Flummoxed by all the fakery


News story of the week (I do hope it’s not fake news) is that a bunch of scammers pretending to be Hawks cops tried to shake down a few of the people potentially facing charges of corruption, promising them their cases would go away if they were paid. They attempted, said The Citizen, “to get millions of rands in bribes from ministers and executives at state-owned enterprises who were accused of misconduct under Zuma’s rule”.

In fact, The Citizen was quoting Sunday World. The way Sunday World told the story, it was the scam that alerted the former ministers and ex-execs that they were under investigation. “‘Hawks’ bust ministers and CEOs” was the Sunday World headline, whereas The Citizen went with “Corruption on corruption: Zuma allies bribed by fake Hawks officials”, which doesn’t make sense.

A website called The South African (thesouthafrican.com), by contrast, headlines the same story thus: “Thick as thieves: Fake Hawks officials bribe Zuma’s friends”. Apart from their mishandling of the “thick as thieves” idea (it indicates solidarity among thieves), they’ve simply reworked The Citizen’s headline. And, largely, they’ve improved it, but they still get the bribing the wrong way round. It’s very confusing.

The South African namechecks The Citizen and then Sunday World, so its journalist is acknowledging the sources of the story he has gussied up, getting in a bad joke about “a flock of pigeons” (as opposed to hawks, you understand), among other things.

FYI, The South African describes itself so: “TheSouthAfrican.com is all about South Africa and the stories that affect South Africans, wherever they are in the world. We’re in independent. No agenda. No Bias.”

One is uncertain whether that extra “in” before “independent” has any significance, and the capital B of “Bias” is worrying.

I don’t know about fake news, but certainly The South African contains fake links. One, at the top of its main page, is headlined “Saffers Are Going to be Hurt — The Rand May Be Abandoned”, with the blurb: “If You’re From South Africa You Will be Shocked at this Latest Revelation”. It then gives a URL, vernonconsulting.com — not that the link goes to Vernon Consulting. (For that, you have to type it in yourself.)

No, it goes to a fake Mirror page headlined, in HuffPost title case: “The Biggest Investment Ever Made In Dragon’s Den History. 2 Entrepreneurs Created A System That Can Help Thousands Of South Africans All Around The Country” … which just yells “Scam! Scam!” Click on “Mirror”, at top right, made to look like a newspaper masthead, and you get some bitcoin solicitation.

Click on “The Saffer Economy is Doomed — The Rand May Be Worthless”, and you get to the same fake Mirror page.

What’s funny is that that link is credited to something called fiercelyoptimistic.com.

That made me laugh, and I haven’t even got any bitcoin.

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Author Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

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