Nothing that happens on Twitter will affect the outcome of South Africaâ€™s 2014 elections, but that doesnâ€™t mean that important stuff doesnâ€™t happen there, writes SIMON WILLIAMSON.
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille has been known to have the odd Twitter spat with the faceless nobodies who tweet crap at her all day (as well as, well, the faced somebodies).
But on Sunday Zille said some things that were really peculiar when she decided to go after City Press journalist Carien du Plessis. For the record, I donâ€™t know much about du Plessis, although we overlapped at the Daily Maverick for a few months (our paths never crossed and I have never met her).
And some of the things Zille had to say about her were bewildering.
I really have no issue with a politician picking a fight with a journalist. Here, in the US, itâ€™s a daily occurrence, and, as far as Iâ€™m concerned, journalists are as fair game as politicians. If it is your responsibility to carry the news, then people who see the news differently are fully entitled to disagree with you.
And politicians will politick. Zille hating on du Plessisâ€™ journalism (although I disagree with her point of view â€“ Carien du Plessis is an excellent reporter) is not really the problem here. Zille really can say whatever she likes about news coverage about herself and her party.
But Zille went far past just disagreeing with du Plessis, or critiquing her work. Instead, Zille decided that the way to attack her would be to get personal â€“ to criticise what she wrote because of who she is.
You read that correctly. Zille is accusing Carien du Plessis of writing particular articles because she is a white Afrikaner, and, evidently, is ashamed of it, or something. Zille isnâ€™t correcting du Plessis because she wrote something incorrect, and isnâ€™t accusing her of bias towards or against the DA (or any other political party).
No, Zille is telling the world that du Plessis canâ€™t be an objective journalist because she is an ashamed white person who needs to kak on other white people so blacks will like her. How nice from the leader of a â€œnon-racialâ€ party. And what a lazy McCarthy-esque attack with which to bedonner white critics of the DA.
And that tweet wasnâ€™t accidental. The same idea was proposed twice.
One of the favourite arguments of conservative people is that being politically correct is â€œbadâ€ and â€œterribleâ€ and â€œsoftâ€, etc. The accusation is that you really want to say something disgusting when you use a term like â€œpeople of colourâ€, that you are just saying the socially acceptable thing when you really mean something else.
Letâ€™s think of an exampleâ€¦
Being a white critic of the party that most white South Africans vote for? YES!
Obviously, white people canâ€™t criticise other white people because then they are just trying to suck up to black folks, and are being PC. Thereâ€™s no way du Plessis could actually believe what she, herself, says, right?
Surely the DA folks in charge of communications know you donâ€™t let the head of your party (or anyone) tweet nonsense like this:
Thereâ€™s an argument going around that if President Zuma said this he would be decried from all corners. And that is quite correct. But in that case, there really isnâ€™t really a huge double standard: Zille wasnâ€™t the one trying to slog the Freedom of State Information Bill through parliament.
Itâ€™s obvious Zille means that she is going to shit all over more and more journalists who report things she disagrees with. But what an absurd thing to tweet. Surely the DA communications people know that this, repeated out of context, will seem awful. Surely they remember what these four words did to Mitt Romney. Context is everything, and singular tweets donâ€™t lend themselves to it.
This, it seems from Sundayâ€™s escapades, is how the DA â€“ certainly Premier Zille â€“ is going to deal with white critics; it is going to start playing its own â€œrace cardâ€ â€“ the notion that white critics of the DA must surely be doing so to suck up to the black people and the left.
The DA is regularly accused of having certain stances purely to protect white interests and people, and fends off such accusations often. Itâ€™s surprising to see its leader use someone elseâ€™s white skin to try and spear them.