The Huffington Post's South Africa edition was recently forced to issue a retraction after it published a controversial blog post by a person who "cannot be traced and appears not to exist."
The Huffington Post SA post was titled, "Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?” It argued that "if white men no longer had the vote, the progressive cause would be strengthened,” citing recent “blows” to progressivism such as President Donald Trump’s election in the U.S. and Great Britain’s vote last year to leave the European Union.
The piece continued:
It would not be necessary to deny white men indefinitely — the denial of the vote to white men for 20 years (just less than a generation) would go some way to seeing a decline in the influence of reactionary and neo-liberal ideology in the world. The influence of reckless white males were one of the primary reasons that led to the Great Recession which began in 2008. This would also strike a blow against toxic white masculinity, one that is long needed.
Let's be clear, it may be unfair, but a moratorium on the franchise for white males for a period of between 20 and 30 years is a small price to pay for the pain inflicted by white males on others, particularly those with black, female-identifying bodies.
The original post, which can be viewed here, was written by someone named Shelley Garland, who claims to be a philosophy student.
Except, according to Huffington Post SA Editor-in-Chief Verashni Pillay, Garland isn't a real person.
"Huffington Post SA has removed the blog 'Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?' published on our Voices section on April 13, 2017," Pillay wrote to her readers over the weekend.
"We have done this because the blog submission from an individual who called herself Shelley Garland, who claimed to be an MA student at UCT, cannot be traced and appears not to exist," she explained.
In response to the slipup, Pillay said that the Huffington Post will take immediate steps to prevent the situation from happening again.
"We have immediately bolstered and strengthened our blogging procedures that, until now, have operated on the basis of open communication and good faith," she wrote. "From now on, bloggers will have to verify themselves."
However, that didn't stop the website's editors from initially bragging about and defending the post.
Before announcing the blog post had been taken down, Pillay defended it as "pretty standard for feminist theory."
"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. A loss of oppressive power. Those who have held undue power granted to them by patriarchy must lose it for us to be truly equal. This seems blindingly obvious to us," Pillay wrote in a now deleted and archived post.
Another Huffington Post SA editor bragged about the traffic it was receiving.
A person claiming to be "Shelley Garland" has since reached out to website CliffCentral.com, explaining, with evidence of the original pitch and email conversation with Huffington Post SA's editor, that the entire post was a hoax and the liberal Huffington Post fell for it.
The person told CliffCentral:
A further indictment on the Huffington Post is the fact that its editor, Verashni Pillay, then took it upon herself to defend the total garbage that I had written. Although Ms Pillay claims that her website does not necessarily agree with what I said, it is unlikely that she would publish a piece with the same sentiments but aimed at a different race group written by someone ostensibly from the other side of the political spectrum.
It is highly doubtful that she would publish a piece saying perhaps apartheid wasn’t that bad, or defending Donald Trump’s ban on people of certain nationalities entering the United States, and rightly so. Pieces defending apartheid or the "Muslim ban" would be hurtful claptrap. What we have seen is the South African equivalent of the Sokal Affair, where something will be published, even if it’s "liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions." My article does not meet criteria a, but it certainly meets criteria.
Not only that, but the post's author claimed that she did not follow the website's editorial guidelines and that it never should have been posted, making Pillay's initial defense of the post even more laughable.
"Let this be a lesson to publications like the Huffington Post (and others) to fact check articles, thoroughly investigate contributors (especially those sending through unsolicited work), and not to publish absolute poppycock, just because it fits into a certain ideological narrative," the author said.