Selectively observing our bias

2015-03-16 14:00

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I think we have pretty much established that neutrality is like white people who didn’t benefit from apartheid – it doesn’t exist.

The best you can hope for is complexity in your bias. Look at craft beer. ‘Craft’ coming from the Latin word for “I made it in my garage”. Craft beer has cultural baggage. It’s umqombothi for white people.

Of course, the more black people drink craft beer, the less this will be true, and conversely for umqombothi. Because right now we have a name for a white person who drinks umqombothi: Johnny Clegg.

The problem is we apply reflexivity, the ability to observe our own bias, very selectively.

How did Luthuli House (ANC headquarters) reasonably believe Public Protector Thuli Madonsela might be in the CIA? Will she be the next James Bond, with a gun that shoots Nkandla reports at politicians?

I suspect they also think she brought down Air Malaysia flight MH370.

And how did the Sunday Times put Graeme Smith’s divorce as their lead story last week? If you want your shack fire to make front page, my friend, best you tell them you are actually burning Graeme Smith’s divorce papers, or that your shack is a mansion in Tokai.

Look at this Islamic State executioner character Mohammed Emwazi, dubbed “Jihadi John”. His Western prisoners called him John; the British media added Jihadi. It’s much easier to bomb people when they have been turned into cartoon characters.

If there were a “terrorist” called Rolihlahla, they’d probably just call him Non-White Nelson. Of course, Mohammed Emwazi and Nelson Mandela are not at all the same. Emwazi is a self-confessed Man United supporter, so we know he’s crazy.

Even the most basic of statistics seem to be a matter of bias. The other day, President Jacob Zuma said black people owned 3% of JSE shares.

The JSE said it was 23%. Black people make up 90% of the population, so really the debate should be: is it insanely bad or just stupendously bad?

Bias is the idea that 23% is acceptable.The problem is the bias cycle means my bias just creates reactionary bias.

Now the ANC wants the SABC to be more positive about Zuma. How? Must they remove showers from Auckland Park?

Picture that briefing with SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng: “Don’t see yourself as part of the news. See yourselves more as an ad with journalists.”

Eskom wants us to turn off unused appliances. I suggest we start with the SABC board.

We all see the world from a position that advantages us. That’s why, even in the midst of the Western Cape inferno, we could be certain there was someone in Luthuli House who said: “See, they had no fire pool.”

@chestermissing is SA’s top political analyst puppet and a regular on LNN with Loyiso Gola

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