Gender, Lies and Betrayal – Exposing the Daily Maverick’s Covert Agenda



Published May 26, 2024


By Gillian Schutte

Progressive journalism may once have been considered a bastion of truth that worked to expose the inner recesses of power and abuse.

But the 21st Century has given rise to the spectacle of liberal conservatives co-opting progressive discourse to push their profit-driven agendas under the deception of seeking justice and accountability.

This is the bloated underbelly of half-truths, manipulation, and selective outrage that is presented to the public as truth.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the recent article by the Daily Maverick (DM), which claims to be an exposure of online violence against women journalists in South Africa.

However, on closer examination of the content it becomes apparent that while masquerading as defenders of gender equality, the publication’s true motives reveal a calculated agenda to weaponise women’s issues for political gain.

In a nutshell the article highlights a distressing trend of online violence targeting prominent Daily Maverick women journalists.

The reported abuse includes gendered disinformation, homophobic attacks, racist hate speech, and threats of extreme violence.

The article claims that the perpetrators, including political actors and media outlets, aim to discredit these journalists and undermine public trust in their reporting.

Key findings from the study reveal that the abuse often targets investigative work exposing corruption or scrutinising political parties.

The risk of online violence translating into physical harm is significant, given South Africa’s political climate and high rates of gender-based violence.

However, law enforcement and the criminal justice system are often unresponsive to this issue. The article calls for effective legislation and regulation of Big Tech, greater accountability from social media platforms, and recognition of the causal connection between online violence and offline harm.

At first glance, the Daily Maverick article tricks the reader into believing it is a rallying cry for the defence of women reporters who face relentless online abuse.

Yet it focuses solely on the experiences of its own journalists Ferial Haffajee, Pauli van Wyk, and Rebecca Davis, which immediately arouses suspicion.

The fact that there is not one indigenous African woman from the DM or elsewhere, itself makes one wonder as to its intent.

Are we expected to believe that somehow the DM is the last outpost of journalistic excellence thus its women journalists alone have been subjected to vile attacks ranging from gendered disinformation to threats of extreme violence?

That this was funded by the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), a US-based organisation, further raises suspicion.

“The ICFJ focuses on empowering journalists worldwide through training, mentoring, and networking opportunities”.

Their involvement in this study, as well as their alleged affiliation to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) reflects a broader agenda that often aligns with Western neoliberal interests, raising questions about the objectivity and underlying motives of the research.

Research reveals that the NED is a U.S. government-funded organisation that promotes democracy abroad, often aligning with U.S. foreign policy interests.

This connection indicates that the ICFJ’s activities, including the research on the harassment of Daily Maverick women journalists, are influenced by a broader agenda that reflects the political and ideological goals of its funders.

This affiliation raises concerns about the impartiality of the research and suggests it may be part of a strategy to reinforce specific narratives and power structures.

It also points to an intent to influence media narratives and reinforce specific ideological frameworks under the guise of defending press freedom and gender equality.

To this end the study endeavours to associate hyper-moral elevation and excellence with the Daily Maverick (as opposed to other media outlets). They have strategically set about creating the image of three heroic women journalists standing against a tide of misogyny and hate, championing the cause of truth in the face of and adversity.

But a deeper examination of the article’s narrative soon reveals the familiar DM-esque pattern of hypocrisy and bias.

Firstly, the journalists lionised by the DM conveniently overlook their own history of orchestrating vicious attacks on women, particularly those perceived to be aligned with political factions at odds with their own.

A distinct example of this is the manner in which these very same women journalists have for years maligned and vilified women from outside of their ideological preferences.

None so brutally as their sustained attack on Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the former Public Protector of South Africa.

For years Mkhwebane faced relentless character assassination and smear campaigns, all under the guise of journalistic scrutiny while using a method of reportage that can best be described as subterfuge and agenda-driven propaganda.

The nature of this brand of reporting is also noticeable in the fact that the DM’s selective outrage so obviously extends beyond their own transgressions to a broader dismissal of attacks on women journalists who do not fit their narrative.

Platforms such as the Independent Group, IOL and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), along with advocates of Radical Transformation, have been subjected to unyielding vilification by these journalists.

Yet, when women journalists associated with these entities face online abuse, the DM remains conspicuously silent. This calculated omission exposes their true agenda which is not the defence of women’s rights, but the advancement of their own political interests.

The manipulation of women’s issues to push a Western-aligned agenda and appease their funders is central to the Daily Maverick’s strategy aligned with NED affiliated media organisations.

By framing attacks on women journalists solely through the lens of gendered violence, they seek to reinforce existing power structures and silence dissenting voices.

This cynical use of feminist rhetoric to silence political adversaries betrays all women and undermines the principles of gender equality and justice that the Daily Maverick claims to uphold.

To understand the bias and strategy behind the Daily Maverick article, we must examine how cyber-attacks intersect with gender complexities today.

This reveals a web of power dynamics and ideological struggles. Neo-intersectional discourses weaponise women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights to silence critics of Western neoliberal interests, highlighting the paradox of contemporary activism and political manoeuvring.

At the core of this analysis is the concept of ideological dominance, where powerful political and economic systems maintain control by appropriating and redefining discourses on gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights.

Cyber-attacks are used to reinforce this dominance, silencing voices that challenge the status quo and disrupt neoliberal agendas. The digital realm becomes a battleground where power dynamics are amplified, and manipulation tactics are deployed with precision.

The gendered dimension of cyberattacks adds another layer of complexity.

Women and LGBTQ+ individuals are often targeted disproportionately, facing not only typical threats but also specific forms of harassment and marginalisation based on their identities.

This exploitation of gender vulnerabilities reflects broader societal inequalities and reinforces patriarchal structures within both online and offline spaces.

In this context, dissenters who critique Western neoliberal interests face a formidable adversary that uses progressive rhetoric to suppress alternative narratives.

By weaponising women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights, dominant power structures deflect attention away from their own exploitative practices and portray dissent as regressive or anti-progressive.

Highlighting the dialectical nature of power struggles in the digital age is crucial.

Seemingly progressive agendas are often co-opted and repurposed to serve the interests of the ruling elite.

By critically examining the intersections of cyber warfare, gender politics, and neoliberal dominance, we can unravel the complexities of 21st-century activism and forge new paths towards genuine emancipation and social transformation.

The Daily Maverick in releasing this biased study in partnership with the International Centre for Journalists has exposed its own agenda.

They have also laid bare the truth that attacks from liberal circles are way more systematic and relentless than those from right-wing sources.

They aim to dupe readers with their often blatant anti-left propaganda and not so covert manipulation.

What we witness from this platform is betrayal from those who claim to stand for social and women’s justice. They have also inadvertently exposed the tendency within so-called progressive circles to prioritise political agendas over genuine activism.

What they have made most clear through this study though, is that the Daily Maverick’s selective outrage and use of women’s issues aims to reinforce existing power structures and erase dissenting voices, betraying the very principles of gender equality and justice they claim to support.

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media.