Friday, February 11, 2011

In The Realm of the Censors

I Have Been Wrong ~ Martin Stranka

‘Cos Papa don’t allow no new ideas here
And now he sees the news but the pictures not too clear
Mama Papa stop.
Treasure what you got
Soon you may be caught
without it
The curfew’s set for eight
Will it ever all be straight
I doubt it

- Rodriguez

Just for the record: Apartheid is correctly pronounce apart-hate, not apart-height.

South Africa’s Nationalist government resisted the institution of a television in South Africa until the mid 70’s, proclaiming it a dangerous (evil) medium. Ironically it was only once they’d introduced state TV to the country that they reached their true heights of propaganda, realising it could be used to their advantage as long as they maintained absolute control over what was broadcast.
Absolute control is what they tried to establish; non-state broadcasting was prohibited and programming was kept under the vigilant eye of the censors. The nightly serving of the imaginatively named South African Broadcasting Company (SABC) showed us a dangerous world, where the only safe and peaceful place was South Africa. Political debate was of the scripted variety and interviews with politicians were strictly controlled with all questions being submitted for review prior to the interview taking place.

For the Nationalist Party Patriarchy respect for authority was high on their agenda, since a population with a fearful respect would be less likely to question that authority. Young men were brought up to respect women, to open the door for her; not to swear in front of her; the sort of superficial bullshit which admittedly most woman do find appealing. The reality of course was that there was very little real respect for anybody, least of all woman, in the realm of Apartheid.
Nevertheless we were required to respect authority, our prime ministers were addressed by two initials and a surname, D.H. Malan, P.W. Botha, F.W. DeKlerk, and let’s not forget B.J. Vorster whose initials were not funny in any way; his regime was one of the most brutal, effectively defining the ‘hate’ in Apartheid; fellatio was, after all, illegal.
These were our leaders - unquestionable, unapproachable, gods in black suits and hats.
These authorities were paid-up members of Die Broederbond (The Brotherhood) which was a sort of Afrikaaner Masonic society and many of the older members had been members of, and had been imprisioned during WWII for being members of the Ossewabrandwag (Oxwagon Fire Dept), an Afrikaner organisation that sympathised with the Nazis. This will perhaps give some indication of what sort of nationalism we were dealing with.
On Sundays they would attend kerk in their dark suits and hats, which they would doff to the ladies – whites only, of course, while during the week they would legislate to enhance their powers while paranoidly denying all citizens the right to think for themselves.
South Africa was declared a strongly Christian country: gambling was illegal, except for the state owned Tote, where good upstanding citizens could have a flutter in the horses (nothing too ungodly there, just good Christian fun). Blasphemy was strongly censored, as was nudity, and all things sexual. Of course any media that even hinted at political/sexual/religious diversity was banned.

This climate of censorship, (books, magazines, newspapers, movies, television programs) seemed to instil in the white population a perverse sort of self-censorship, we daren’t think that there may be something wrong with the way we lived, on the contrary, it was in our interest to believe that everybody else was wrong, their evil gambling ways, their homosexuals, atheists and communists and loose moral standards were the road to chaos and upheaval – we were good people.

The censors were not infallible – things got through, if you were willing to look for it – you could find banned literature if you trawled through the second-hand bookshops, you could hear things that the censors had missed in songs or see things they’d missed in the movies; and somebody’s dad could always be relied upon to have some hardcore porn in his bottom drawer.
Music especially drew attention to the fact that there was more to life than the South African Way.

Censorship created in the white population a climate of ignorance, an unwillingness to tolerate the unusual, a narrow minded mental laziness. There were those amongst us who were willing to fight the system, and many of them suffered exile, house arrest, brutality and death at the hands of the various agencies of state. My courage did not extend that far, being willing only to be a un-guided non-conformist and to argue with my work colleagues whenever they exposed their ignorant prejudices.
It’s difficult to be a revolutionary when you don’t even know such a thing exists.

Anyone who believes such blatant and essentially unsophisticated propaganda is easy to spot from those living under its umbrella should not be fooled. Anyone who doesn’t believe that they are being manipulated by what they are fed has been overcome by the sedative effect of television.
Every government will use the media to its advantage and ownership of that media, while making output easier to control, is not necessary. The use of propaganda in Europe is varied in its subtlety but nevertheless used on a daily basis to align and channel public opinion through the gates of political will.

When presented with political news I no longer ask myself whether this is propaganda, but merely: What is the agenda?


Confessions of a Temporal Lobe said...

I've often wondered how many sacred agendas, weren't so sacred after all.

Have a great weekend.

Yodood said...

IF Stone reminded his journalism students upon graduation, "Politicians lie!".

Pisces Iscariot said...

CoaTL: sacred agendas are the worst kind ;]

Yodood:"Politicians lie!" - only when there lips are moving.