The Sunday Times has come under fire in the past few days after a controversial Comic Con Africa “review” appeared in the printed newspaper on Sunday. Ever since it was published online, geeks all over the country, and even a few overseas have been rallying behind each other in a frenzy of tweets and Facebook posts expressing their outrage. The South African newspaper trashed geeks in SA after a lifestyle writer by the name of Oliver Roberts attempted to tarnish the industry with his backwards views. You can read the entire article here but in a nutshell, the “review” was littered with fat and slut shaming. Not to mention the condescending tone whereas geeks were described as overly-polite weird humanoids with carpal tunnel and a lot of drool.
Gerhard “carrot” Pretorius, a contact we have at Glitched Africa, managed to finally get a response from The Sunday Times after thousands of people reached out to them. Gerhard made contact with Pearl Boshomane, the Lifestyle Editor. Gerhard’s lengthily email expresses his concern over the review stating that is has done more damage than they know.
By printing this review, your paper has given validity to the ignorant things the writer says about these wonderful people. It has reinforced the fear they have of being themselves.
This is at the root of the rage the article has sparked. From geeks who have fought against this kind of treatment. We are a protective community because we know how precious that enthusiasm is and how easy it is to lose it in the face of ignorance and ridicule. We stand up for ourselves today and the people we were yesterday.
It is quite a long mail but to sum it up, it is everything we have all complained about over the past few days. The Sunday Times Lifestyle Editor, Pearl Boshomane, responded to Gerhard in a mail below;
Thank you for your considered letter.
I’m afraid I cannot give an in-depth response because it’s deadline day (Lifestyle’s deadline is Wednesdays, so things are incredibly hectic around here). Reading (and re-reading during the editing process) Oliver’s piece, I didn’t think it was harmful, hateful or malicious — otherwise it would never have been published.
I found the piece to be satirical.
Lifestyle would never publish something we feel is hateful, or anything that incites harm upon others. While I am the editor of Sunday Times Lifestyle, I do not believe I have to agree with everything that’s published within its pages. Is this the piece I would have written about Comic Con? No.
I’ve been a geek for 22 years (and one who has been bullied — both within the scene and outside of it, FYI), so my perspective would have been very different (and geeky af). But my own personal feelings wouldn’t be reason enough for me to not publish an opinion (and it really was an opinion, not a piece of serious journalism) that’s contrary to mine.
I’m proud of the space we have cultivated here at Lifestyle, where different viewpoints and opinions can thrive. Which is why we are publishing a wonderful piece in defence of geekdom and geek culture in this coming Sunday’s Lifestyle. It’s a gorgeous piece which I would share with you, but I’m not allowed to share content pre-publication.
Sorry if there are typos or grammatical errors in the email. Hectic day, as I said. This probably won’t be a satisfactory answer for you, but it’s an honest response from my part.
Thanks once again for taking the time to write in.
Have a great day,
Pearl’s defence to the Comic Con Africa review is that it was satire. She also mentions that she is a geek, and has been bullied for being one. Ironic isn’t it? The Sunday Times seems to be planning a counter article in defence to the geek culture which will be in this Sunday’s newspaper. It is easy to classify something offensive as satire. I feel like it is the cheap way out of an issue. You offend someone and brush it off as a joke but meanwhile, your intentions were the complete opposite. As long as you get what you want to say out, it makes one feel better.
Do you think the review was satire? Voice your opinion in the comments below.