Did you know rugby's responsible for the death of Reeva Steenkamp?

Jeremy Gordin on this week's festival of idiocy in the Mail & Guardian

Did you know that rugby - that game in which brawny young fellers run up and down with an oval-shaped ball - is responsible, or certainly partially responsible, for the death of Reeva Steenkamp?

Yessiree Bob, it's right there on page 4 of the most recent issue of the Mail&Grauniad.  And the M&G is one of our most esteemed and serious newspapers - and its editor has just been elected chairperson of SANEF (the South African National Editors' Forum), whatever that is - so if you don't believe what you read in the M&G, I don't know what to say.

Turn to the 15th (or so) paragraph on page 4, under the headline, "South Africa bears and breeds these men" then read it and weep:

"Sports like rugby - which academics such as Robert Morrell suggest was used after events such as the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879, which the British lost, to rebuild a shattered white masculinity - feature prominently in the masculine tribal pride at these schools [e.g. Pretoria Boys High, the school apparently attended by Oscar Pistorius]. The focus is on brotherly bonding and aggression."

Come again? Isandlwana? I like it. Do you think Pistorius or Francois Hougaard or Victor Matfield, the latter two being real rugby players, have heard of Isandlwana? Or do you think they think Isandlwana is a Kaizer Chiefs striker?

A "shattered" white masculinity? Hmm, can masculinity be shattered? Makes it sound like a frail piece of pottery, doesn't it? I thought that in general masculinity was more like an over-cooked piece of steak chock-full of a steroid hormone from the androgen group called testosterone. Anyway, I suppose we'd have to ask "academic Robert Morrell".

Who is he? I hear you cry. I didn't know either, so looked him up. It says: "Professor Morrell is an author and researcher with an interest in men, masculinity and general gender studies."

O shite and onions, when I hear the phrase "men, masculinity and gender studies", I have to tell you, whatever Dr Eve or Eusebius McKaiser might say, that I reach for my condoms and pistol (except I don't have a pistol - or a cricket bat) and my heart fills with anguish.

I'm sorry, it gets worse.  It turns out that our Prof Morrell completed his first degree at Rhodes University. Can you guess what it was in? Yup, you guessed it: a Bachelor of Journalism. 

You know what that means, don't you? There is no more moronic degree on God's green earth than a journalism degree. (Hold the phone: when it comes to imbecility, Media Studies and Gender Studies might just beat it.)

A journalism degree means you are familiar with every species of pop psychology, pinko politics, junk sociology, irritating anthropology and general codswallop under the sun - but that about useful things such as translating a Latin poem, constructing a sentence, interviewing a fellow human, attending a rugby match, pleasuring your partner, or finding a phone number, you know diddly-squat.

You think Rian Malan has a degree in journalism? Jacques Pauw? Hunter S Thompson? PJ O'Rourke? Damon Runyon? Can Themba? Evelyn Waugh? Dave Hazelhurst? Martha Gellhorn? The members of Pussy Riot?

But I suppose that the author of the piece we are discussing - one Niren Tolsi, whom I have never met but who is billed as a "senior journalist" at the M&G - has a journalism degree. It's probably while doing this degree at Rhodes that he met Morrell - and start learning to compose such stuff.

I love this Isandlwana thing. It means that every time I ran (or waddled) onto a rugby field, from Tempe (Free State) to Voortrekkerhoogte, from Jerusalem to Kibbutz Yizre'el to Lund (Sweden), I was rebuilding my shattered masculinity. And I thought I was just trying to score tries and get laid.

Does it also mean that every time that Jacob G Zuma and other black males play football that they are trying to rebuild their broken African masculinities after iMpi yase Ncome (the Battle of Blood River)?

This is not to say that I don't admire Tolsi. I do. Not since I encountered, in mid-2011, the talents of one Eric Miyeni - the peach who perfected the notion that one can review books without reading them - not since then have I come across another journalist evincing such a talent for codswallop while simultaneously disappearing up his own politically correct rectitude.

And he's also pretty good at the art of generalisation. He ends his piece by saying that of course Pistorius might be innocent but that "he is very much a male born and bred of this country" - so are many of you out there, including me - and we are "contradictory, complex and, yes, violent".

Yeah, right - all of us - to a man. What can you do?

Nor is Tolsi a one-trick pony. It's not just in the aforementioned piece that you get a sense of his erudition and attitude. There's another story of his - on the M&G site - that starts: "Controversial advocate Jeremy Gauntlett was ignored again by the Judicial Service Commission when he was the candidate culled from the list of five."

You don't think that's odd in any way? You think that yes, well, Gauntlett is controversial? But you have to understand the sub-text, my chinas, you have to read between the lines without having completed a journalism or media studies degree.

What "controversial" means in this context - because actually Gauntlett is not controversial at all - what it means is that he's not the type that people such as Mogoeng Mogoeng, the chief justice, and his buddies at the Judicial Services Commission want to have around. He's not one of them; he doesn't see things they way they do; they don't want him around. So suddenly Gauntlett is "controversial". It's about an attitude - and it's Tolsi who showing it.

Tolsi isn't alone. Oddly, very oddly - because he's generally a sensible, balanced sort of person - Rapule Tabane, whom I think is the deputy-editor, goes dangerously haywire on page 30 of the same issue of the M&G.

Another journalist under pressure to produce something - anything, anything - related to Pistorius?

In an effort to shore up his argument that Pistorius was treated with kid gloves because he is privileged, rich and white (not an argument with which I disagree), Tabane searches for an analogy and comes up with the case of Mark Scott-Crossley - the fellow who helped his employees throw the body of another employee to the lions in Hoedspruit in 2004.

C'mon, Rapule, read the appeal judgment, would you? The case was reviewed by Kenneth Mthiyane, now Deputy President of the Supreme Court of Appeal,.

He - and I'm sorry to have to point this out, but obviously with people like Tabane, I need to do so - is a black man. And he was absolutely appalled by the treatment meted out to Scott-Crossley in the lower court - by a black judge.

Mthiyane and his brothers were appalled - they said so - that the lower court judge had completely missed the extent to which Scott-Crossley had been "dragooned" by his workers - a fact missed by the lower court judge because Scott-Crossley was white and the nominal boss, and the workers were black.

 The employee, Simon Mathebula, who instigated the whole thing, could also have appealed. He could have done so without money; there are pro deo counsel available from Legal Aid. Maybe he did appeal and was refused. I don't know. But that he is still serving his sentence has nothing to do with Scott-Crossley's colour or financial resources.

As I say, read the material, Rapule. It's your job as a senior journalist.

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