It is amazing as well as amusing that so many journalists have got themselves so worked up about "fake news" and disinformation peddled by various newspapers and clandestine agencies seeking to discredit Cyril Ramaphosa for allegedly having extramarital affairs. Were they all born yesterday?
Fake news was supposedly invented by the likes of Donald Trump, the British public relations firm Bell Pottinger, and everyone in the United Kingdom campaigning for that country to quit the European Union. In fact, of course, fake news, lies, propaganda, and disinformation are as old as the hills.
The only new thing is the technology: e-mailing, along with Twitter and other tools such as Facebook, have enabled everyone to join the propaganda war that was previously the monopoly of those controlling or capturing newspapers, printing presses, radio, and television. Also, propaganda can now be spread across the globe in an instant.
Few organisations have deployed disinformation with as much success as the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). All that has now happened is that these tools are being wielded not against these organisations' political opponents in other parties, but within the ANC by one faction against another.
The same applies to assassinations, as this column pointed out on 21 August: the ANC and the SACP, along with Umkhonto we Sizwe, went around assassinating policemen, local councillors, and political rivals in their quest for power. Now the erstwhile assassins, or their political offspring, have turned on one another.
As the ANC and its allies recognised, however, political violence on its own would never get them into power. Even more important was to exploit violence for propaganda purposes. As Raymond Suttner of the SACP wrote, "We need to take more determined steps to win the propaganda war as to the meaning and causes of the violence." Joseph Goebbels would have approved: he once wrote that "the intellectual conduct of the war" was no less important than the shooting war.