The Huffington Post’s recent publication of a blog post proposing stripping white men of their right to vote sparked widespread anger across social media. The editors initially defended the piece, titled “Could It be Time to Deny White Men the Franchise?” They even crowed about how much traffic it was getting and mocked readers for complaining, before suddenly reversing their decision and deleting the post over the weekend.
In the controversial piece, a South African woman named Shelley Garland, a self-described “activist and feminist working on ways to smash the patriarchy” had suggested it was “time to wrestle control of the world back from white males, and the first step will be a temporary restriction of the franchise to them.”
Garland argued: “If white men no longer had the vote, the progressive cause would be strengthened. It would not be necessary to deny white men indefinitely–the denial of the vote to white men for 20 years (just less than a generation) would go some way to seeing a decline in the influence of reactionary and neo-liberal ideology in the world.”
She blamed white men for the Brexit outcome in the United Kingdom and the election of Donald Trump.
Huffington Post’s South African editors were initially pleased with the reception of Garland’s article. On Saturday night, HuffPostSA editor Sipho Hlongwane bragged that the article had received plenty of traffic while making a tongue-in-cheek complaint about his corrections inbox.
After the piece went viral on social media due to coverage from right-leaning Twitter and Facebook personalities like Milo Yiannopoulos, HuffPostSA editor Verashni Pillay wrote an article (archived post) defending its publication. She highlighted examples of complaints sent to the website, and blamed readers for having a poor understanding of the “pretty standard feminist theory” Shelley used. Pillay has since deleted the defense.
Then, following the extensive backlash, Huffington Post deleted the article, replacing it with a meek apology and a claim that they were unable to confirm that Shelley Garland was a real person. They even had to hilariously clarify that they are in favor of universal voting enfranchisement.
A person claiming to be Shelley Garland has since reached out to Cliff Central, with evidence of the original pitch email she had sent to Huffington Post. “Shelley” says she received the website’s content guidelines, which her piece certainly does not adhere to despite the site’s decision to post it.
Further documentation from “Shelley” elaborates on how she conducted the ruse armed with a heavily photoshopped image taken from the Internet and phrases employed by the “less sensible left.” The hoaxster says that her editors at Huffington Post did not correct any of the false claims, factual errors and logical fallacies she purposely embedded in the piece, and accepted it without question.
A further indictment on the Huffington Post is the fact that its editor, Verashni Pillay, then took it upon herself to defend the total garbage that I had written. Although Ms Pillay claims that her website does not necessarily agree with what I said, it is unlikely that she would publish a piece with the same sentiments but aimed at a different race group written by someone ostensibly from the other side of the political spectrum.
It is highly doubtful that she would publish a piece saying perhaps apartheid wasn’t that bad, or defending Donald Trump’s ban on people of certain nationalities entering the United States, and rightly so. Pieces defending apartheid or the ‘Muslim ban’ would be hurtful claptrap. What we have seen is the South African equivalent of the Sokal Affair, where something will be published, even if it’s ‘liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions’. My article does not meet criteria a, but it certainly meets criteria b.
It’s worth asking whether Huffington Post would have stood by the content of the inflammatory article if Shelley Garland were a real person.