From a Sinner to a Saint, The Incredible Power of PR

 

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This week Nelson Mandela had a birthday, most of the world fawned over him as if he is a saint, with the status of Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi.

Many thousands of others who have seen through the media hype over the last 30 years, see him for what he really is, a convicted terrorist, promoter of violence and a creation of misguided liberals and a left-wing media establishment anxious to use any weapon possible to punish white South Africans.

That is a strong statement which will provoke screams of horror from any liberals venturing onto this blog, but the facts are that Mandela WAS convicted of terrorism, WAS guilty of planning armed revolution and mass murder and while in prison DID encourage his followers in the ANC to wage a brutal campaign of intimidation against any opposition elements who were following a non-violent approach. The primary weapon of intimidation was the horrific execution of  thousands of mainly Zulu people by placing car tyres doused with petrol (gasoline) around their necks and setting them on fire.

That Mandela and others were planning an armed revolution to facilitate an invasion by communist forces and did accumulate a considerable assortment of weapons and explosives was not disputed. Those are the crimes the group were tried for at the Rivonia trial, not for opposing “apartheid”. Had they been convicted of those crimes in the USA or Canada, they would almost certainly have been either executed or still be serving life sentences. (depending on whether capital punishment was still an option at the time). As tolerant as the USA and Canada might be, I do not believe either country would have excused the civil rights campaigners if they had blown up government buildings, bombed offices and slaughtered innocent people as Mandela and the ANC did in South Africa.

For more information about the Rivonia trial and why the group was not executed, without the usual pro Mandela hysteria read Mike Smiths article.

With hindsight, there were aspects of the South African government policies that cannot be defended, but without a system of separate development, it is highly unlikely that South Africa would have approached anywhere near the level of economic development it achieved up to the 1990s.

For all the criticism by the West, it is a fact that the two most developed economies and most successful countries in sub-Saharan Africa (arguably on the whole continent) by every standard possible except having a universal franchise, were the two with the largest European populations and the greatest adherence to the rule of law.

The fact that Southern Africa’s indigenous populations increased exponentially after the arrival of Europeans, through migration, end of tribal fighting, better health and education services, whereas those populations in North America,  and Australia remained static or even declined gives the lie to the myth that whites in South Africa and Rhodesia were the evil colonisers they have been portrayed.

North Americans in particular pride themselves on how magnanimous their ancestors were to extend the right to vote to all people irrespective of race. When huge numbers of immigrants arriving over a comparatively short period, reduce the native population to a powerless and ineffective minority, then it is academic whether that minority has the vote or not, it cannot influence the outcome to any material degree. That is before taking the effects of introduced diseases, alcohol, residential schools and removal to reserves into account.

If we apply the lessons of North America and Australia, South Africa’s two biggest mistakes were not attracting enough Europeans and providing the resources for the indigenous population to flourish!

What hypocrisy!

That is the factual background, it can all be verified.

I accept that I am biased and prejudiced, I have suffered dearly from the consequences of terrorism in both Rhodesia and South Africa but that is a story for another time.

What amazes me, is that so many millions of people can be fooled so convincingly and for so long. The world saw through, Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, several nasty characters from the Balkans and treated them accordingly. Why perpetuate the myth that Mandela is in Mother Theresa and Aung San Sui Kyi’s group and not in the gallery of criminals already mentioned. Although Syria now seems to be plunging into civil war, the death toll is still not as high as that in South Africa and Zimbabwe  as a result of Mandela’s ANC and Mugabe’s security forces activities. But the West is agonising over Syria. Hypocrisy again.

When I first went to South Africa in 1978, Mandela was unheard of. Rarely mentioned in even the more liberal media. Even more rarely mentioned in international media.

Then slowly, as pressure mounted against South Africa, as the cold war receded and South Africa became less strategically important to the West. As the various Western powers outdid one another to throw money at newly independent African states and curry favour with corrupt and murderous leaders, Mandela’s name started to be used as  a beacon to rally support for the strengthening attack on South Africa.

Perhaps because of a misplaced collective guilt over slavery in the USA, perhaps in an effort to placate increasing swarms of African and Asian immigrants in Europe or perhaps (and most probably) to further blame European colonisers for Africa’s failures, increasing numbers of people who should have known better began to believe the Mandela myth.

Not just the leftist, hippy types who had glorified a different wave of thugs like Che Guvera, Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh a generation earlier. Sensible people, adults as well, people who went to church, the myth was propagated in schools, generations of school children brainwashed.

Once the roller coaster started, it was easy for the media to run with it and build on it. The early days of political correctness made it easier to support, quite acceptable to condemn white South Africans but not Black, no matter what atrocities were committed. Unacceptable to support a moderate African leader like Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi because he preferred to negotiate with the South African government and publicly opposed the use of violence. His people paid the penalty.

The Mandela myth has to be one of the most successful PR campaigns ever, the ridiculous thing about it is that it was not conceived, planned or executed by the few people who benefited the most from it. It was mainly created and nurtured by people outside South Africa, people who did not have to live with the consequences of their meddling in the affairs of  a sovereign state, one which had also been an important ally in WW2. The vast majority of South Africa’s 40 odd million people are worse off than in the “old” South Africa. Hundreds of thousands (possibly over a million by now) of better qualified Black and White South Africans have left, taking their expertise with them. A relatively small number of politicians and politically connected have enriched themselves magnificently.

Considering the outcry now over comparatively few deaths in uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, it is mind-boggling to think that Mandela as leader of the ANC could be excused its murderous activities.

Why then did this campaign work so well? Many reasons, some so well disguised that they might never emerge, but here are a few:

  • Lingering guilt of many liberal North Americans over both slavery and treatment of indigenous people.
  • Same in Europeans over colonial era. Totally misguided – the guilt should be over abandoning those colonies, not developing them.
  • Desire to control South Africa’s natural resources (minerals).
  • Appeasement of Black Africa.
  • Reluctance to oppose 3rd world in the United Nations.
  • South Africa’s loss of strategic importance (Cape sea route)
  • Elimination of South Africa’s neighbours. (Rhodesia, Portuguese controlled Mozambique & Angola)
  • Elimination of or pressure on, South Africa’s allies and trading partners. The Shah in Iran, sanctions.
  • South Africa legislated discrimination, many other places did it more subtly.
  • Ultimately, when it counted a weak South African leadership.

This has to be the PR campaign that is the exception to the general rules.

It promoted a defective product.

It provided no tangible benefits to the most closely affected consumers.

It left millions of people worse off than before and started a nation on a dangerous path.

It promoted criminal behaviour and contributed to thousands of deaths and injuries.

It defied all logic.

But it was highly successful. Why?

Because it happened at the right time when millions of people wanted to feel good without having to think about the consequences.

It turned a sinner into a saint and generated a cult following.

In that it succeeded.

It just goes to show that if you can get it right, you can fool most of the people for a long time!

As a footnote, I lived through those years in South Africa, I am convinced that demographics were driving South Africa to a successful transition to a freer society. There were not enough white people to fill the jobs, increasing numbers of better educated and competent black people were filling those gaps and creating a growing consumer base. Despite the media hype, the majority of South Africans of all races were becoming more tolerant of each other, more cooperative.

If the rest of the world had just left us alone, we would have become a true rainbow nation in a few years and shared our pot of gold, not sliding into yet  another crime ridden, corrupt and inefficient failed state in Africa.

What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Wishing you success in all your endeavours.

Peter Wright

 

 

 

p.s Something I have no mixed feelings about, only good, is Zeek Rewards, taking a few minutes a day to promote Penny Auctions so that no matter what turmoil lies ahead, I am developing another income.

 

 

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

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