The Daily Friend is encouraged by the robust responses from readers to our recent coverage of the presidential election in the United States, with often sharply critical comments being levelled at the opinions and points of view of some of our writers.
Two articles in particular attracted pointed criticism: Jonathan Katzenellenbogen’s piece on what a Joe Biden presidency could mean for South Africa and our relationship with China, and John Kane-Berman’s piece on America’s ‘deplorables’.
Said Susan Sonnenberg of Kane-Berman’s piece: ‘I found this article so ill-considered, even if some of the stats may be correct, so reductive and right wing, so blind to Trump’s enormous list of crimes, misdemeanors and lies and his ghastly giant sized ego that brooks no criticism.’ She concluded by saying she would end her Daily Friend subscription.
A reader with the username v_3 agreed, saying: ‘Never mind Trump and Johnson or US and UK, what has happened to Kane-Berman and IRR? There is so much innuendo, vitriol and demonizing in this Goebbelsstuk that it would take several articles to fact-check and to rebut.’
From the other side of the aisle, ‘Garg’ wrote of Katzenellenbogen’s article that ‘Biden is not the president-elect. The US elections has (sic) not been called or certified yet. Stop with the fake news. Daily Friend is meant to be a more informed and more credible source, even in the opinion sections,’ while Cobus Slabbert said the article showed that the Daily Friend was ‘part of the Global captured fake and misleading MSM’. Leon van der Berg agreed, saying the newspaper was a ‘Wolf in Sheep’s clothing’ because it published what he thought was ‘trash’.
It may surprise some of our critics that neither the Daily Friend nor the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) had a formal position on the US election. Had we had a poll among staff, the vote would have been pretty evenly split, with as many Biden supporters as Trump supporters.
This, in fact, underscores what the Daily Friend holds to be its primary objective: to advance the ‘battle of ideas’ by stimulating and encouraging debate. Like the IRR, we are unashamedly liberal, the foundation of our liberalism being the principles once set out by Helen Suzman: ‘rule of law, universal franchise, free elections, a free press, free association, guaranteed civil rights, and an independent judiciary’.
If the varying reactions to the two pieces on Trump and the US elections are anything to go by, we have done well in encouraging debate and making people think – one of our primary aims. We do not have a position on Biden or Trump (although staff members may have).
It is naturally the prerogative of readers to choose not to read a newspaper because it carries opinions they disagree with. But we will continue to carry pieces that our readers (on whichever side of the US or any other divide they should find themselves on) may disagree with. Good writing and journalism should make us uncomfortable, challenging our biases and certainties. If we stopped publishing opinions out of fear that some readers might disagree with them, we would have failed in placing the Daily Friend at the service of the ‘battle of ideas’.
In this spirit, we encourage readers to engage and share our pieces, even (perhaps especially) if they disagree with them. The surest path to truth and insight is discussion and debate.
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