Why ‘Apartheid Denial’ Must Be Made a Crime
“Who controls the past controls the future,” wrote George Orwell in 1984. Progressives often quote this saying while practicing the very historical negationism they claim to denounce. In much of the “free” Western world, only certain views of history or current events are permitted by law, and the state punishes those who transgress these limits. Worse, the realm of permissible discussion keeps shrinking. All white history is “racist,” and the supposed crimes of the past are used to justify repression against whites in the present. Contemporary South Africa is the end game of this process, and the term being used to deconstruct white identity in the “Rainbow Nation” is “apartheid denialism.”
In the Daily Vox, Ayesha Fakie condemns South Africa for having not yet made “apartheid denialism” a crime. She dismisses complaints about freedom of speech from “centrists and liberals, especially cis het white men but increasingly anyone bathed in the luxurious ignorance of privilege” and admits her goal is deplatforming. Refusing even to say her ideological enemies’ names, she declares, “Deplatforming them from their internet soapboxes is how we pull back the norms of civil space, and it should be a lesson to media houses here and internationally to do the same.” She justifies her call for censorship by asserting that her opponents have no ideas worth considering. “[R]evisionists on the far right are not interested in debating ideas,” she writes, arguing that “they do not approach these debates in good faith” but instead “use platforms to spread hate, fallacies, and long-debunked pseudo-science on race and progress.” (Debunked by whom?) Thus, free speech for “those who never face oppression” constitutes a “failure to see POC as people.” [Italics in the original]. “No idealized norm of freedom of speech,” she declares, “is worth that price.”
In a piece entitled “Apartheid denialism must be punishable with imprisonment,” Yonela Diko, spokesperson for the governing African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape, also says that “apartheid denialism” should be made a crime. He suggests that the “current generation that knows exactly how bad things were under apartheid” is dying out, and this creates the possibility of future oppression. Making “apartheid denialism” a crime “cushions the country from future mistakes in the absence of lived memory” and “ensures that the seriousness of apartheid is never lost or left to the whims of realists and denialists in the future,” he writes.
Mr. Diko’s clumsy phrasing about “realists and denialists” inadvertently reveals the Soviet-style motivations of the ANC’s manipulation of history. The ANC’s quasi-totalitarian regime requires the population to accept a single view of history that the party propagates. The ANC’s goal is akin to that of the “Party” in 1984—to make it impossible to debate whether life was actually better before the glorious “revolution.” Whatever old South Africa’s failings, it was an advanced nation and a nuclear power with the continent’s most developed economy. Today’s South Africa is characterized by astonishing levels of crime, endless attacks on white farmers, massive restrictions on individual liberty, and collapsing infrastructure. Without discussing racial realities, South Africans of all hues can’t even begin to understand these problems. The protective stupidity regarding race prevents anyone else from understanding South Africa, too. Thus, the mainstream press delivers inadvertently hilarious articles such as a February 21, 2019 piece from The Economist attempting to explain “Why the lights keep going out in South Africa.” The present system’s failures cannot be excused unless the past is utterly demonized.
Similarly, it is politically necessary for the ANC and its supporters to declare the old South Africa’s history “a crime against humanity” in order to prevent the development of white cultural and political consciousness. Denouncing “apartheid denialism” allows the ANC regime’s supporters to dismiss the importance of white farmers being butchered. Inventing claims of “genocide” against blacks in the distant past allows the ANC to dismiss current threats of genocide against whites such as the one that Economic Freedom Front’s Julius Malema issued. Indeed, Mr. Diko suggests that South Africa’s main problem is that blacks have not been vengeful enough: “What is clear is that the black benevolence of choosing to forget the past has not led to white people changing how they feel in the deeper recesses of their senses about black people,” he writes. The implication is that the government must do more than outlaw public declarations; it must change people’s thoughts.
Miss Fakie’s article specifically denounced any use of the old regime’s symbols. “Seeing the apartheid flag, hearing Die Stem even—especially acted out in performative victimhood by washed out entertainers—is an exercise in social PTSD,” she complained. This was likely a reference to Afrikaner Steve Hofmeyr, though his continued popularity and relevance shows he is far from “washed out.” Only a few days ago, Mr. Hofmeyr tweeted a picture of himself in a pub that had the old South African flag. The result was a social-media-driven campaign to deplatform him from Apple Music. In response, Mr. Hofmeyr did not back down, suggesting the reaction was simply an attempt to deny the “rot under the new flag.” Not surprisingly, outlets such as the Sunday Times are signal-boosting activists’ attempts to censor Mr. Hofmeyr completely and even have him put in jail.
For Americans who think “it can’t happen here,” the process has already begun. In The Guardian, David Smith explicitly linked South Africa and the American South following the Unite The Right rally in 2017. “I have been struck by familiar tropes from South Africa, where the white right persists as a fringe anachronism 23 years after the end of racial apartheid,” he wrote, “flying old flags and grievances for a purportedly imperiled culture (but lacking an avatar such as Trump), and where statues have become a political flashpoint, most notably one of the British colonialist Cecil Rhodes that was pelted with excrement and eventually removed from the University of Cape Town.” He accuses the city of Charlottesville of racism—despite the fact that the city is a liberal bastion—because of the black population’s massive decline and the persistence of institutions named after slaveholders such as Thomas Jefferson. Thus, the piece urges Americans to endure the same kind of struggle sessions many white South Africans undergo, i.e., endlessly confronting white privilege.
Confederate flags and statues are already under attack under the theory that their presence constitutes “intimidation” or “hatred” against people of color. In academia and the media, there is already emerging a theory of “Confederate denialism” that insists any defense of the Confederacy is inherently linked to slavery and that arguments about states’ rights or the Constitution are simply distractions. “Confederate denialism, in the form of states’ rights advocacy, permits sentimentalists to keep their questionable imagery without having to address its unsavory associations,” writes Jake Flanagin in “For the last time, the American Civil War was not about states’ rights.”
In the same way use of the old South African flag or the old national anthem constitutes “hatred” in South Africa, journalists hold that white Southerners’ simple recognition of Southern heritage is a scandalous moral failing. Thus, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is already groveling and apologizing for wearing a Confederate uniform to the traditional Kappa Alpha “Old South” ball when he was in college 40 years ago. The logical conclusion of this process is that any expression of Southern identity will be considered aggression against people of color and, ultimately, a crime. In Georgia, two state representatives have already introduced a bill that would outlaw flying a Confederate flag, even on private property.
Of course, it won’t stop with Confederate flags. The American flag has already been banned in certain public schools on certain days because it sparked conflict with students of Mexican origin. The American flag was temporarily removed from Hampshire College in Massachusetts, similarly to protect the feelings of students of color. “We’ve heard from members of our community that, for them and for many in our country, the flag is a powerful symbol of fear they’ve felt all their lives because they grew up as people of color, never feeling safe,” said spokesperson John Courtmanche. Attacks on the American flag because it is supposedly offensive to people of color are endless and have taken place many times on campuses, in local governments, and on the streets. “American denialism” is not a common phrase yet, but the ideology is already in place. Countless academics and journalists lecture whites that America is “stolen land,” “built by slaves,” or defined by “racism.”
Symbols are shorthand for power. The war on South Africa’s past and its symbols is a war on white South Africans today. The same is true about the offensives against Southern history and white American history. South Africa provides a glimpse into the multiracial American future if we do nothing. The attempt to marginalize and eventually criminalize white history is simply a precursor to the complete dispossession of white people.