Senekal last week had nothing to do with solutions. It was all about politicians’ testosterone. It was all about politicians’ egos. What useful idea came out of all that heat and noise generated by all those politicians in Senekal last week? There is nothing. Nothing that makes SA a better place. Nothing that leads us to a better understanding of race relations in SA after 1994. Nothing that is a solution to farm murders – many of whose victims are poorly paid, desperate black people – or a solution to the incredibly horrendous murder and crime problem in this country.
Because of the way our constitution is skewed towards the incumbent government, for a lot of the time the press is a de facto form of opposition. New Labourites would routinely refer to the editor of the Daily Mail as ‘the most powerful man in the country’. That was an exaggeration, and it described something whose effects were almost entirely malign; and yet we would miss this countervailing force if it were gone. Governments are constantly accumulating more power: one of the most glaring trends in the last 30 years of political history is that all governments arrogate more power to themselves, even when (it’s tempting to say ‘especially when’) their ideology is overtly right-wing and explicitly anti-government. The press is just about the only force which resists that, and for that reason alone it is now a necessary component of modern democracy. Without it our democracy would head the way that papers themselves risk heading, and become hollowed out, with the external apparatus of democratic machinery but without the informed electorate which the press helps create. And one beauty of the current arrangement is that it functions without the press having to be well-meaning or high-minded. – John Lancchester in the London Review of Books on the UK printed media.BACK TO TOP