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Online violence has real-life consequences in SA

Overwhelming evidence points to SA men being among the most violent in the world. In society where their heinous crimes are barely prosecuted, should unstable men on podcasts have free reign to dehumanise women and incite violence?
Author: Ree Ntuli
Thu, Jul 28, 2022

PHOTO: Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay

One of the main attractions of social media is the freedom to speak to random strangers. However, we feel like there are often little to no real-life consequences to the harm caused – thousands of troll accounts spew vitriol towards individuals and groups of their choice on any given day.

Recent reports have revealed that there are individuals, and possibly entire organisations that have been paying scores of Twitter users to spread hate towards and propaganda against Meghan Markle, raising a grave concern about the levels of toxicity that exists in cyberspace.

There is also a clear pattern that a majority of these attacks are aimed at women. It is a historical fact. America’s paparazzi is one such example where publications have often been used to taint and sometimes destroy the images of female celebrities.

South Africa, as we are seeing, is ripe with its own bunch incels who occupy the cyberspace and love to think of themselves as ‘thought-leaders’ and so-called ‘blueprints of our current cultural expression’. The temerity of it all. In reality what these ‘thoughts’ and ‘expressions’ represent at their core, is the unadulterated hate these men harbour towards women.

Under normal circumstances or ideally, the vitriol spewed by these individuals wouldn’t mean much to the women in question since it only exists online. Except, it doesn’t. It permeates every sphere of society and manifests itself as actual violence, and therein lies the problem.

It is no secret that the South African male population is one of the most violent group of people in the world. Heinous crimes are committed by South African men at alarming rates daily, and what worsens matters is that there is often no punishment, just bleeding victims at best and corpses at worst – that is our reality.

It is, therefore, concerning when men get into public platforms and speak freely about violence on women, when they take up microphones to condone the ownership, abuse and murder of women they – without any gun pointed to their heads – choose to spend their money on.

When a man sits on a public platform, likens women to animals and expresses a desire to ill-treat or even murder them, chances are that he has already inflicted unspeakable harm to women in his life and his public expressions shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Just hours after rapper and entrepreneur, Nhlamulo ‘Nota’ Baloyi’s podcast clip hit social media and sent shock waves on Twitter, we woke up to a heart-rending statement from Berita, his estranged wife, detailing their tumultuous marriage.

In the statement she mentions that her estranged husband isn’t of sound mind and has exhibited behaviour so harmful that she was forced to go into hiding, fearing for her safety. Many of us commiserated with her but not many can say we were shocked: we had anticipated the truth about the kind of man that he is in real-life – that is often case.

It is more than worrying that to this very moment, that man is still allowed to wake up each morning, breathe toxicity into a microphone and call it engagement – what is even more disconcerting is that he has a consistent following. Grown men who choose, consciously and every day, to tune into his show and eat up his every word as though it were gospel.

It is an alarming trend that makes one wonder if women in SA will ever taste intervention because it is abundantly clear that justice is an unattainable dream.

There is a direct link between the behaviour of online incels and the violence we’ve come to know in our society – the maths is definitely maths-ing. It isn’t just toothless threats and impossible-to-inflict violence they communicate in these online communities.

If Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchise weren’t fantastical, they’d have more than enough evidence to match the incels online to the many violent crimes that take place in our communities. Unfortunately for many women in SA, wishes aren’t horses.