I don’t like President Zuma. I think he’s vacuous, weak and unscrupulous. That said, when the Daily Mail launched a bilious attack on the man ahead of his arrival in London I felt the stirrings of indignant, patriotic rage. He is the head of state, my head of state — and while I’m all for taking potshots at power, the Daily Mail‘s attack felt based more on malice and contempt for cultural “otherness” than a substantive unease about the man’s politics and policies.
While Zuma’s lifestyle undoubtedly can raise eyebrows, the paper’s tone and choice of words seemed aimed to insult as much as possible. It also seemed determined to pass moral judgment on President Zuma’s polygamy. In my view, a newspaper’s role is not to pass judgment, but to report on “the news” objectively and accurately (as far as possible — as achieving the two are elusive but worth striving to achieve).
But objectivity and accuracy are aims that only credible newspapers hold. For others, including the Daily Mail, credibility is not the point: reinforcing the prejudices and petty snobberies of its readership is. For these sad creatures, buying such a paper is not to keep informed, but to have their own sullied, bigoted views of the world confirmed so that they can live in a state of smug superiority.
Much has been said about the British press’s coverage of President Zuma and his visit to the UK. The views that most mirror my own were those expressed in a Business Day editorial on Thursday:
MANY thousands of South Africans gave their lives for the freedom of Britain in the two great wars of the last century. Britain is one of this country’s main trading partners and the single biggest source of foreign tourists to our country. We have sporting links that go back more than a hundred years and South Africans have enriched English literature and science.
So it is appalling to have to witness the reception President Jacob Zuma has received on his state visit to the UK, from sections of the British media.
Zuma has been pilloried because of the chaotic state of his private life. But you would think British journalists would know better.
After all, wasn’t it the last Conservative prime minister of that country who we now know was screwing one of his cabinet ministers while still in office? Wasn’t it the heir to the British throne who told a woman over the telephone he wished he was one of her tampons? Wasn’t it the British Parliament and the House of Lords that were hit last year with proof that dozens of British politicians had lied about their expenses and stolen money from the taxpaying public?
The British body politic is without peer when it comes to sex scandals and moral or financial hypocrisy and the sight of leading British newspapers having a go at Zuma for his lapses of virtue is sickening.
Let us help you guys in Fleet Street with a little news. Life in SA, even under Zuma, is, trust us, a lot better than in the UK. Sure Zuma’s imperfect. He may even be a lousy leader. But he’s our lousy leader. We’ll deal with him. When UK politicians visit here we’ll be sure to treat them with respect.