OPINION: The Daily Maverick’s pyrrhic victory was not on merit. A large, well-funded organisation simply bullied a young student who was vulnerable and exposed.
ON August 15, the South Gauteng High Court passed a default judgment against a Unisa student, Modibe Modiba, concerning tweets that exposed Branislav “Branko” Brkic’s Daily Maverick.
Coincidentally, the court judgment comes a week after an explosive exposé against Daily Maverick, among other media houses. The Daily Maverick and some local media houses were exposed as a nexus of media houses funded by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) through the State Department-linked non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The Daily Maverick never refuted Ajit Sing and Roscoe Palm’s exposé titled “Manufacturing consent: How the United States has penetrated South African media”. The extensive search article is published on the MR Online.org website.
Coming back to the judgment and the pyrrhic “victory” of the Daily Maverick, the judgment timing is meant to deflect from the exposé. The judgment is clear that it was not on merit. A large, well-funded organisation simply bullied a young student who was vulnerable and exposed.
When analysing the developments of the time of the alleged tweets by Modiba, it is extremely difficult to make sense of why Modiba would have singled out the Daily Maverick for those tweets. Furthermore, Modiba also exposed that they were paid to attack those specific individuals.
Modiba’s claims are not far-fetched, especially when you conduct a Google search on “Astroturfing and the CIA”. The shocking results reveal the underbelly of media and social media manipulation by the CIA. But the methods would not be out of reach for the Daily Maverick.
A 2011 Guardian article talks about even more advanced methods in the report titled “Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media”.
Some Twitter spats here in South Africa uncovered how most of the “Black Twitter” micro-influencers were part of groups covertly hired by companies to do promos. But the downside has been instances where the same social media was weaponised against competing brands and individuals.
Many of us know and see what Modiba spoke about daily. But it is too expensive to speak the truth against institutions with money and power. However, the exposé threatens the veil of credibility that sustains the existence of organisations such as the Daily Maverick.
Without the entire case sitting, what we would know would be the R100 000 default judgment. The public was denied the opportunity to know the truth.
Over a year after Modiba’s exposé of the Daily Maverick, an expert report using big data from Twitter corroborated his claims. In an article by investigative journalists Sizwe Dlamini and Sihle Makhowana, titled “Bell Pottinger 2.0: Targeting Survé & Sekunjalo”, the Daily Maverick featured prominently.
The most telling conclusion by Dlamini and Makhowana is that “… data analysis showed that accounts associated with @News24 and @amaBhungane and @dailymaverick were all retweeted in a synchronous way with the support of bots.” But it did not end there.
Immediately when the Independent Media released the article, Jean Le Roux, a Daily Maverick-regular data journalist for DFR Lab, sprung into action, rubbishing the findings without providing evidence.
A few months later, the Daily Maverick released an article riddled with inaccuracies by Le Roux. The article titled “Paid influencers and sock puppets drove social media campaign targeting SA banks that cut ties with Iqbal Survé’s Sekunjalo” was a propaganda attack against Dr Survé – again corroborating claims by Modiba.
Interestingly, DFR Labs is a programme under the Atlantic Council, a US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) linked organisation.
While the Daily Maverick may be celebrating its victory against the unresourced student, raw and open source data points to the same conclusion of the claims by Modiba.
Sharp as it may be, the timing of the delivery of the judgment favouring Daily Maverick will not wash off the unchallenged CIA stain and facts against it.
Jamie Roz is an independent writer. The views expressed here are his own.