Is it really Xenophobia?

By Sicelo Fayo

Taking on the news media on any of its activities or beliefs is always a bad idea at the best of times. SA News Media in particular is highly sensitive to criticism, just or not!

However, to the extent that News Media essentially not only informs (a fairly broad and subjective term) but also has a massive perpetual influence on what the rest of us do, think, eat and say, or even when we should rest or sleep; it owes it to itself to also be informed and take our views of it, good as sometimes will be or simply caustic as should occur occasionally.

‘XENOPHOBIA’ – a currently popular narrative is a case in point. The more I consume news media information on the topic and noting specifically the blatant superficiality of it all, the more I am convinced the discourse is off-course. Horrible crime by a marauding gang of criminals, is taking place out there with mostly innocent people from South Africa and the continent, being murdered,or maimed and scores of others displaced and yet the theme held aloft by our news elevates this criminality into an almost justifiable cause!

Calling it ‘xenophobia’ is exactly what it does – elevating blatant criminality to a somewhat understandable national cause but whose only blemish is its bankruptcy of morality.

Reading for example, Barney Mthombothi and Gareth von Onselen’s columns (Sunday Times,19th April 2015 ) among others, this morning I looked carefully to find how news media settled on the description, and all there is to its dramatic gesticulation on speculation, extrapolation and sometimes downright innuendo.

Of course, the rest of us take for granted what the news media call it, and are little bothered to even dare question it (as that is truly daunting to being almost scary), we instead conveniently use its bland justification to justify our acquired belief of the news media description as correct.

Yes a most horrific crime is being committed and we, inclusive of the State, should do everything in our power to nip it in the bud. Critically, no one should be allowed to commit these atrocities in our name, and yes, calling this crime ‘xenophobia’ justifies it in our name.

Before responding, please share with me the name, term or word we (including the news media) give to a ‘foreigner’ who murders a local person. What do we call that crime?

I’d love to call on a few media practitioners I have as Facebook friends to weigh-in but that would amount to forcing their hand into a discussion they may not readily want to engage in. Yet, their views would be most welcome.

Sicelo Fayo is an experienced journalist and intellectual based in the Eastern Cape. He writes in his personal capacity.

3 Comments on Is it really Xenophobia?

  1. Thank you. I think the article is particularly striking as it takes the gaze away from the “poor” victim in this case, and shows the SA Media as 1 version of a story with potentially many points of view. A brave and very sobering initiative given the “horrific” nature of events. It seems to be forcing us to step away from our horror and condemnation–feelings, although of good intent, have become too easy for the public at-large.

  2. sorry, but this is silly. when the king says get the foreigners and mobs descend it is both criminality and hatred of other types of people, uitlanders, xenophobia. the media should stop calling people locals and foreigners if they want not to fan the flames

  3. I think you’ve missed the point of the article. The article was turning the attention towards the reporting which, one may argue, is as important as the incident itself. Perhaps its implication, if any, is that we need a media that speaks and sees from different perspectives and offers a range of narratives on events that have happened.

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