Media frenzy: The case of Dewani’s sexuality

“Dewani admits he is bisexual.” So what?

“Bisexual Dewani underwent hormone treatment.” Yes, and?

“Revelation: Dewani is bisexual.” Your point?

I am not quoting verbatim but, if you were anywhere near the internet on Tuesday, these were just some of the headlines being thrown around by publications in an effort to report on the Shrien Dewani trial.

If you were nowhere near the internet then you probably saw one of the many headlines on today’s front pages. The media houses went big on the #Bisexual trend that broke out on Twitter yesterday after a two sentence statement from Dewani that said he had sex with men as well as women.

On day one of the proceedings, the court heard a plea document submitted by Dewani, which was read out loud by his lawyer.

The document revealed details about the nature of his relationship with his wife Anni and some about his life in general. Mostly, it contained Dewani’s detailed account of events pertaining to the hijacking, which occurred that fateful night, and led, ultimately, to the death of his wife.

The events detailed in the document are, or should have been, the focus. They are, after all, why Dewani finds himself standing trial, charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and conspiracy to commit these crimes. (He has pleaded not guilty to all five counts).

Instead, the media went with the one thing that had nothing to do with what makes someone a potential wife killer or not – they led with the fact that he was bisexual.

They handpicked two or three sentences from a document – which was long and more relevant to the trial in many more ways than those sentences – so that they could try a man not only for the murder of his wife but also to invent, so to speak, a motive for having done so: his sexual preferences.

Newspapers bought into the click-bait
That detail was, because of its sensationalism, transformed into the digital thing we all know and love – click-bait. Who cares about the rest of the information that was packed into that document when this is the one thing people will click on?

The bisexuality bait bled into newspapers, which hoped to achieve the same “success” in reporting the story.

Would more people buy newspapers because Dewani is bisexual? Or because being bisexual was being demonised? And what, in fact, did this “revelation”, as it was called by many published stories, have to do with the fact that he might have had his wife murdered?

Ja, êk het seks met mans [Yes, I have sex with men]” read Beeld’s front page, quoting Dewani in big, bold letters.

Why are the media trying to create something contentious out of something that really isn’t? It is irresponsible reporting and, more than that, it does nothing for the causes of sexuality and gender roles, causes that are already fuelled by age-old burdens and misunderstandings.

Should we not be doing a better a job of this?

At first glance, the Beeld headline, for example, is essentially telling the reader, who may or may not be ignorant on the subject and “taboos” of bisexuality, or sexuality at large, that this Indian man participated in sex with men, and so that’s probably why he killed his wife.

Trial by media? I think so.

The ignorance fuelled by homophobia
By the time the trend had gained traction, very few were concerned about the other details of the case. Very few kept their focus on the contentiousness of the subject matter, which is that this is day one of a trial of a man who possibly paid people to kill his wife on their honeymoon.

Instead, many were amused, and very vocal about their amusement, that this man swung both ways, so to speak. Outpourings of ignorance, fuelled by homophobia, were shared at a machine gun rate and, more than that, the cause of sexuality and all those affiliated with participating in positive discourse and the fight for human rights were dragged back by about 400 years.

Luckily, it did start a conversation, and there was backlash from the public who did think critically about this sort of thing.

But it is unfortunate that the media once again forgot how to be leaders in society, and that the backlash was mostly aimed at them.

Here are some examples of headlines and reactions to them as well as the reporting:

Advertisting

Salie-Hlophe accuses Goliath of lying and racism

In response to Goliath’s gross misconduct complaint, Salie-Hlophe says Goliath has ‘an unhealthy obsession with my marriage’

Treasury is still seeking SAA funds

The government has committed an additional R2-billion to the airline, but has yet to pay it out

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide
Advertising

Press Releases

Boosting safety for cargo and drivers

The use of a telematics system for fleet vehicles has proved to be an important tool in helping to drive down costs and improve efficiency, says MiX Telematics Africa.

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.