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2010 fifa world cup faces propaganda threat from foreign hacks

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By Iqbal Jassat – Chairperson: Media Review Network

Soccer’s premier international event has ensured that South Africa is in international news media’s constant spotlight. Whether the stories revolve on President Zuma’s polygamous lifestyle or on-going labour related strikes, as citizens of this country we have learnt to expect that our country will attract disproportionate media attention.

The presence of most international media houses in bureaus across many cities in South Africa has been reinforced in anticipation of being stretched resource-wise during the 2010 soccer festival. Their challenge will be to provide their respective audiences with on-the-spot commentaries as well as analysis.

Commenting on soccer will probably be their mainstay that naturally will be interpreted by ardent supporters as either favourable or not. However as is the nature of sport, many arguments between rival support-groups will be settled before the next whistle signals a fresh kick-off. Some disputes may linger on resulting in unfortunate and entirely unnecessary violence. Hooliganism arising from intolerance may therefore appear as dominant lead stories for media. But it’s the question of analysis that bothers me. Sport journalists are possibly well informed regarding the rules of soccer, but are they – or at least some of them – equally proficient in analyzing complex socio-economic and political issues? One can expect that foot-in-mouth politicians will inevitably give rise to reports that in turn may be construed as hostile by party hacks. Questions about the motives of foreign journalists will thus be raised, as frantic moves will be made to divert attention from foolish rhetoric. Its then when we can expect to be overwhelmed by superficial media accounts or television documentaries packaged as analysis. Against the backdrop of short sighted and irrelevant rhetoric by tempestuous politicians whether from the ruling ANC or the opposition DA will unfortunately dignify ill informed and equally vacuous reports by a variety of media establishments with headquarters in western capitals. The danger we thus face is not the threat of terrorism from al-Qaeda but the threat of propaganda that is intended to tarnish South Africa’s image. In any event the platform for this type of bias is all ready being built by certain individuals who masquerade as self confessed “terror gurus”? This scenario is informed by the fact that this country has to-date resisted pressure to allow the establishment of a US military base within its borders. The Americans are committed to have such presence within Africa and despite cordial relations between the Obama administration and the Zuma presidency they have been frustrated by South Africa’s lack of co-operation. Its called Africom. And notwithstanding assurances by senior Pentagon officials that its role is limited to protecting US interests that inter-alia include security in the continent, it is not all that kosher. The current media hype sparked by alarmist reports wherein Islamaphobes have yet again opted to resort to scare tactics imply that unless this country secures a military arrangement with Uncle Sam, it will be rocked by al-Qaeda laced bombs. Paradoxically it ignores diametrically opposed arguments that would seek to reassure this country that because it is not in America’s military embrace there cannot be any justification for bombing the soccer festival to smithereens.

And by the way has anyone given thought to the fact that an arsenal known as “dirty-tricks” is a potent asset possessed by agencies such as the CIA, M15 and Mossad. This allows them to manipulate public opinion through the commission of horrible acts of terror that frames individuals and groups. Ultimately the end result would be to direct policies of sovereign states to the extent that such sovereignty stinks.

In returning to the question of journalists, it is not unusual for the embedded variety to faithfully imbibe need to extend their master’s discredited and illegitimate war of terror.