First-World Offense

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So there’s this asshole – Pastor Steven Anderson. He’s been making the news lately.

I choose that word carefully. Like most assholes, he has opinions, and cares very little for criticism. His positions are largely Neanderthal in their intellectual complexity.

For example, he believes that South Africa is a demonic “stronghold”, whatever that is. I’ve heard the same things said about the US, China and Australia, so it’s anyone’s guess where he’s getting his data from.

He also believes that all homosexuals should be executed. Between this opinion and his general outlook on life, he might be more welcome in a few other African nations than here, in South Africa – despite how badly our Executive flaunts the Constitution, we don’t really take kindly to that sort of bigotry.

And in something of a stunner, the Department of Home Affairs announced on Tuesday that Anderson was barred from getting a visa:

Cue the victory cheer from GaySA, SAHRC, and social media. It certainly feels like a victory – Anderson was judged in the court of public opinion, his message was deemed hateful and destructive, and he was refused entry into South Africa on those grounds.

It seems that everyone overlooked a couple of really scary precedents that were just set, and some factors that were totally overlooked.

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Anderson was barred from entering the country based more or less solely on his speech. Lobbyists found it offensive, and DHA took that as sufficient cause to bar him from entering the country. What worries me now is – who sets the bar for what is considered “hate speech” or “social violence”?

If an activist from Rwanda wanted to come to SA to speak out against corruption in the ANC, and try to incite positive, democratic change, would that not be considered “social violence”? Remember that we do have a ruling party that’s friends with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, a regime that continues to blame “Western Imperialism” for all their own failures, twisting the meaning of words to suit their own ends.

The second thing that was overlooked: Anderson had an audience here. Had he come to South Africa, groups like GaySA, SAHRC and others could have staged peaceful protests at all his venues, and try to reach out to some of Anderson’s “flock”, maybe try changing their minds about homosexuals and black folk.

That opportunity for engagement has now been shut down by the government, and it will be totally ineffective. Why? Anderson, and people like him, spread their messages online. They barred Anderson, but barred none of his ideas or his speech.

Which leads me to the most worrying part of this: If the government feels justified in taking steps to ban people from entering the country based on their ideas, and those ideas can still enter regardless through the internet, then logically the next step is to start cleaning up the internet.

By banning Anderson for his speech, I think the lobbies just handed a lot more ammunition and justification to the FPB. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the FPB will start considering stronger regulations, having now been given a mandate by civil society to protect designated groups from “harmful” foreign influence.

It really would have been better to let Anderson tour the country and expose the rot to the full glare of public view. It would have been a shot of social disinfectant that we could really have used.