A South African man who, posing as a feminist activist, convinced the Huffington Post to publish an article calling for white males to have their voting rights removed has now lost his job after HuffPo editors tracked him down and confronted him at his workplace.
Last week, HuffPo published a piece entitled “Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?” written by supposed feminist activist “Shelley Garland.”
“Some of the biggest blows to the progressive cause in the past year have often been due to the votes of white men,” wrote “Garland” in the article. “If white men were not allowed to vote, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union, it is unlikely that Donald Trump would now be the President of the United States, and it is unlikely that the Democratic Alliance would now be governing four of South Africa’s biggest cities.”
“If white men no longer had the vote, the progressive cause would be strengthened,” she continued, adding, “At the same time, a denial of the franchise to white men, could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners.”
Garland has now been revealed to be the pseudonym of Marius Roodt, a think-tank employee from Johannesberg, who created the persona in order to expose HuffPo’s racism and “lack of fact-checking.”
In the face of public outrage, the Huffington Post initially defended the piece. According to Verashni Pillay, editor-in-chief of HuffPo South Africa, “dismantling the patriarchal systems that have brought us to where we are today, a world where power is wielded to dangerous and destructive ends by men, and in particular white men, necessarily means a loss of power to those who hold it.”
Only after learning that “Shelley Garland” did not exist, and that they had been trolled, did the Huffington Post retract the article and affirm that they “fully support” universal enfranchisement.
In a later post, Verashni Pillay also apologized for initially defending the piece.”I did not make it clear enough in my initial response that I absolutely do not agree with the disenfranchisement of any group of people,” wrote Pillay. “I don’t hate white men.”
Following the humiliation, the Huffington Post decided that their hoaxer needed to be punished rather than praised for exposing the clear weaknesses of their editorial process (which HuffPo themselves admitted to, and pledged to improve, in the post announcing the retraction of “Garland’s” article.)
The man behind “Shelley Garland,” Marius Roodt, was identified after the Huffington Post digitally traced his email and used facial recognition technology on the picture of “Garland,” which was actually a picture of Roodt altered to look like a woman.
Armed with video recording equipment, three HuffPo editors then arrived at Roodt’s workplace to confront him.
Putting him on the spot in a video interview, the HuffPo editors then asked him a number of questions including, “Are you sorry for what you did?” HuffPo editor-at-large Ferial Haffajee also told Roodt that she thought his hoax had been an example of “his own anger coming out” and had been a “very angry thing to do.”
The HuffPo editors also drew attention to some of the consequences caused by the publication of the piece. Despite the fact that the Huffington Post made the decision to publish the article, they called on Roodt to answer for them.
“Did you think that this might – if this were published – might lead to racial discord, or might harden attitudes on both sides?” asked Pieter du Toit, deputy editor of HuffPo South Africa. “It’s led to a white Twitter outcry. It’s led to some terrible things being said about South Africans across the board, and terrible things being said personally about our colleagues [and] the title we work for.”
And yet, it was Roodt, not anyone at the Huffington Post, who ended up losing his job. Roodt tendered his resignation with his employer, the Centre for Development and Enterprise, a prestigious South African think-tank.
The resignation was accepted by Ann Bernstein, the CDE’s director. Roodt has yet to explain why he felt the need to resign, given that he appears to have done a service to South African journalism by exposing lax editorial standards and a troubling level of racism at a major online publication.