The right loves to characterise the left as “snowflakes” – oversensitive and hysterical “social justice warriors” who can’t take a joke. This would suggest that they see themselves as being unflappable ambassadors of logic and reason who are motivated only by the facts, never letting emotion get in the way. Engagement with them often proves this is far from true, though.
A case in point is AfriForum’s reaction to a story on their upcoming book “Kill the Boer” the Citizen featured today.
The story did not say whether the book is right or wrong. It provided a cursory look at the book’s allegation that members of the ANC’s top 6 had personally given orders to murder a specific farmer – an accusation I’m sure AfriForum realise will cause significant controversy if they don’t have proof of it.
Apart from that the story, by Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni, simply reported the fact that the book upset the EFF and others, who also commented on it. The story was referenced in one of The Citizen’s posters on Tuesday with the headline “’Kill the boer’ book rage”.
This was enough, though, to send Ernst Roets, the author and AfriForum’s deputy CEO, and his followers into a frenzy.
“Think about this for a moment… The book isn’t even out yet and people are already trying to convince you not to read it!” said Roets in a tweet that was unsurprisingly picked up on by his followers, who reacted to our story with predictable contempt.
The idea that simply reporting that a book has caused outrage would convince anyone not to read it is ridiculous. Controversy is not usually something known for having an adverse effect on book sales.
It usually has just the opposite effect – just look at the trajectory of Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers, soon to be a television show, which was propelled to sales usually unheard of in SA after the State Security Agency demanded it be withdrawn.
Similar books about Zuma’s alleged corruption, such as Adriaan Basson and Pieter du Toit’s Enemy of the People or Robin Renwick’s How to Steal a Country were not blessed with the same amount of attention from the state and, as a result, did not achieve the same massive sales.
Unless they are pathetically naive, AfriForum must know their book will be controversial to some. I doubt they think they will be selling this book to anyone who is not already at least sympathetic to, if not a full-blown supporter, of their cause.
Predictably, many black South Africans will be outraged by the book, as will many left-leaning white South Africans, while AfriForum’s significant support base will lap it up, buying it and praising what they will see as its brave uncovering of “the truth”. Any negative coverage it receives on the left will only boost its appeal on the right.
Roets probably knows this, and is leveraging the negative publicity the book will inevitably receive to rile up his supporters to head out and get a copy. In other words, just as left-wing Twitter mobs are often accused of faking outrage, I do not believe that Roets is at all genuine in his anger at the coverage the book has received so far.
The irony that some who use the term “social justice warrior” are themselves engaged in a battle for what they see as social justice is lost on many who use it.
According to such people, those who fight gender inequality, racism towards black people or the policies of US and European governments when it comes to refugees and immigrants are “social justice warriors”, a term evoking whining armchair activists endlessly complaining online.
That description, though, is also perfect for many of AfriForum’s supporters.
Both are fighting for what they consider to be social justice, and both do it with equal emotion and fervour. The irony and hypocrisy of calling others “social justice warriors” while you yourself are engaged in a battle for the rights of white people in South Africa is apparently lost on them.
Many on the South African right hold a viewpoint largely predicated on the idea that white people are treated unfairly, an oppressed minority whose rights get trampled upon without recourse. Surely that makes them the biggest snowflakes of all.