Fact Check: NYT’s ‘Unhinged’ Hit on Tucker Carlson for Claiming White Farmers Targeted in South Africa

Carlson
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CLAIM: Tucker Carlson’s claim that white South African farmers are being singled out is a “far-right” conspiracy theory.

VERDICT: MOSTLY FALSE. While Carlson exaggerated, the New York Times‘ attempted debunking is simply wrong.

In 2018, Tucker Carlson devoted a segment of his show on Fox News to reporting on the murders of white farmers in South Africa. Some of his reporting was alarmist, but the underlying problem is a real one, as many South Africans acknowledge.

Carlson’s report provoked then-President Donald Trump to tweet in response, creating one of his customary news cycles, with establishment media outlets accusing Carlson of fanning the flames of racial outrage. But as Breitbart News reported at the time, Julius Malema, the head of South Africa’s radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), responded that Trump was right about his intention, and that of others in South Africa, to expropriate land without compensation from white farmers.

There are essentially two land issues in South Africa. One concerns the restitution of land seized from black South Africans under apartheid. The other concerns the unequal racial distribution of land overall, including land owned by white farmers.

These two issues have been handled separately. While few black South Africans have shown an active interest in becoming commercial farmers, the unequal distribution of land remains a political flashpoint and a reminder of lingering inequalities.

Breitbart News observed:

The South African government, which is run by the African National Congress (ANC), has been at pains to calm the fears of land-owners and investors, while at the same time appeasing populists in its own ranks and in the EFF with promises of redistribution.

While not the “white genocide” claimed by some on the American right, the situation has provoked many South Africans — black and white — to worry that the ANC could soon emulate neighboring Zimbabwe, where farm seizures led to economic collapse.

In its recent series of articles attacking Carlson, the New York Times seized on the South African controversy to claim that Carlson was amplifying “far-right” and even “neo-Nazi” themes from the Internet. The Times went further, denying that farm murders and proposed land seizures were not really a problem:

Legislators in South Africa, where whites still own the majority of private farmland, had begun debating a constitutional amendment to allow uncompensated land seizures, but no such measure had been passed. Though intended to reverse apartheid-era land dispossession, the proposed amendment did not target farmers on the basis of their race or ethnicity. Nor had the government backed a campaign of ethnic violence and murder.

James Myburgh, the editor of South African news website PoliticsWeb, has written a detailed rebuttal of the Times article, written by Nick Confessore. He writes that while Carlson made errors, Confessore’s account is “unhinged from reality”:

There was certainly a lack of precision in Carlson’s framing of the situation in South Africa in his segments, but Confessore manages, in his long-researched response, to lever in a number of far more questionable claims.

In his segment, which aired in May 2018, Carlson misstated the point that had been reached in the process – a constitutional amendment [to expropriate land from whites without compensation] had been initiated by a vote of a super-majority in the National Assembly – but it was not yet law. He was not wrong about the intentions behind it.

[M]ost apartheid-era dispossessions had already been reversed. The EFF and ANC RET faction’s push for a constitutional amendment had little to do with this process of redressing old apartheid-era wrongs. As documented above it was explicitly aimed at achieving an overtly chauvinistic black nationalist project of dispossessing white South Africans on the basis of their race.

As for farm murders, Myburgh acknowledges the difficult task of documenting the trend. But he notes that “there is little doubt that since 1990 those living on farms and small holdings have been – and continued to be – attacked and murdered in unnaturally high numbers in often brutal and horrifying ways.” He also argues that farm killings are “hugely disproportionate to the murder-to-robbery ratio more generally.”

Myburgh concludes:

Whatever his motives, at this critical moment Carlson was one of the very few leading US journalists using his platform to at least try and throw a wrench into the dispossession process. US elites in the media and state department were, by contrast, neither reporting on it critically, nor seeking to obstruct it. After Trump’s tweet forced the issue into the American public debate however those same elites responded by unleashing a quite extraordinary barrage of highly coordinated racial propaganda.

What was evident here was the ongoing and unspoken conspiracy between African nationalists and their Western apologists to see the continent purged of yet another productive immigrant people, even at the price of South Africa’s economic ruination.

Tucker Carlson can no doubt be criticised on other matters, but in this debate it is his US critics who really need to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror.

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