Barry Bateman. Picture: Video screenshot
I’ve never met Barry Bateman, nor do I have any professional or any other relationship with the guy.
I do, however, feel just slightly distressed at the treatment he has received following his unfortunate incident involving the leader of the country’s leading social media hivemind.
Poor Barry has not only been made to apologise to an entire nation after being caught expressing his feelings about the leader of the red onesie brigade, but he has also been suspended for a month, without pay.
All for something he mumbled under his breath, after he had switched off his own microphone and understandably assumed that he had completed his interview with one of the country’s most divisive figures.
The very same divisive figure, who while he led the youth wing of the governing party was censured for an outburst in which he berated a journalist.
That same revolutionary leader who referred to what the journalist in question had “covered in that trouser” as “rubbish” while berating him for his “white tendencies”, and calling him a “small boy” and a “bastard”.
Yeah. That guy.
The one who had been dragged to court and lost for threats made against journalists, and who once said he wasn’t calling for the killing of white people. Yet.
You know the one, right?
The one who once referred to Indian people by the derogatory term makula, and continues to stoke racial tensions with his comments about Indian people.
He’s the same dude who moments before Barry’s outburst, had cockily answered a question saying he wished he had beaten a white cop that he was accused of having assaulted.
“Boet,” he told Bateman. “Uniform or no uniform. Afrikaner or no Afrikaner. White or pink! I deal with you! Decisively.”
And now here we are. All getting our knickers in a knot because after facing a response like that, a journalist referred to that guy using the dutch word for a kitty cat.
I had all but forgotten about the incident.
In the bigger scheme of things, this was a non-story, especially considering the daily mess which is South Africa, and which newsrooms are expected to wade through.
This week we were reminded of it, when Bateman issued an apology and revealed the punishment his organisation has decided on.
It appears that instead of backing their journalist, and standing behind him for something which was not said on air, nor during his actual interaction with the politician, they decided to cave to pressure from the mindless trolls on social media.
Instead of questioning why this particular politician habitually insults journalists and gets away with it, they decided to punish their man for something that was caught on another outlet’s hot mic.
This makes me worried for all journalists.
Do we now have to start checking our surroundings and making sure none of our colleagues are wired before we start expressing our personal opinions among ourselves or under our breaths to ourselves?
Have our newsrooms now become so beholden to trolls and the woke crowds that our editors will throw their own under the bus to keep them happy?
If that is the case, we might as well scrap the fourth estate, and simply abdicate the responsibility of disseminating news to the know-it alls on social media, and their misinformed leaders.
You know the ones I’m talking about, right?
Now, if only there was a word to accurately describe them.
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