The Reitz video: inviting outrage and/or pity?

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Peer-Reviewed Research


This article reflects on the initial local, national and international reaction, including media reaction, in February and March 2008 to the publication of the Reitz video at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and interprets meanings attached to the reactions within the framework of an existential communication critique. Given the fact that the University of the Free State serves as a microcosm of society at large, these meanings could be seen as having particular relevance for any discussion on race and culture in South Africa. The research problem is two-fold: Firstly, to determine the nature and extent of the initial reaction to the Reitz video which came to light on 26 February 2008, and secondly, to interpret possible meanings attached to the reactions within the framework of the cultural-philosophical views expounded in the renowned works of Gustave le Bon [The Crowd (1896)] and José Ortega y Gasset [The Revolt of the Masses (1930)]. Thematic content analysis is employed followed by critical and rational argumentation within the delimitations of the study. It was found that there was a general failure on the side of the intellectual elite and mass media to provide depth dimension to the issues at play. The prevailing public mind which focused and continually emphasised the idea of racism being alive and well in South Africa was hardly questioned or contextualised within an understanding that human communication is always influenced by socio-cultural circumstances.