Research project commissioned by New Nation, 1988. Undertaken by Centre for Cultural and Media Studies, University of Natal, Durban, South Africa.
Coordinator: Ansuya Chetty.
Researched and written by: Keyan G Tomaselli, Ruth E Teer-Tomaselli, Ansuya
Chetty and P. Eric Louw. Research assistance: Sipho Dlamini and Thumida
New Nation started life in March
1986. In May 1987, Tradition, Family, Property (TFP) advertised its glossy
booklet, The ‘New Nation’ and Liberation Theology. New Nation
was banned by the apartheid government for three months at the beginning
of March 1988. Following the banning, TFP announced that nowhere in its
study was a request made "to the Government for the application of State
laws against the paper". In a remarkable contortion of illogic, TFP attempted
to absolve itself of complicity in the government’s censorship by implying
that the South African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) had the power
to prevent the banning of New Nation:
This statement is typical of TFP’s innacurate,
mischievious and totally wrong interpretation of the South African ‘press
laws’ at the time New Nation was banned and this statement issued.
First, New Nation was not banned under any law applied by the "civil
courts". The government suspended the rule of law with the first state
of emergency in 1985, and from mid-1987 to February 1990, had ruled by
proclamation. One of the reasons for this arbitrary rule which ignored
the courts was that the state had rarely won its cases against newspapers
and treason trialists, despite the extensive battery of laws it had created
since 1948 to deal with ‘subversives’.
Second, cases that would have been
tenable in a "civil" court of law, were not tenable in terms of the government’s
various proclamations as the procedures enacted to facilitate bannings
of newspapers rested solely on the Minister of Home Affairs’s subjective
opinion. No court of appeal existed whereby his opinion could be tested,
or indeed, the ‘opinion’ of any state functionary (Government Gazette
Vol 276 No 11342 10 June 1988). Third, if TFP were itself to annoy the
Minister, it too could be shut down, no matter how watertight its case.
As we point out below, TFP was useful to the government at that moment
as both had coincident aims vis-a-vis New Nation.
Various TFP bulletins, both South
African and foreign, carried extensive self-serving publicity on the ‘study’,
and congratulated their organisation on the "favourable coverage given
to the campaign in prestigious Italian journals", and those of other countries.
TFP cavalierly dismissed criticisms of its study published in the media
worldwide stating that some "of these have predictably denounced the work
of the TFP in the characteristic way with recourse to worn-out, persistent
and negative cliches" (TFP Newsletter, No 30, 1988:2). This was
another tactic used by TFP - the sarcastic denegration of counter-arguments
which deflect TFP from addressing the central issues.
The study that follows was commissioned
by New Nation in May 1987, soon after publication of the TFP document.
At the time we hypothesised that the TFP report, if not published clandestinely
in conjunction with the National Party government, would nevertheless be
used to legitimate its clampdown on what cabinet ministers at that stage
derisively labelled "the so-called alternative media". An intensive study
checking the accuracy of quotations taken from the pages of New Nation
and reproduced in the document was undertaken, as was a search of communications
research methods textbooks to identify the source of TFP’s methodology.
Commenting on the banning of New
Nation, TFP stated in The Citizen that "At no stage after publication
of the New Nation and Liberation Theology did the hierarchy of the
church, the Southern African Catholic Bishops conference — heading 4 million
Catholics in Southern Africa — react." This statement may have been intended
to bring the SACBC into disrepute — that is, the SACBC’s silence was thought
to indicate that it had no response to the TFP accusations because they
were ‘true’. This is not so. The shadowy nature of TFP and accusations
of its use of violence and fraud to attain its ends elsewhere, including
its willing aid to the brutal rule of General Pinochet’s regime in Chile,
and co-operation with repressive monopoly capital in South America (Lernoux,
1982, pp 293-304; Sandford, 1975, pp 112 ff; Hirsch, 1974 pp 39 ff), called
for an in-depth research project to examine how TFP permitted itself to
be co-opted in the interests of apartheid in South Africa. During the following
12 months we painstakingly collected information on TFP. Our and the SACBC’s
silence was rewarded in the TFP’s own later admission that it "played a
major role in influencing the banning" of New Nation (The Citizen).
This admission validated our initial assumptions.
The Unit contacted numerous international
human rights organisations on TFP and its publications. While many of our
addressees were aware of TFP, few had clear knowledge of the organisation.
Dr Michael Traber of the World Association of Christian Communication wrote
We learned from Archbishop Dennis Hurley
of Durban that while the Vatican had not denounced the TFP it had not endorsed
its existence either (Interview). Further research in South Africa suggested
that TFP had a following mainly amongst right-wing Portuguese-speaking
South Africans who are a small, separate group within the South African
LADOC, the bimonthly publication
of Latin America Documentation in Peru, provided some extremely disturbing
information on TFP. The letter marked as Appendix 1 gives examples where
the TFP has deliberately misrepresented its case and tricked church officials
into publically supporting causes in a variety of South American countries
with which they disagreed.
TFP is alleged by LADOC to have opposed
the authority of the Catholic Church, particularly the measures introduced
as a result of the Second Vatican Council. More seriously, TFP was condemned
in Venezuela for "mounting a plot to attack physically the Pope when he
came to visit there last time". This allegation was also made by Southern
Cross (13 January 1984). Earlier, the Brazilian magazine Manchette
(February 27, 1982) had reported that TFP members used a picture of the
Pope for target practice. This report was subsequently carried in a variety
of international media. The Johannesburg office of TFP vigorously contested
these accusations in a letter (8 January 1984) addressed to Southern
Cross’s editor. In Brazil and Chile, TFP have also been "active protestors
of democratic currents and not alien to the use of violence to defend their
positions" (Ladoc). All this, of course, is absent from the TFP documents
and their explanation of themselves. When asked from where their funding
came, the Durban office claimed it was financed entirely by private donations
(Interview, 1988). According to local sources within the Catholic Church,
the feeling is that TFP worldwide may be funded by the CIA. We will present
evidence to substantiate this claim.
A direct mail letter posted via a
marketing company mailing list offers the booklet to recipients. This method
of sale, and the style and copy of the letter, is similar to Reader’s
Digest marketing campaigns. With the letter comes a card appealing
for funds. The letter ends thus "P.P.S.: Our dedication is totally voluntary.
We rely on your generosity to fight on..." The letter is signed
in blue by Bernard Tuffin, identified as one of the supervisors of the
writing of the TFP document. However, it does appear that the document
was published and advertised (in The Sunday Times) before any fund
The document’s middle blue pages,
"Petition by One Hundred Concerned Catholics ..." carries a box above this
heading listing some of these signaturies’ affiliations. Most are extremely
reactionary organisations like the Aida Parker Newsletter which
transgressed norms of media usage. Parker, to whom we will return, was
severely censured by the Newspaper Press Union’s Media Council for publishing
unsubstantiated reports and lies as ‘fact’ with regard to another progressive
organisation. This newsletter, like other signaturies of the TFP petition,
for example, Signposts and United Christian Action, present allegations
as ‘facts’, totally without justification. These are the sort of people
— liars, opportunists and smear experts — who associated themselves with
TFP. This being the case, there is little reason to trust motivations of
the South African branch of TFP or those of the endorsing people and organisations.
Besides, "One Hundred" signatures, most of them unidentified, is hardly
representative of the Christian community in South Africa.
Below, our analysis of media and
Catholicism draws on Robert White, S.J. on "Mass Media and the Culture
of Contemporary Catholicism: The Significance of the Second Vatican Council".
Penny Lernoux’s Cry of the People (1982) provides the historical
and politico-economic context within which TFP as an international exporter
of repression from its base in Brazil can be understood.
We argue below that TFP have mobilised
anachronistic elements of Catholicism in stating its case against New
Nation. In its many critiques of the modern world, TFP takes as its
starting point the trilogy of the French Revolution: "Liberty, Equality
and Fraternity." Plinio Correa de Oliverira, founder of, and arch-ideologue
for, the Brazilian TFP, stresses this point in an early article "dissipating
the current confusion about just what "right" and "left" means (TFP
Newsletter 1:5, 1980):
Using this argument Oliveria, with another
semantic sleight of hand, adds that "such a one is an anarchist in the
etymological and radical sense of the word (from the Greek "an" - negative
and "arch" - government) with or without the connotation of violence or
terrorism". Oliveria thus makes the easy move from ‘left’ to ‘anarchist’
to ‘violence and terrorism’.
The right, it seems, is not subject to "the full rigor of logic" which would demand that "the greater the inequality, the more perfect the justice": Absurd extremes not applied to Right.
Several points are worth persuing here:
firstly, the philosophy of the TFP is deeply anarchronistic, and dates
back to a romantised conception of the period prior to the French Revolution.
Secondly, In his critique of ‘liberty’, Oliveria equates the advocacy of
liberty with anarchy. In order to combat this tendency, it is necessary
to adopt a highly authoritarian stance, in which the support of the strong
state is an urgent necessity. Thirdly, his denounciation of those, including
some "rightists", who "made concessions to the egalitarian spirit", underscores
the centrality of class privilege on which the whole of the TFP movement
is based. (It is also worth noting that, although he attacks the "trilogy
of 1789", no mention is made of the ‘sin’ of fraternity.)
The philosophical approach of TFP
is very much in keeping with the general ethos of the Church in the nineteenth
century. The French Revolution (1789), with its trilogy of Liberty, Equality
and Fraternity, shook the Church from its medieval complacency. Ecclesiastical
privilege was suspended, Church property removed, and the unproblematic
partnership of Church and State irrevocably severed. The Church was radically
divided between those who supported the new order, and those who were nostaligic
for the idealised Ancient Regime.
Pius IX was installed as Pope in
1846, two years before the turmult of 1848 begun the inexorable movement
to replace a monarchic Europe with bourgeois democracies. Under Pius IX
the theological and social tendency of the Church opposed these changes,
and saw them as threatening to the authority of the papacy. Both within
and outside Italy, the relationship between the Church and the State was
marked by tension. Catholics felt isolated within their own communities,
and looked to the Vatican for support. In its extreme form, this attitude
was referred to as ‘ultramontanism’, literally, those who looked for support
‘over the mountains’, that is, to Rome. The Church in this period saw itself
in a state of siege, threatened by the incursion of the modern world, and
the loss of temporal power that the new political orders threatened. The
papal reaction was to increase the authoritarian nature of the the Church,
cementing its hierachical structures.
The papacy of Leo XIII (1878-1903)
was marked by both continuity and change with respect to his predecessor.
Leo XIII opposed democracy and liberalism, and increased the centralisation
of authority vested in the Vatican. Despite his intransigence, Leo’s pontificate
marked a turning point as he defined a new papal policy. Whereas Pius IX
bluntly refused the modern world, Leo XIII instead accepted the idea of
a tactical rallying to it. (Notes, p 8). In the fields of social
justice politics, he was pragmatic. Modern states provided the only buffer
against anarchy, and for this reason alone, they should be tolerated. In
his encyclical, Au Milieu des Sollicitudes (18), Leo avowed that
the governments of the day were prerequisites to social order, and for
this reason, Catholics should work with them. Roger Aubert notes that he
put aside theoretical debates on ‘ideal’ Church/State relations, and concentrated
instead on making "the best use of existing liberal institutions in order
to press home certain Catholic claims: education, marriage, religious associations,
independence of the Holy See". This change in policy indicated a shift
in strategy, rather than fundamental philosophy. The legitimacy of the
French Revolution was never acknowledged.
Equally importantly, Leo XIII revitalised
the intellectual framework of the Church, restoring the thought of Thomas
Aquinus to its pre-eminent position in the theological direction of the
Church. From this beginning, Catholic Rationalism took hold. Part of the
intellectual revival encouraged by Leo XIII in his encyclical Aeternin
Patris (1879), resulted in the application of a rational, neo scholastic
theology, to be taught in seminaries and university faculties of theology
throughout Europe. This rationalistic approach, while influential among
the new intellectual circles of the Church, was not readily popularised
and absorbed by the mass of Catholic clergy and laiety.
Alongside this intellectual thrust,
the popular experience of Catholicism was a more sentimental piety, a faith
bound up in ritual, often bordering on credulity and superstition. The
degree to which which intellect and emotion were unevenly infused in Catholic
culture meant that for a large part of the Catholic faithful, neo-scholastic
rationalism remained outside their experience, external to their thinking
and never incorporated into their rituals and traditions, or the celebration
and observance of their religious experience — in other words, as part
of their religious (and secular) culture.
Bernard Connor, OP., points out that:
The churches of Latin America, from whence
TFP originates, were particularly conservative. Because of their geographic
isolation from the intellectual heartland of Europe, they were even slower
to react to the influence of 19th Century rationalism. Furthermore, the
churches of Latin America were, in the 19th and early parts of the 20th
Century, extremely hierarchical, with temporal power and privilege analogous
to the European churches of pre-Revolutionary times. Penny Lernoux (1982)
describes one such patriach, Archbishop Dom Geralso Proenca Sigaud of Diamantina,
"a wealthy landowner, staunch opponent of agarian reform, and TFP founder.
Sigaud belongs to the old school of Latin-American bishops who still live
in palaces and own huge tracts of land".
All this was to be challenged by
the Second Vatican Council (1961-1963), but was never wholly erradicated
from the lived experience, the active Catholic culture, of the previous
thirty years. Just as rational theology and religious sentiment were marbled
together in the consciousness of the Catholic faithful, so too, was the
process of adaption to fresh challenges, and a re-orientation from regarding
strict centralization of Church authority and entrenched privilege as the
divinely-constituted order, unevenly intertwined with the popularisation
the mode of thought which encompassed democracy and equality as Chrisitian
Furthermore, when the theological
paradigm did change in the 1960s, it was the Theology of Liberation which
challenged the supremacy of the older observations. Since this was a movement
which unabashedly challenged the exploitative class structures of capitalism,
it was regarded as extremely threatening to the bourgeois elements of the
It is in this light that the "tradition"
to which TFP pays homage should be viewed. It is an essentially anchronistic
throwback to the ritual and romanticism of earlier, a-social and authoritarian
forms of Catholic observance, heavily overlaid with dominant class interests.
Above all, it is opposed to any form of egalitarianism or democracy. It
is a ‘tradition’ which is threatened not only by critiques to the inequitable
distribution of wealth, but also by movements within the present day Church
which seek to adapt evangelical work to the modern world. It is not surprising,
then, that TFP should be so hostile to New Nation, since New
Nation actively advocates social justice, and a post-Vatican II philosophy,
which is insistant on the importance of the Catholic community as a whole
actively participating in evangalisation of the world in which they operate
(Evangelii Nuntiandi, 1975, para 70).
The consonance of ideals between TFP and
the apartheid government was ironic, because, until at least the 1970s,
the Catholic Church was barely tolerated by the National Party. Afrikaner
Nationalists had easlier referred to the Church as the ‘Roomse gevaar’
(the Roman threat), and during the emergencies was overtly opposed to it.
Immigration of Catholics to South Africa had been actively discouraged
by the government until the fall of the colonial regime in Mozambique in
1975. After this date, colonial Portuguese Catholics were welcomed with
open arms. Since then was a growing acceptance of the Portuguese through
the establishment of trade links, visits to Portugal by Cabinet Ministers
and brouhahah surrounding the 1988 Diaz celebrations. In part, this new
alliance developed because Portugal was one of the few European countries
not threatening a trade embargo in protest against apartheid. (They may
have had little option in this because of the more than half million Portuguese-speakers
were now living in South Africa, particularly since the post-Mozambiquan
influx.) TFP originates from Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking country, so
the belated official approval granted Mozambiquan Portuguese immigrants
could now be easily extended to Brazilians.
TFP was thus opportunistically accepted
only in terms of what it could offer the National Party:
2) Church-directed mobilisation against
the black labour movement, the most serious threat to the Government’s
3)an externally directed attempt to smash New Nation and other progressive media.
This three-pronged attack was aimed at destroying organic intellectuals drawn from the progressive labour, Church and media movements. Thus, TFP contributed to repression by acting as traditional intellectuals on behalf the apartheid state. It helped to shore up repressive hegemonies in South America and South Africa and, like these states, was not hesitant to condone violence when consent could not be obtained.
Ideologically, the Church was a more
difficult adversary for the apartheid state than either the labour movement
or the press. The Church had great legitimacy amongst the state’s own constituency
- white, coloured and Indian voters. The Church was not marginal to the
apartheid state’s constituency in the same way as was the labour movement.
In fact, labour was the adversary of the state’s constituency: that is,
big capital and much of the white working class. It would therefore have
been extremely unwise to smash the Church solely through coercion .
What the government attempted to do was to de-legitimise the Church hierarchy
in the eyes of its membership. This is a form of ideological warfare aimed
at destroying the popular legitimacy of the Bishops, of what Robert White
calls "Episcopal colleges", and in this particular case, the SACBC. Once
this has been accomplished, the state will find it easier to dismantle
the ideological sway of the Church.
Into this state-church conflict enters
TFP with its neatly packaged little diatribe presented in the form of a
critique which strikes at the very heart of the Church’s legitimacy — the
Bishops. TFP is not just acting against New Nation. It has set itself
against the Church as a whole by providing the state with a hostile critique
attacking the institution.
At the same time, TFP adds impetus
to another wider movement which overlaps the attack on the Church — the
‘alternative’ press, particularly New Nation. It is this coincidence
of objectives — the controlling of labour, Church and press — that makes
the relationship between TFP and the state an opportunistic one. It is
unlikely that the government set up TFP in South Africa. More likely, once
government realised how TFP could be co-opted into protecting apartheid,
and to back-up the state’s onslaught against democratic opposition, it
received support and encouragement (viz. letters from Botha and Heunis),
and access to the public. TFP have thus been encouraged to do the state’s
dirty work for it.
New Nation is engaged not only in
a theology of liberation, but more fundamentally, in the post-Vatican II
conception of where the Church should be going. This entails a move away
from proselitization through an authoritarian didactic approach to a small
group, community-oriented approach with a strong emphasis on social and
community development. Post-Vatican II theology goes beyond the traditional
confines of doctrine; it moves from being a theology to being a culture
of Christianity which permeates all aspects of the lived Catholic experience.
Liberation theology is only a sub-section of the post-Vatican theology.
Although we will explain that TFP’s notion
of Catholic culture differs from the cultural impulses which inform the
following extract, on the surface, there appears to be something in common
with the encyclical, Mirari Vos published by Pope Gregory XVI, August
15, 1832, which was a diatribe against the new ‘popular’ media of the time:
This unease with the popular media by the
Church was widespread in the 19th Century, and elements of it continued
in the early part of this centuary. Popular forms of expression were regarded
as trivial, degrading and opposed to romantic classical high culture. A
direct influence in discrediting the popular media as a site of evangelism
was the "rationalism of neo-scholastic theology and the emphasis on an
abstract, metaphysical mode of explanation" (White, 1986: 18). Neo-scholastic
theology identified the word of God with the clear, concise, logically
defined dogmatic propositions. The resulting abstraction of the language
of religious faith discouraged the use of popular media for religious communication.
Inter Mirifica called on the Church to use the mass media more effectively.
Catholic culture was reacting vigorously to forms of clerical authoritarian
communication which had characterised the Church for the previous 150 years.
More important, it questioned the principle that "divine knowledge" is
above history and cultural contexts (White, 1986: 27).
The shift from neo-scholastic theologies
of communication occurred because of biblical and historical studies which
argued that the "exact written formulas of doctrine were not in themselves
identical with divine knowledge but also reflected the literary genres,
historical circumstances and cultural context of the time" (White, 1986:
28). Avery Dulles (1983) argues that the most characteristic and appropriate
expression of religious experience is symbolic language. Religious imagination
has many sources — poetry, novels, film and TV (Shea, 1980: 45) — and owe
much to local popular cultures and popular religiosity (White, 1986: 29).
Faith is rarely only intellectual. Neither is it a simple acceptance of
authoritative teaching on the basis of supernatural signs. The communicative
discourse of the Bible and religion rests on the connotative, evocative
power of imagery, symbols and myth. It is this mode of communication which
underlies much of the Church’s pastoral work, and New Nation in
particular. The paper is not indulging in politics for politics’ sake.
It is also concerned with other areas of supportive Christian culture -
not only Catholic culture. The paper covers areas of social and cultural
importance, such as education, performance, cultural experience and expression
of all kinds, community awareness and offers community support. As White
states, Catholics should take
Empowerment of the ‘poor’ is the the intention
here. Where TFP’s whole philosophy is to reclaim an anchronistic, authoritarian
Catholic culture controlled by the dominant classes in society, making
the poor and powerless dependent upon it, New Nation wants to democratise
ecumenical Christian culture by telling people that they do have the power
to contest their oppression. In contrast, TFP would rather see blacks as
passive recipents of an authoritarian culture imposed from above. This
is totally opposed to the contemporary Catholic Church:
The Church’s emphasis in the 1980s on ‘group
media’  occurred in response
to Paulo Freire’s ideas on consciousness-raising where participants of
group discussions are:
TFP would no doubt label this exercise
‘historical materialist’, preferring to see people as victims of history
in terms of pre-rational Catholic culture. New Nation is but one
of hundreds of Church initiatives around the world engaged in consciousness-raising.
Because TFP work from an inductive position, it is able to single out New
Nation from the broader contemporary Catholic media culture and thereby
generalise anything written in the paper as ‘communist inspired’. Locating
the paper within the Catholic press in Africa, South America and other
neo-colonial countries would have forced them to claim that all Catholic
media are ‘communist’. As White explains:
The above quotes from White describe exactly
what New Nation is doing: to move away from Church-as-dogma to Church-and-community.
One element of this is the theology of liberation. But it is not the over-riding
The importance of our emphasis on
Revelation Theology is that this approach is endorsed by Vatican II in
Inter Mirifica and later, Communio et Progressio. Its manifestation
in New Nation is not simply a whim of the SACBC, but the only direction
to take in terms of the Church in the modern world. New Nation is
fulfilling its mandate — a mandate for a community-oriented, theologically
based people’s paper, inspired by gospel values. This is the view of the
church of the future. Resources will have to be redirected by the institutional
Church (parochial schools, expensive parish hierarchies), into mass-directed,
but community-oriented channels of information/media. The TFP’s instrumentalist
and hierarchical view of communication is highly problematic. According
to White (1986: 24):
New Nation is an excellent example
of this. In attempting to build a communication of symbolic gospel witness
through a free, public, secular mass communications that the Church itself
does not control, the church entered the public debate making the paradox
of its powerlessness, simplicity and commitment to the poor the basis of
socio-ethical values in an affluent, consumer-oriented society (White,
1986: 26). The paper is owned by the Church but run by the laiety (a movement
away from authority-directed instruction).
In contrast to the extensive discussion
offered by Tlhagale (1985), White (1982-3; 1983; 1984; 1986, 1987), Biernatzki
(1978), and many others on the nature of Catholic media, TFP’s only reference
to the role of the Catholic media is represented in the following quote
from the encyclical Miranda Porsus where Pope Pius XII deals with
the duties of the Catholic media:
While this is a general statement referring
to the potential of all media to "influence the will", it was used specifically
against New Nation to imply that the paper is not ‘influencing the
will’ correctly i.e. in keeping with Catholic Doctrine. While choosing
to use Pope Pius XII’s statement in their argument for action against New
Nation, TFP ignored his concern about freedom of thought as expressed
in the following quote where He deals with the task of the Christian press:
It is against the above background that
the following analysis of the TFP document should be read.
This second section of the analysis of
the TFP document offers a critique of the TFP methodology. We will show:
2) that the ‘argument’ developed in the document
is mostly based on a MacCarthyesque naivity and pseudo-logic. Rhetorical
devices used include innuendo, distortion, emotional appeal, and the mobilisation
of dominant conservative South African myths; and
3) that TFP rhetoric is similar to that of
the apartheid state’s repressive apparatuses, manifested in ‘warnings’
sent to newspaper editors.
John Fiske et al (1983, p. 147) define
myth as "an unarticulated chain of associated concepts by which members
of a culture understand certain topics". Myth is an utterance without an
utterer (Barthes, 1972). The absence of the person who speaks gives the
myth the quality of a statement of eternal fact, truth, obviousness, naturalness,
common sense, rightness, reasonableness already-thereness - it just needs
to be named ... by anyone, hence the apparent ‘objectivity’ of myth. It
is culture-specific and responds to changing political processes while
retaining its ahistorical content. Hence the employment of terms around
which specific myths have been built, enables TFP to make statements without
having to substantiate them. For example, only the more critical reader
will respond to TFP’s description of the African National Congress (ANC)
as a terrorist organisation with the questions: what is a terrorist organisation?
In what way does the ANC fit this definition? Why is it a terrorist organisation?
Who labels it thus? The naturalization through the dominant media of the
myth of the terrorist makes the statement appear to be a universal truth
needing no substantiation (see Graaf, 1988).
TFP depends to a large extent for
the efficacy of its critique on the use of dominant myths perpetuated through
the state’s discourse and the establishment media. The myth it most frequently
draws upon is that of ‘Communism’ as an evil, anti-Christian force directly
linked to a violent Soviet imperialism. This spawns the myth of the ‘terrorist’
as a Soviet trained killer bent on destroying innocent lives, whose actions
are directed by imperialist forces prejudicial to the interests of the
black majority. The myth of ‘revolution’ implies the violent overthrow
of the existing order and its replacement by a Communist dictatorship which
automatically precipitates a massive deterioration in quality of life.
The three myths combine to elicit the fear of a revolution brought about
by terrorists leading to a communist dictatorship. In opposition to the
supposed chaos and anarchy this would produce is presented the anachronistic
myth of ‘Christian civilization’ as representing the best of human endeavour,
drawing in remnants of a pre-rational mystical Catholic culture. TFP apparently
sees no contradiction between defending ‘Christian civilization’ through
condoning the brutal state violence necessary to maintain the apartheid
‘Christian-National’ system of government.
The privileging of "Christian civilization"
by TFP over ‘communism’ permits the writers to see other politico-economic
systems which claim to be based on Christianity as less evil. Thus, they
are able to simultaneously withold total endorsement of apartheid while
claiming that only "certain aspects of the South Arican system are seriously
questionable from the standpoint of Catholic Doctrine" (p. 3). TFP repeats
state reformist rhetoric "that in recent times various of these aspects
have been eliminated (eg. prohibition of Mixed Marriages, some restrictions
on the acquisition of ownership of immovable property by Blacks in urban
areas) and others are in the process of being changed". Having thus legitimated
its support for the lesser evil, apartheid, over the total evil, communism,
TFP blithly accuses the anti-apartheid New Nation of support for
communism rather than support for a "truly non-racial democracy" (p. 5).
TFP reveals its racism on page 20 where
the term "Black-on-Black Violence" is used. This is a favourite racist
epithet which assumes that blacks remain ‘tribal’ and ‘violent’ in need
of the protection of their more civilised white compatriots where conflict
is safely channelled through democratic political systems. Ruth Tomaselli
(1988) shows how the emphasis on the ethnicity of the killings carries
several other important implications:
This is why the compilers of the TFP document
never refer to the First World War or the Anglo-Boer War as ‘white-on-white
violence’. Such statements are meaningless, except to racists, because
they say nothing about the real issues which give rise to conflict.
TFP claims that its "study is restricted
to a critique of the ideological stand of NN in the light of the
Social Doctrine of the Church" (p. 3). Yet, nowhere does the TFP define
what it understands by ‘ideology’, nor does it develop theories of representation
or bias (see eg. Kline, 1982).
The Unit consulted Professor George
Gerbner of the prestigious Annenberg School of Communication at the Univesity
of Pennsylvania on the TFP’s ‘methodology’. We did this after consulting
every book available to us and numerous journal articles on content analysis
and other techniques of newspaper analysis. Nowhere did we find any method
remotely resembling the techniques used by TFP in its examination of New
Nation. We thus wrote to Gerbner who is one of the pioneers of content
analysis and who has worked with numerous communication scholars who use
such techniques. He has also co-authored a book with O Holsti, one of whose
publications was on the list drawn up by the National Party government
for the establishment of guidelines on assessing which newspapers or newspaper
reports were ‘subversive’.
Professor Gerbner responded to our queries about the methodology used by
TFP as follows: "Examination of TFP critique does not reveal application
of a systematic content analysis. It is not objective and representative
but selective, polemical and tendentious" (Letter, 11 December 1987; telex,
13 May 1988).
Neither does Holsti’s book suggest
that the TFP method has any validity whatsoever in academic practice. Significantly,
as will be shown, the only similarity to the TFP ‘method’ was found in
the ‘warnings’ sent newspapers by state agencies during the emergencies.
These warnings are intended to create a moral panic in response to accusations
that the press is what the government calls "revolution-supportive".
Moral panics occur within societies
when "a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become
defined as a threat to societal values and interests" (Cohen, 1972: 9).
Moral panics are presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by interests
threatened by conditions or groups antithetical to dominant processes.
In the case of New Nation, the moral
barricades were manned by National Party politicians, Stoffel Botha in
particular, editors of Afrikaans-language newspapers, right-wing newsletters,
reactionary elements of the various churches, Inkatha, socially accredited
conservative experts, SABC and organisations like Tradition, Family, Property.
These sources create the panic and then pronounce their diagnoses and solutions.
Moral panics result from societal
structures which generate problems for some of its members - like TFP and
sections of the state — and then condemn whatever solutions the ‘problem’
groups propose. The threat of the ‘communist bogey’ is an easily mobilised
one amongst whites in South Africa. ‘Communism’ is defined as the ‘problem’.
The solution to the problem was offered by New Nation but this solution
was condemned by TFP and the state.
There were significant similarities in
the modus operandi used by the state and TFP:
2) Second, having identified New Nation
as the ‘enemy’, articulating it publically as a folk devil, then,
3) Third, mobilise public opinion through
causing a moral panic amongst whites.
4) Fourth, use the moral panic as the reason for the Minister of Home Affairs to ‘refer’ the paper to the faceless group of academic ‘experts’ who will decide whether the paper is ‘revolution-supportive’ and ‘subversive’ etc. In other words, this committee has the function of endorsing the Minister’s opinion and thereby ‘scientifically’ legitimating his arbitrary selection. Having done this, the Minister can ban the paper for three months on the argument that the paper has transgressed impartial and dispassionate ‘scientific’ criteria.
Philosophy in the service of oppression: Logic and appearance
We will show how design and text interact
to confirm the worst fears of conservative white South African readers.
TFP achieves this by clothing its dogmatic, atheoretical, ahistorical and
unsubstantiated rhetorical message within the dominant ideological field
of seemingly ‘democratic’ discourse.
Let us first examine the TPF booklet’s
cover design. The framing red background is used overwhelmingly on both
front and back covers. Red, of course, is associated with ‘danger’, ‘blood’,
‘anger’ and most importantly, ‘communism’. The front cover highlights reduced
front pages of four different issues of New Nation. The pages are
set against what looks like a red earth located in space. The top left
hand side which is usually the first to be read contains the title of the
document in gold:
Taken on its own, ‘Liberation’ has positive
connotations of ‘freedom’ and spiritual expansion of apocalyptic proportions.
For the purposes of their ‘argument’, however, TFP need to negate these
associations. This they attempt to do with the word ‘sad’, carrying with
it dismal connotations of diminutive proportions. The ‘sad journey’ scales
down the claims of ‘liberation theology’, belittling it as pitiful rather
than affirmative. The ‘sad journey of the reader’ is mapped out in the
subtitle which reads: ‘Uneasiness’, ‘Perplexity’, ‘Disconcertedness’ and
‘Anguish’. These words are connected by vertical downward pointing arrows.
This is argument by proclamation - matter of statement rather than logical
The full citation of the ‘Catholic
Bishops’ Publishing Company’ in the title of the work also needs consideration.
Its inclusion is clearly an attempt to hold the Bishops culpable for the
production of New Nation, and by implication, its content. Since
the title of the ‘study’ has already equated New Nation with Liberation
Theology, the Bishops are also ‘tarnished’ with this doctrine. This will
have important consequences later in TFP’s ‘argument’, which will vilefy
‘liberation theology’, and thus by equation, will vilefy, and de-legitimise,
the position of the Bishops as well. Thus having disposed of the Bishops,
they are in a (spurious) position to present their own ‘argument’ as the
‘correct’, ‘accepted’ Catholic position.
At the bottom right of the front
cover is located the TFP’s emblem, a golden lion, encircled by the words
‘Tradition, Family, Property’. This sign entered Christian symbolism in
the Midddle Ages and, as a symbol of evangelists, came to be associated
with St Mark in particular (Cirlot, 1962: 182). The lion connotes ‘authority’
and ‘the Kingdom of God’. Gold is a substance equated with Kingdoms, wealth
and well-being. Thus the composite image of ‘gold’ plus ‘lion’ deploys
its connotation of ‘well-being’ and symbol of ‘ownership’ against the negative
connotations of ‘enslavement’ and ‘dispossession’ elicited by red ‘communist’.
This coat of arms connects with the TFP flag on the back cover. The flag
overlays a white map of Africa silloeted against a sea of red. This map
is a larger rendition of the map seen in the early New Nation masthead
which is black (reproduced on the front outside cover). This contrast of
white with black depictions of the map of Africa may be accidental. Alternatively,
it may encode the racist maxim that it is the historical task of whites
to save Africa from itself. Certainly, the interview conducted with the
Durban office of the TFP identified a thinly veiled racism in the verbal
talk and behaviour of the two male TFP members (interview, date).
Other booklets published by TFP,
and pp. 36-37 of the document, provide "A few milestones in the TFP crusade"
which spans "fifteen societies" in North and South America, Europe, Australia,
New Zealand and South Africa. Having done battle in these other countries,
the ‘crusade’ has finally reached Africa. The red in TFP’s flag has a different
reference to the red of ‘communism’ as it draws on the codes of heraldry
which developed in feudal times, well before communism. The TFP’s red ‘saves’
rather than destroys by clawing back the (ironically anachronistic feudal)
codes of order. This suggests images of the Church and feudal barons as
the protectors of ‘the people’ against hostile external forces. In the
present context, feudal barons could be interpreted as the ‘state’ and
the enemy as ‘communism’. This was, of course, a common theme on the state-run
SA Broadcasting Corporation during the 1980s.
The red of ‘red communist’ which
elicits the idea of ‘blood’ and ‘bloody revolution’ is connected to the
red in New Nation’s masthead, the red ‘content’ blocks at the bottom
of two of the front pages and the writing in blood "A Luta continua" above
the Cuban military cap. Red is thus used by the designers of the TFP booklet
to show how Africa has become encircled in a sea of communism and that
New Nation is a vehicle for the propagation of this insidious political
The front inside cover of the TFP
booklet contains a ‘letter’ written by a missionary priest, "G. Blanchard,
OMI", which sets the framework for the attack that is to follow. The letter
is privileged on the page in that the typeface is much larger than the
‘incriminating’ article extracts reproduced from the pages of New Nation
in the remainder of the document. It is also made to appear authentic by
a black border with the right hand side and lower edge darkened to create
a shadow effect. Interest in the letter is aroused by a quote at the top
of the page in which its author recommends the TFP document: "’THE New
Nation’ AND LIBERATION THEOLOGY sounds a welcome warning note against
this (emphasis added) process of theological erosion which New Nation
is pushing through". The link between this statement and the cover design
is facilitated by the bold headline: "FOR (sic) A MISSIONARY PRIEST:" and
the word "this" in the sentence that follows. The semantic function of
this link is to continue the emotionally established logic engendered by
the cover design’s play on colour connotations of political myths into
the written statements themselves. This is the form of the entire booklet.
The design skillfully ‘guides’ readers to the conclusions which the document’s
authors see as ‘correct’, and leads them in the direction of the authors’
interpretations of from New Nation as ‘subversive’, ‘false’ and
The letter serves to recommend the
TFP booklet as one that "sounds a welcome warning note against this process
of theological erosion which New Nation is pushing through". The
basis of its recommendation is the allegation that although New Nation
is published by the Bishops Conference, far from reflecting the mind of
the Catholic Church, it in fact propagates communism. This allegation is
powerfully conveyed through the use of the metaphor "wolf in sheep’s clothing".
However, New Nation at no point identifies itself as supportive
of communism, let alone as a communist mouthpiece. Hence Blanchard’s description
of New Nation, if it is to be anything more than a libellous accusation,
must be substantiated. Blanchard, however, cleverly absolves himself of
this need through recourse to rhetoric:
Blanchard then proceeds to claim that "a
regular reader of New Nation would eventually and insensibly become
practically a communist". Two assumptions underlie this claim: the first
is that New Nation is ‘communist’. The second assumption is that
texts are transparently decoded by readers. The view that audiences uncritically
adopt the points of view presented in the media they encounter is based
on the discredited deterministic sender/message/receiver model of communication
(Sless, 1986; White, 1985). This understanding of ‘communication’ is widely
criticised for its concentration on the level of message exchange to the
exclusion of context or an understanding of the complex relationship between
the encoding and decoding ends of the communication chain (Hall, 1980:
Stuart Hall identifies three different
ways in which readers respond to texts:
2) The second position, which Hall characterises
as the ‘negotiated’ position, is one where readers acknowledge the legitimacy
of the reference code in which the message has been encoded, but reserve
the right to make a more negotiated application to their own ideological
positions (Hall,1980: 137). The English press, for example, has made such
a response by accepting the right of New Nation to publish in terms
of the discourse of ‘freedom of the press’, but criticises (‘negotiates’)
the nature of its interpretations.
3) The third response is when the reader understands both the literal and connotative inflection given by a discourse but decodes the message in a globally different way (Hall,1980: 137). This is the position adopted by TFP with regard to New Nation, though it simultaneously arrogantly denies this lattitude to the readers of New Nation.
Hall’s explanation of the complexity of the communication process questions TFP’s prime assumption that cause-effect relationships exist between media and behaviour. To state that New Nation is a "powerful vehicle for revolutionary propaganda" and that "revolutionary propaganda has been used intensively to incite the Black majority", apart from being blatently racist, is mechanistic and scientifically unprovable and assumes the conservative position that the ‘masses’ are stupid and can’t think for themselves. Besides, the conditions on which New Nation reports were present for decades before the paper was first published. The ‘reality’ reported by New Nation has already been apprehended as reality by its readers and is not simply seen as a mediated reconstruction of social conditions.
The TFP document thus creates its
own unresearched projections of both authors (of New Nation) and
readers (of New Nation). These projections are based on assumptions
derived from a reading of New Nation as text in exclusion of political,
economic and social contexts. TFP does not offer a study of the relations
between New Nation and its readers and therefore its observations
of the behaviour of the paper’s readers cannot be taken seriously. TFP
is thus spuriously projecting its incorrect causative ideological interpretation
of a text into the supposed resulting revolutionary behaviour of unknown
readers. In other words, TFP’s projection of New Nation’s readers
as dupes of communism is not only inconsistent but totally wrong.
Elements in the text and layout combine
to present Blanchard as someone whose conclusions are beyond question.
While the letter is typeset, Blanchard’s signature is reproduced in blue
ink connoting both the importance of the author and the authenticity of
the letter. Blue is a ‘cool’ colour and with the box of biographical details
overlaid on blue next to his signature, reinforces the idea of ‘cool heads
need to prevail’. Thus the ‘cool logic’ symbolised by blue on the inside
front cover challenges the passionate red of the outside cover, and all
the negative connotations brought to bear with it. This is a technique
first developed by The Reader’s Digest marketing department to sell
its magazine by giving an impression of personal interest on the part of
the publisher. Again, the manipulation of colours and their juxtaposition
with the text propel a coherent reader interpretation in spite of the illogic
and confusion of the written statements.
In the letter Blanchard presents
himself as having made a special study of the philosophy of communism.
The boxed biography lists his credentials. He is identified as a ‘philosopher’,
a ‘university professor’ at a ‘black’ university in a ‘black’ country and
a scholar of religion. The intention is to establish this "Rev Fr" as the
pre-eminent ‘voice’ (of God) and as someone ‘who knows’, someone who has
the ‘correct’ interpretation of the Catholic Faith and ‘knows’ its enemy,
the philosophy of communism. As a teacher of "religion" of "41 years" standing,
his voice is the voice of ‘authority’ and ‘experience’. The blue background
symbolically adds to this authoritative naming of Blanchard a spurious
logic and hence, appearance of scientific precision.
Having set up the letter writer as
a Voice of Authority, Blanchard then defines communism in terms of allusion.
A ‘communist’ is one that the Reverend Father decides is a communist. No
other criterion is necessary; certainly not the definitions offered by
the originators of communism or contemporary commentators. Where they,
including New Nation, speak in "slogans" ‘for’ communism, the Rev
Fr speaks ‘logically’ ‘for’ the Catholic Church, ‘for’ Young South Africans
for a Christian Civilization, ‘for’ God. He cannot, then, be wrong.
The letter reveals three basic elements
in TFP’s attack on New Nation.
2) Secondly, ‘communism’ is presented as the
antithesis of Catholic doctrine.
3) Thirdly, uncertainty is created in the mind of the reader by suggesting that even people who consider themselves "good catholics" could also be ‘communists’ without their knowledge.
Blanchard’s attack has both emotional and intellectual impact. Not only does it try to create uncertainty amongst Catholics as to the legitimacy of alternative "solutions" with regard to social, political and economic problems, but it is also inflammatory, seeking to incite a moral panic among Catholics who read New Nation.
The title page opposite Blanchard’s
letter repeats the written information from the cover in bolder type and
reinforces the chain of ‘logic’ set in motion. This is continued in the
"Table of Contents" which cynically mobilises communist folk devils i sion.
TFP, of course, fails to mention that the wars in Southern Africa were
"linked" because of South Africa’s military strategy of aggression and
de-stabilization. TFP follows its leading comment with endless quotes extracted
from New Nation, citing these as ‘proof’ of its accusations. It
then tries to naturalise its arguments with statements like "It is common
knowledge" (pp. 9, 15, 21), "’So be it!’" (p. 8), "we have already seen"
(p. 17) an so on.
On p. 4 are two maps, one of Southern
Africa and one of apartheid South Africa. The frontline states are described
as ‘Marxist Dictatorship’ (Angola, Mozambique), ‘Marxist Government’ (Zimbabwe),
‘Socialist’ (Zambia), ‘Monarchy’ (Lesotho, Swaziland) etc. No definitions
are offered on these simplistic categories. Significantly, Unita is shown
on the map but not defined. A boxed definition of "Homelands" is offered
to explain the second map. Though we are told that the ‘independent homelands’
have not been recognised by the United Nations, it appears that this political
status is recognised by TFP.
The unlikely ‘communist’ slogans "repeated"
by the Canadian mass media aside (Blanchard’s letter), TFP’s understanding
of communism is akin to MacCarthyesque witch hunters: communism is anything
or anybody with which or whom they disagree.
Throughout the document, ‘Communism’,
‘Marxism’ ‘historical materialism’, ‘marxist materialism’, ‘International
Communism’ and ‘socialism’ are confused, and used interchangeably. This
conflation facilitates the meshing of the four terms into the consolidated
concept of ‘Soviet aggression’, with the intention of frightening readers
of New Nation into the government’s pro-apartheid camp. So confused
and generalised are the definitions used by TFP that they must either be
naive or thought out with a cynical rhetorical-propogandistic intent. Any
competent social scientist knows there are vast differences, even conflicts,
between these theoretical categories, political systems and Soviet policy.
To simply collapse them into one homogeneous idea shows an utter lack of
analytical rigour. Such simplification is explicitly illustrated on page
28 of the TFP document. There we read about certain debates within Marxism,
about the strategy of populism, taken out of context and then elevated
to the status of a "communist strategic blueprint". TPF does not seem to
be aware of critiques of these concepts. The political strategy of coopting
"useful innocents" and "objective allies" (p. 28) is not confined to Communism.
Indeed, we would counter-argue that TFP are the "useful innocents" and
"objective allies" of the apartheid state.
A similar rhetorically simplistic
conflation of terminology is evident in the use of the terms ‘Captialism’
and ‘Free-Enterprise’. This enables TFP to imply that Catholicism ‘naturally’
supports free enterprise and capitalism (p. 26). The statement that capitalism
emanates from "human nature itself" is a remarkable example of crude social
Darwinism and biological determinism assigned by myth. Here, the myth of
the ladder (hard work results in personal success) is proposed as ‘natural’
and ‘the way things are’ in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary
provided by both academic sources and New Nation.
Discredited and unacademic sources
such as the Aida Parker Newsletter are presented as ‘truth’. On
page 21, for example, TFP refers to the Aida Parker Newsletter to
‘prove’ the so-called link between the African National Congress (ANC)
and Communism. In fact, references to Parker litter the TFP ‘study’ throughout.
Parker, who has no academic or journalistic credibility, was severely censured
by the Newspaper Press Union’s (NPU) Media Council for grossly inaccurate
reporting and found guilty of violating the Council’s Code of Conduct in
attacking the End Conscription Campaign in April 1986. Parker made the
same sort of libelous and untrue allegations against the ECC as TFP makes
on New Nation. Because Parker is not a member of the NPU, the Council’s
findings had no legal force, but such was Parker’s contempt of the authority
of the Council, that she did not even bother to be present at the hearings
or appoint someone to represent her.
The TFP booklet (like Parker) simply
ignores the complexity of the ANC and the fact that the ANC incorporates
a wide range of political opinion. To label it as communist because it
contains some communists (who used "useful innocents") is a red herring.
In the case of SWAPO, TFP were apparently so short of evidence that they
had to refer to another TFP document to convince readers that SWAPO is
a tool of the Soviets (p. 25). The fact that they had printed 59 000 of
these was presented as ‘evidence’ (p. 29). One of the more amazing pseudo-academic
claims is: "South African Blacks better off than Russian workers" (p. 24).
The claim is, of course, referenced, though the comparison is scientifically
untenable. Firstly, one cannot collapse categories such as ‘Moscovite’
into ‘Johannesburg blacks’ since the latter category includes all classes
including those more affluent than workers. Secondly, ‘Johannesburg blacks’
are the most affluent in South Africa and so are not representative of
the whole country. Thirdly, per capita measurements of wealth are valid
only when compared within countries. It is this sort of pseudo-argumentation
which underlies the distortions found in the TFP booklet.
A similarity exists between certain of
the TFP and the South Afican state’s highly dubious definitions. The Internal
Security Act (1982), for example, defined communism as any
The state’s definition of communism
thus permits the declaration of activities, organisations and people as
‘communist’ even if they are not even remotely connected to the concept
as originally expounded in the Communist Manifesto, or by Marx,
Lenin, Tse-tung and so on. This is the method of demonisation used by TFP
against New Nation and anybody who disagrees with their ‘analysis’,
which will probably include the writers of this report.
The authors of the TFP booklet claim
that they do "not pretend to concern (themselves) with possible conflicts
between the material published by New Nation and South African legislation",
that they "lack the necessary specialised knowledge" (p. 3). Despite this
disclaimer, TFP’s assumptions show an undeniable similarity to legislation
and the position adopted by the South African government on the ‘so-called’
alternative press which from mid-1987 it labelled as the "revolution-supportive"
A comparison of the TFP booklet with ‘warnings’
sent New Nation by the Directorate of Media Relations, the Directorate
of Publications and other state agencies shows a remarkable coincidence
of assumptions, phrases, allegations and even sentence structure. In an
interview with TFP (Durban), Dias Wellington showed a Unit researcher copies
of letters written to TFP by the State President and Mr C Heunis in which
they commended them for their work. Indeed, TFP even took credit for the
government’s banning of New Nation in March 1988, claiming that
the government had based its decision on the TFP report (see also The
Citizen). TFP claimed that "at no stage in the work had the government
been asked as such to act against the newspaper" but despite its unsuccessful
appeal to the Pope to ban the paper "noted regret on the need for the banning".
This expression of regret fits in well with the government’s strategy to
make it appear that bannings of newspapers are the fault of the papers’
owners rather than the government (CCSU, 1988).
We compared the TFP booklet with
(1) the document issued by the Directorate of Publications listing reasons
for declaring undesirable the Vol 2 No 6 and Vol 2 No 7 editions of New
Nation; and (2) the letter from the Minister of Home Affairs informing
New Nation of the Minister’s intention to gazette a warning against
the newspaper. (Both documents are appended.) Our analysis showed that
the main thrust of both the state’s attack on the progressive press and
New Nation and the TFP’s attack on New Nation is the argument
that New Nation is being mobilised to serve the interests of Soviet
Imperialism. This argument rests on firstly, the assumption that the struggle
against the National Party government is a manifestation of Soviet Imperialism;
secondly, that the progressive press among other forces incites violent
revolution; and thirdly, that a conspiracy exists between the progressive
press and the forces of communist imperialism. Both the TFP and the state
erect these assumptions into universal truths through invoking the dominant
conservative myths, through an appeal to emotions and through inductive
That the state’s method of attack is generalized
on the basis of a few selected quotes and articles is clearly revealed
in the letter of warning issued in terms of the regulations published by
Proclamation R123. The Minister of Home Affairs states that "I have examined
a series of three issues of your periodical New Nation", and lists
them. No explanation is given of how the issues were chosen nor is there
any indication of what analytical criteria were applied. The Minister concluded
that there was a "systematic and repeated publishing of matter which has,
or is calculated to have one or more of the effects contemplated by regulation
The Minister’s application of suspect
inductive argument is identical to that used by TFP. TFP states that New
Nation’s "concurrence of ideological and tactical viewpoint with Communism
may be discerned from the cumulative effect of the items comprising this
analysis" (p. 5). TFP acknowledge that the texts from New Nation
reproduced in the document to illustrate each of their arguments are "invariably
samples". No indication is however given of any scientifically valid method
of sampling. We are not told how TFP chose which editions of New Nation
to examine. Nor do they appear to have attempted to evaluate what percentage
of the total content (of the sample they did not define) reflects the points
of view New Nation is alleged to propagate. Nor do they specify
any scientific criterion, for example, a threshold frequency on the basis
of which one may conclude a concurrence of viewpoint with Communism. While
failing to provide a scientific justification for their choice of texts
they proceed to argue that the samples are "indicative, in our view, of
a general line". They further state that "even in dealing with subjects
treated sparingly by the newspaper, the samples chosen remain valid because
they express the same general line" (p. 5).
Both TFP and the Minister of Home
Affairs thus use unspecified samples of text to substantiate allegations
against New Nation. As mentioned previously, most chapters of the
TFP document are headed by statements about New Nation. For example,
Chapter 3, is headed "Involvement in class struggle - Systematic scorn
of capitalism, favouring socialism" The allegation is that in its coverage
of events in the subcontinent New Nation shows support for what
TFP describes as "Soviet aggression" (p. 7). The gist of the argument is
that SWAPO, Frelimo, the MPLA and the ANC all constitute the "long arm
of Russia in this region". In failing to mention Soviet aggression, New
Nation is accused of "unveiled sympathy" for these organisations which
shows an affinity with the perspectives of International Communism. TFP’s
position depends almost entirely on the series of quotes from New Nation
which follow it. These quotes are inserted to testify to the ‘truth’ of
the TFP’s argument.
The letter from the Department of
Home Affairs adopts the same method of attack as that of the TFP. For example,
paragraph 3 of the letter lists several items from New Nation which
in the Minister’s opinion "has, or is calculated to have the effect of
promoting or fanning revolution or uprising in the Republic or acts aimed
at the overthrow of the Government otherwise than by constitutional means"
(page 2 of appended letter). Hence the Minister’s opinion is simply stated
and news items listed to give an impression of some scientific basis to
the arbitrary statements.
The state, like TFP, capitalises on dominant
conservative myths in its attempts to verify its otherwise unsubstantiated
accusations. For example, the Directorate of Publications objected to an
article on the front page of New Nation, Vol 2 No 6 because the
article empathises with the street committees in their struggle against
vigilantes. It substantiates the alleged illegality of New Nation’s
position through the folk devil labelling of the street committees as the
"revolusionere organisasie" (revolutionary organisation). The Directorate
thus draws on the myth of ‘revolution’ to discredit street committees and
hence New Nation for its support of them. Similarly, the Directorate
attacks New Nation for reporting a PLO congress in the same edition
for giving publicity to the PLO’s attempt to forge unity among its various
factions. The illegality of reporting on the activities of the PLO is questionable.
However, the Directorate through describing the PLO as "’n mede-terreur
organisasie van die ANC" (a fellow terrorist organisation of the ANC),
and in this way invoking the myth of terrorism, is able to absolve itself
from the need to account for the arbitrariness of its power to decide who
newspapers may, or may not, give publicity to.
The Directorate also takes issue
with a picture of Miriam Makeba on the front page of the Vol 2 No 7 edition.
It states that "op bladsy 1 verskyn ‘n drie-kolom kleur-foto van Miriam
Makeba, ‘n aktiewe ondersteuner van die ANC, in die ere-posisie op die
voorblad" (a three-column, colour photo of Miriam Makeba, an active supporter
of the ANC, is placed in a prominent position on the front page). Makeba
is discredited because of her (in this article, unstated) support of the
folk-devil organisation, the ANC. In choosing to privilege her photograph,
New Nation was censured by the Directorate for indirectly promoting
The Directorate refers to an article on
Fidel Castro in Vol 2 No 6 and mentions that the article deals with Castro’s
call for a reawakening among the Cuban people of the spirit that made the
Cuban revolution possible. The Directorate then proceeds to make the following
emotional statement: "Kan iemand so naif wees as om to beweer dat Castro
en Kuba niks met Suid Afrika to doen het nie, en hierdie sommer ‘n gewone
nuusberig is?" (Can anyone be so naive as to suggest that Castro and Cuba
have nothing to do with South Africa, a nisation, its revitalisation of
heraldic symbols, its reference to the words of Pope’s long gone, its autocratic
values and its fear of the modern age are all indicated in its publications.
The second kind of response, one
in which New Nation can be located, "is that collectively the Church
has wanted to take a longer, more profound look at this (the media) phenomenon
in order to understand and appreciate its full significance for human development
and development in faith" (p. 35) "... One sees in the Catholic media humanism
and the great influence of the second Vatican Council, especially the Pastoral
Constitution of the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). In this
sense, the Second Vatican Council has been of great significance for opening
the culture of contemporary Catholicism to the new world of the mass popular
media run by the laity. Now, this argument may not sway TFP or Stoffel
Botha, but it does provide the SACBC with reassurance that they did the
right thing by establishing and funding New Nation. They should,
therefore, not be intimidated in any way by TFP.
examination of a variety of Christian journals on media and Catholic writings
on media show a remarkable sympathy for the modus operandi developed by
New Nation and for group media. These include the publications of
the World Association for Christian Communication, the Jesuit Centre for
the Study of Communication and Culture, SONOLUX and Group Media Journal,
the Catholic Media Council, amongst others.
Barthes, R. 1972: Mythologies. Jonathan Cape, London.
Biernatzki, W.E. (S.J.): Catholic Communication Research: Topics and a Rationale. The Research Facilitator Unit for Social Communication, London.
Cirlot, J.E. 1962: A Dictionary of Symbols. Philosophical library, New York.
Cohen, S. 1972: Folk Devils and Moral Panics. London.
Dulles, A. 1983: Models of Revelation. Doubleday, New York.
Fiske, J. Introduction to Communication Studies.
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