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S. Africa's 'Positive Reforms'

October 18, 1987

Richard Manning is by no means alone in "getting South Africa wrong," as reviewer William Finnegan writes (The Book Review, Sept. 6). Ignorance, coupled with hypocrisy and fueled by biased predisposition, are the driving forces behind warped images of South Africa as presented by American media. Were Manning to spend more than one year in South Africa, I doubt that his book would have become more accurate and less biased.

Instead of searching out facts to present us with unbiased picture of a vibrant, complex society in the midst of positive reforms, American media representatives come to South Africa already "knowing" how to "provide remedies," that is, how to cut the Republic to pieces . . . . And Finnegan is not much different from Richard Manning in this respect. Calling the South African government "historical lumber" is no better, nor shows more perspicuity than calling it "police state." Woe to the Americans, if their knowledge of South Africa comes from the mass media, as Finnegan indicates, for then we are doomed to dwell in medieval ignorance.

I'd like to know how people like Manning "could be that far out of it, that cut off and dense." Is it just his liberal upbringing, or the years spent being imbued with lies and half truths that are reported about South Africa by the mass media?

For a more accurate, insightful and powerful book about South Africa, I suggest that Times readers pick up Otto Scott's "The Other Side of the Lifeboat."

PAUL STONEHILL

Los Angeles

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