by Margot Stewart, September 2014
This weekend I was reminded of some lyrics from a popular 70’s song called “American Pie” by Don McLean: “But something touched me deep inside…the day the music died.”
This weekend I lost faith in my country and had my last few illusions shattered.
Here in South Africa on TV we have “Carte Blanche”, an investigative journalism program that airs on M-Net during prime time viewing on Sunday nights. It was launched in 1988 and has earned credibility amongst South African viewers for its investigation into corruption, consumer issues and current events.
So brilliant were the exposé that were revealed on the program I believed that if it was ever cancelled it would be a barometer of the political health of the country and maybe time to consider getting out – if one could.
Last night, on “Carte Blanche” I saw how a friend of mine was unfairly pulled down in what can only be described as a “hatchet job”. Because I know the true facts of the story I watched in horror how a slick version of misrepresented information was broadcast to the nation in a masterful demonstration of propaganda.
So slick in fact that to the misinformed it seemed like another timely warning for the citizens of this country to take heed of. The impression it gave is that the authorities know what is right and have everything under control and are acting in the best interests of the country.
It’s a scary thought to realise how meticulously this pillorying of my friend was planned. Somewhere, sometime, some people sat around a table and plotted in detail what was needed to discredit a person who they deemed was standing in the way of them making a huge amount of money.
First of all they would need to drum up “scientific proof”; they would need a few well known faces to be interviewed that would use catch words that would subtly undermine their target. They need to be rehearsed; confident and bold while portraying their target as unsure and guilty.. using clever editing of course.
Their target would be given the opportunity to defend themselves but again, clever editing would leave out the most important facts of their defence and always, always, always the attacker has to have the last say to drive home the point they want to make.
This is exactly what happened to the Rhino Rescue Project (RRP) on Carte Blanche last night.
- Sam Ferreira began by mentioning a “peer reviewed scientific report”, thereby trying to establish credibility. Now we on the rhino pages know that there is no such thing available. Was it drummed up with this TV program in mind? Will we ever see it? Does it matter.. because in the minds of the viewers it already exists.. . they heard it on TV!
- Then they showed the worst possible aspects of RRP’s journey over the past few years. For example the death of Spencer the rhino during the demonstration of the process to the media. (To this day I cannot believe how convenient Spencer’s death was to the pro-trade campaign). In the TV program they accentuated the possibility of people dying from poisoned horn when we know that the ectoparasitic is only toxic, not fatal, to humans. When I asked Lorinda why her vet Charles van Niekerk didn’t explain this better during his interview for the program she said “He did! It was edited out”. As was most of Lorinda’s own explanation that the cost of the procedure barely covers expenses.
- They showed the pictures of the cross sections of treated horn with Sam Ferreira crowing how it’s obvious that the horns are not infused. They did allow Lorinda to say that the origin of some of the horns were suspect but they downplayed that and followed it with more photos of horn – which by the way showed definite staining of a pink hue and a greenish yellow mottling. Why didn’t they provide a photo of raw, untreated horn as a comparison? Because this way the public would just accept their opinion.
- At one stage Lorinda mentions that she has also obtained scientific advice from an expert analytical chemist Dr. Hein Strauss, who has disputed all SANParks findings and I became quite excited thinking that he was about to be interviewed.
Instead they cut back to Sam Ferreira of SANParks!
As upsetting as the program was to those who know the truth, I guess it has worth in that it is a prime example of how propaganda can be used to manipulate the public. How disappointing it is to finally have definite proof that the “machine” that runs this country is so corrupt and deceitful.
I hope that Rhino Rescue Project takes the matter further, possibly even as far as litigation to prove that their procedure does have merit and is a viable solution to degrade rhino horn.
But we know they will have an uphill battle against government and pro-trade wildlife ranchers who are only interested in converting the horn stockpiles into cash… …one way or another.
Their intention to propose for permission to trade horn at CITES is an attempt to do it legally, whereas we all know that they are not unopposed to doing it illegally – as they have been for decades.