois. I have a whole book here somewhere on la langue de bois, but for the sake of brevity let me quote you that fount of knowledge, the English Wikipedia:
Wooden language is a literal translation of the French expression langue de bois meaning language that uses vague, ambiguous, abstract or pompous words in order to divert attention from the salient issues. The French phrase became widely used during the 1970s and 1980s, arriving in the language from Russian.
Don’t we understand Professor Pierre de Vos a little bit better now? After all Pierre rhymes with… insincere. And then suddenly, having just persuaded us that he is something of a man of letters who really cares about books, songs, movies, art, and so on, he quite bluntly states that:
“The problem with these lofty-sounding principles is that not all forms of expression have equal value. But it is difficult to distinguish between forms of expression that enhance democratic debate and enrich our lives, and forms of expression that have little or no value or harm people and sabotage democratic debate.”
So now we are getting closer to the totalitarian meat of it: “forms of expression that have little or no value or harm people and sabotage democratic debate”. One wonders what such “forms of expression” could be? During the time of Malema’s “Kill a Boer, kill a farmer” trial in the Equality Court most of the PC brigade was for Malema and against the suppression of the song. In the Johannesburg High Court Mr. Gilbert Marcus, brother of the former Reserve Bank governor, Gill Marcus, argued that singing such a song was exactly the same as singing the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. Or maybe Die Stem? Oh no, scratch that one. Die Stem is subject to… restrictions. In fact, singing Die Stem is, or so we have been assured, racist! Being an ode to the natural beauty of South Africa, you may wonder about that logical connection. But in PC-ville they have already made it. And no-one even cited Adorno or Marcuse in coming to that conclusion.
I somehow recall having read an essay by Marcuse a long time ago about the dreaded Blut und Boden, “blood and soil”, so anyone developing too great an affinity for the Drakensberg and having a braai under the stars near Louis Trichardt in the Bushveld could be on his way to becoming a fascist or a fully-fledged Nazi. (By the way, the town of Louis Trichardt has only recently been allowed to use its name, after a ten-year court case.)
But it seems that our South African left-wing fanatics are not that sophisticated, even though they consider themselves cultural Marxists, feminists and anti-racists. Apart from the three elements or codes (I’m clever, you’re a racist, I laugh at you), their only real form of logic is quintessentially primitive, based on guilt by association. Die Stem is “associated with apartheid”, therefore it should be taboo. As we shall see in a moment, associative slurring, smearing and innuendo also constitute the stock in trade of Pierre de Vos. Underneath the thin veneer of “constitutional speak or doublespeak”, smoulders an old-fashioned arsenal of witch-hunting techniques. Stigmatise. Point a shaking finger and pronounce in a hoarse voice: “You demon, you!” Or, more “scholarly”: “You racist! You Nazi!”
So De Vos abandons even the pretence of causal logic and ends up creating a few stark and melodramatic propaganda figments. Now, may you ask: What could be worse than being stigmatised as a “racist”? After all, in South Africa we have 77 murders a day and a few thousand instances of rape, which pales in significance next to the odious “racism” associated with singing Die Stem, or worse, even subtly questioning the official interpretation of South African history as being the Manichean tale of evil, exploitative whites and long-suffering, angelic blacks.
If racism is worse than murder or rape “on an industrial scale” as we have it here in South Africa, what could possibly surpass it in mind-numbing evil? Well, there are always child pornography and paedophilia!
As De Vos bids ever higher in his ascent unto the high heavens of PC bliss, or the stinking river Styx, depending on where you stand, he bluntly states:
Very few South Africans will vigorously defend and actively seek to provide a platform for the views of paedophiles who argue for the legalisation of sex with young children. This is so because as a society we have decided that adults who force children to have sex with them harm those children – we do not need further debate on the issue to decide whether this is true or not.
What has paedophilia got to do with singing Die Stem or discussing why black South Africans congregated in certain tribal areas which subsequently became independent or self-ruling homelands under the previous political dispensation? But of course, De Vos wants to create some form of surreal association between Steve Hofmeyr and paedophilia… How nasty can one get? you may ask.
However, for De Vos this is a rather unfortunate use of innuendo, as we associate the anti-apartheid movement rather more with paedophilia than anyone – like Steve Hofmeyr or historian Hermann Giliomee – insisting upon a more rational and historically accurate discussion around the previous South African system.
Although the case against him was withdrawn amid all kinds of pressures, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, founder of the British Anti-Apartheid movement, was once investigated for paedophilia. Two other organisations that were intimately involved in the international campaign against South Africa, punctuated by urban terrorism (car bombs, restaurant bombs), in the 1970s and 1980s, the British Labour Party, not to forget the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), have both been exposed for the involvement of key officials in child sex rings or child rape. In the case of the British Labour Party, which is also “the intellectual home of the South African Left”, it was revealed that Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt, then “young left-wingers” but who rose to powerful positions within the Labour Party, actually supported the “Paedophile Information Exchange”, a lobby group campaigning for the legalisation of child sex in Britain. The BBC’s Sir James Wilson Vincent “Jimmy” Savile, OBE, KCSG , 31 October 1926 – 29 October 2011)… an English DJ, television presenter, media personality and charity fundraiser became the subject of a posthumous “sexual abuse scandal”, described thus:
In September and October 2012, almost a year after his death, claims were widely publicised that the radio and television presenter Jimmy Savile had committed sexual abuse, his alleged victims ranging from prepubescent girls and boys to adults. By 11 October 2012 allegations had been made to 13 British police forces, and this led to the setting-up of inquiries into practices at the BBC and within the National Health Service. [Wikipedia]
So it seems, instead of defaming Steve Hofmeyr, as he had intended, Pierre de Vos has actually shone a spotlight on some of the leading lights of the British Left in the 1970s and 1980s when South Africa was brought down for “having the wrong values”. The Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal also nicely revealed the “moral backbone” of the BBC which was so intimately involved in promoting the ANC and SACP as the only possible government for South Africa, with the results that we see around us.
But De Vos does not stop there in his attempts to illustrate just how much free speech, such as that of Steve Hofmeyr, needs to be curtailed. He ultimately (over-)reaches for the Holocaust and Holocaust denial, stating:
Defending free speech is not always value neutral.
The same principle applies to those who deny the Holocaust or argue that the Nazis did a great job by exterminating six million Jews. As a society we have decided that there is no value in debating whether the Holocaust occurred or whether the mass murder of the Jews was a good idea. Why debate something that is so obviously evil – it will just give credence to the disproved and harmful views of a few lunatics?
For someone who pretends to be informed as to the South African constitution and legal precedent, this is the stuff of fantasy. Regardless of the merits of debating whether six million really died, it is simply inaccurate to state that “as a society we have decided that there is no value in debating whether the Holocaust occurred…” There has never been any decision taken about holocaust denial in this country. Until now, holocaust denial has never been an issue in South Africa and, unlike in Western Europe, especially Germany, we have no laws on the statute books prohibiting a discussion of the number of dead in German concentration camps during World War II, including how they happened to die, whether by Zyklon B, typhus or whatever.
I am by no means taking a position on Holocaust denial, but it is theoretically possible for a Holocaust denial conference to be held in South Africa without transgressing any of our laws, including the 1996 constitution. Whereas there are moves afoot to ban Steve Hofmeyr from singing Die Stem or discuss the homelands, where Sol Kerzner’s casinos are still extant in their kitsch, extravagant splendour!
Is it not absurd that, thanks to the zeal and fanaticism of a small group of mainly white liberals and Marxists, we are increasingly finding ourselves in a situation where Afrikaans singers and authors are harassed simply for expressing a fairly innocuous opinion on South African history or singing Afrikaans folk songs that have been part of the popular repertoire for decades? The worrying aspect is that, as the South African system unravels further, the perceived threat to the system from describing empirical conditions in the country will subject one to reprisals, witch hunts, vociferous denunciations and moral hysteria from the disciples of Trevor Huddleston, Harriet Harman, Patricia Hewitt and the late Sir James Wilson Vincent “Jimmy” Savile.
Underlying the surreal objets trouvés of De Vos’s “legal” imagination is an even more sinister “subconscious association” in the form of the tacit assumption that, in fact, apartheid was tantamount to genocide and a holocaust. If that assumption ever hardened into historical “fact” it would require all whites and Afrikaners to take the vow of silence as some of the more extreme voices in academe (such as Samantha Vice) have already advocated. That would take us from harassment and censorship to the most absolute self-censorship and fear of persecution in terms of German-style “denial” laws.
Not for nothing does Conrad Koch, the puppet master who spews obscenities as readily as his politically correct platitudes, use the term “apartheid denialism” as an excuse or motivation for his harassment of Steve Hofmeyr, in order to sound the death knell of free speech in South Africa.
In a final reductio ad absurdum, De Vos writes:
Besides, no one has a right to make a profit out of his or her bigotry and racism. I have checked the Constitution and can confirm that no such right is contained in it.
So once you have been accused of “bigotry and racism” in the kangaroo court of a few biased cultural-Marxist ideologues, you will no longer be allowed to perform, to publish or to disseminate your opinions. They will simply defame and slander you until you are either reduced to silence or they have simply whipped up enough hatred against you for you to get stabbed in the street as happened to Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands.
Unless we want Roman-Dutch law to go the way of Thandi Modise’s pig farm, we should defend it against the assault of so-called professors of constitutional law.