A White Male's Fake Op-ed About White, Male Privilege Cost A South African Editor Her Job

Verashni Pillay was forced to resign as editor in chief of the Huffington Post after unknowingly publishing a fake blog post written by a man working for a right-wing think tank.

The Huffington Post South Africa's editor in chief, Verashni Pillay, was forced to resign on Saturday amidst a storm of controversy surrounding the publishing of a fake news post entitled “Could it be time to deny white men the franchise?," which has since been removed from the site.

The post was published with a byline that credited a non-existent graduate student by the name of Shelley Garland and called-out white males for being the authors of colonialism, slavery, apartheid, genocide, the Brexit vote, and Donald Trump's presidency and more. It bluntly suggested that white males be banned from voting for at least a generation.

Some of the post's statistics raised suspicion and led local journalists to discover that it was a fake post written by a white man Marius Roodt—working for a right wing think tank. After being exposed Roodt told the Huffington Post South Africa that he fabricated the story in order to expose the "lack of fact-checking in South African journalism."

"I thought, would it work? And it worked. In hindsight I wouldn't have done it. I didn't think it would get this big," he continued. After penning the knowingly false story, the self-appointed whistleblower stated that "at first I was (happy) when it was published, but afterwards, no, when I saw how it blew up. I didn't want to get Verashni into trouble and I definitely don't want her to lose her job..and I hope she doesn't."

His so-called mission to save South African journalism cost Pillay, one of the countries only non-white editors, her position. After Pillay defended the piece's analysis of power imbalances and the distribution of wealth, members of the "white civil rights" group Afriforum filed complaints against the platform. Upon review, the South African Press Council Ombudsman Johan Rief ruled that the article constituted hate speech.

A prank news post about white, male privilege has, ironically, ignited a very real debate about free speech and white dominance in South Africa. Many have taken to Twitter to air out their frustration with the way the situation was handed.


6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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