FHM writers' apology questioned

2013-07-19 08:01
Johannesburg - Two FHM men's magazine writers have written an open letter to apologise for joking about corrective rape, but also complained about "media madness" around their "private conversation" on Facebook.

The letter, published on wordpress.com, by Max Barashenkov and Montle Moorosi, contains an apology in the first paragraph, but some readers' comments described it as "fake" and "flimsy".

"We apologise sincerely for our distasteful and insensitive comments and would especially like to extend our apologies to anyone who has ever gone through the horror of rape," wrote the pair, who were both suspended by FHM.

"There is little excuse for our words and the careless manner in which they were delivered. We do not condone any form of violence against women, or against anyone for that matter."

However, Barashenkov and Moorosi complained that the "media madness" that was unleashed over the posting to their private Facebook pages received more attention than rape in the country.

Zozo's death

"The media madness that was unleashed over the posting of our private – and do keep in mind that it was private, with all Facebook privacy settings set to ‘friends only’ – conversation was surreal in the sense that it received a lot more attention, social media reach and established media buzz than actual cases of rape," they wrote.

"We struggle to recall quite as much of a public outcry over the [Duduzile] Zozo case itself - Twitter didn’t rage and [5FM presenter] Gareth Cliff hardly made wisecracks about it. And that is an issue we cannot help but raise."

On 30 June, the half-naked body of 26-year-old Zozo was discovered in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni. Her mother Thuziwe Zozo reportedly said she suspected her daughter was killed because she was a lesbian.

They said Zozo's death brought to light the "utter depravity of the society we live in now" and said for that they were sorry.

Blame shifting

"Both of us, in our careers as writers, have always engaged with the filth, with the chaos, the ugliness of the world, at the risk of being perceived as filth ourselves.

"Why? Because we find honesty in the unfiltered horror of life, not in politically and socially correct reportage which trivialises the real issues.

"It is our hope now that the newspapers and the social media mobs will react as strongly and as violently to more important matters in our country."

But some readers' comments posted on wordpress criticised the letter.

"As a woman who is irritated, as a rape survivor who is outraged, you can keep your fake apology that includes blame shifting," one comment read.

Another said: "This is a flimsy attempt at an apology. Whether or not people expressed an 'outcry' as you put it does not give anyone to joke [sic] about such a serious human rights issue."

Media 'barely bothered'

A reader called Kenny defended the pair: "I’m behind you guys. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making light of a heavy reality. Me and my mates have made rape jokes before, but we would never ever actually rape someone and obviously don’t condone rape."

City Press editor Ferial Haffajee tweeted: "Sorry, meant to do only happy tweets but what does '...we find honesty in the unfiltered horror of life' even begin to mean."

A status updated posted on Barashenkov's Facebook page started a social media storm on Tuesday.

The update read: "I propose correctional [sic] rape and sterilisation for any white person who twerks."

To twerk is to dance by vigorously shaking your bottom.

One of Barashenkov's female friend's rebuked him saying corrective rape should never be condoned.
Moorosi then commented: "I think rape can be quite fun if executed in a romantic manner. Like saying ‘I love you' before you slip a roofie [Rohypnol, a sedative] in her Earl Grey tea."

Facebook friends derided the comments to which Barashenkov replied: "I myself was a victim of correctional rape, so I can make jokes about it."

In their open letter, the pair said the media "barely bothered" to contact them for a comment and said they hoped that newspapers and the "social media mobs" would react "as strongly and as violently" to more important matters in the country.

Barashenkov was the magazine's features editor and Moorosi an editorial assistant.


  • Kevin Mason - 2013-07-19 08:16

    I think they make a valid point. the media found this far more 'entertaining' than it should have. It was a private conversation, the joking got out of hand, a friend called them on it. later they apologize. now we get a 3rd news article on this, when the rape people are comparing it to, hardly got the same attention. It is not something I would Joke about. But I find the mob attitude of 'lynch them' highly disturbing.

      Simon Berry - 2013-07-19 08:26

      Agreed. http://humansareweird.com/2013/01/27/im-sorry-did-i-offend-you/

      Martin Willemse - 2013-07-19 08:29

      thank you...exactly what i said yesterday. where are all the people now when it comes to protesting against this poor womens murder? fact is murder and rape has become a daily reality and we are somehow immune to these stories....easier to go after these guys because they are soft targets and remind us of that reality.

      Jane Longmuir - 2013-07-19 08:49

      Perhaps you're right and it did get out of hand, however, I fail to understand why anyone with any compassion or humanity would joke about rape, that is the unacceptable part, regardless of whether it was a private conversation or not. Of course there will be the arguement for Free Speech and I'm all for that, but joking about something which seems to be prevalent in SA cannot be deemed acceptable. That brings us on to "private" conversation on a social media platform and the inherent dangers......there is no such thing as "private" when you engage on this platform and that should be remembered. Once something is out there you cannot take it back, nor can you correctly gauge the tone since you cannot see the person to read their body language. Conversations can be misconstrued leading to offense, unintentional though it may be. I would agree with the writers on one point though, the media does appear to have made more of a fuss over their comments than about addressing the issue of rape, something which they report on daily with such a blasé attitude, as if it is an acceptable part of SA life. In a so-called civilized society, it is the media's responsibility to condemn these acts, however, by not commenting, they give the impression of condoning it and that should NEVER be acceptable!!!!! I wonder how they would feel if it happened to one of their girlfriends, sisters etc......I'm guessing they wouldn't find it so amusing then :(

      Shaun Neveling - 2013-07-19 08:49

      Of course the media and public is going mad. I truly feel that their comments are uncalled for. BTW I have never joked about rape, you have to be sick in your head to do that. I have two daughters, 5 and 2 years old and this issue that they made a JOKE about, has been my worst fear since they were born. Seriously, GROW UP

      Markus Hagedorn - 2013-07-19 08:56

      It's easier to point fingers at two people on social media, than to be truly heartbroken about what's happening to other people. sad, but true.

      grantcallaway - 2013-07-19 09:18

      @Jane - you fail to understand why anybody with any compassion would joke about rape? Did you by any chance laugh at Ahmed the Dead Terrorist? Yeah, because terrorism is FUNNY!? How about Homer Simpson choking Bart? Child abuse is funny? Please tell us what funny movie you last enjoyed, and I'll point out how inappropriate the humor was!

      Shaun Neveling - 2013-07-19 09:36

      Grant, there are many inappropriate issues out there. Take it in it's context. On a plane, you cannot say the word bomb, because of terrorism. In America, if you have a conversation regarding terrorism, they will listen in, and you might get a backlash over it. Because in America they have terrorism issues. In Hong Kong, you do not joke about drugs and kidneys for exactly the same reason as above. In SA we have rape issues, hence the public outcry. I share your view of how many inappropriate issues we have out there, but if this specific issue did not receive the public outcry that it got, we might see rape in tv series' and so on.

      Jane Longmuir - 2013-07-19 12:48

      @Grant. I know what you're saying - I'm sure most of us would agree that we have laughed at people tripping over or being televised doing something silly at some point or other, which is actually quite cruel, however, as Shaun says, it should be taken in context. We are talking about a specific incident, not a movie, and how it relates to SA. Hypocrisy yes, but life is full of it....doesn't make their comments right though!

  • hein.maree - 2013-07-19 08:38

    Even though Facebook has your friends on it, it is stil public domain and if those two idiot don't get it they should be fired for being stupid not their comments!

      Shaun Neveling - 2013-07-19 08:52

      Yes Hein, they are idiots. You get my thumbs up.

      grantcallaway - 2013-07-19 09:20

      So in what context would you guys regard "private" as "PRIVATE"?

      Shaun Neveling - 2013-07-19 09:25

      Basically Grant, if you cannot tell your mother the joke, it should not be told, EVER. Principles of respect. If you think about it, then so be it, but if you talk about it, it is a no go.

      Jo Lekkading - 2013-07-19 09:38

      And what if he would tell that joke to his mom. What if his mom has the same sense of humour as he, and many many many other do?

      Shaun Neveling - 2013-07-19 10:11

      That would explain his sick sense of humor. Our educational system has and continuously is failing us. Let us guide them on the path of righteousness.

  • Melissa May Williams - 2013-07-19 08:57

    I do agree on one thing their comments have received more attention than the rape victims have in this country, if they paid this much attention to the perpetrators then they would all be serving time behind bars not committing more crime.

      Shaun Neveling - 2013-07-19 09:04

      Melissa, I agree fully. But people are frustrated because of this disease in our country. This media storm is the result of their frustration.

      grantcallaway - 2013-07-19 09:26

      No - this media storm is a result of hypocrites!! Its is absolutely unacceptable to laugh about rape and racism, but absolutely okay to joke about child abuse, pedophilia, murder, terrorism and disabilities of all kinds. So many people out there simply unwilling to accept the fact that they DO laugh and joke about these things, but because these particular jokes don't appeal to them they stand there pointing fingers!

      Lynette Van Straten - 2013-07-19 09:33

      They did make very valid points, but they could possibly have released these points separate to their apology. Then it would not have come across as blame shifting, but rather as trying to prick some consciences.

      Shaun Neveling - 2013-07-19 09:53

      Grant, I definitely do not condone any of the issues you have mentioned and I am no hypocrite. Do not generalize this as there are good people out there and nobody is perfect. This issue caught the news and we are simply voicing our opinions. When there are other headlines, we also voice our opinions. This does not mean we are hypocrites. We simply feel strong over our beliefs

      Mia Brown - 2013-07-19 10:46

      >>No - this media storm is a result of hypocrites!! Its is absolutely unacceptable to laugh about rape and racism, but absolutely okay to joke about child abuse, pedophilia, murder, terrorism and disabilities of all kinds.>> Not sure who you're hanging out with Grant... anyone who thinks it's okay to joke about these things has some serious issues.

      Marianne Jacobsz Kapp - 2013-07-19 11:01

      @grantcallaway. It is definitely not acceptable to joke about the issues you list. It can never be okay to laugh or joke about victims of any form of violence. Words are powerful: they are capable of minimising the gravity of a situation and they are capable of heaping further pain and humiliation on survivors. Private conversation or no, how could these two even have thought this was in any way funny? This displayed a serious lack of respect for victims of this kind of horror and for the pain their families are enduring! Why has this received as much attention? That's quite obvious - they're supposed to be the good guys and they let us down.

  • Nicholas Smith - 2013-07-19 09:10

    another defense from journos and writers to cover their behavior. there is no excuse to make any mockery of rape whether male or female. anyone trying to justify what was written is as bad the writers themselves. these guys are trivializing rape and its effects emotionally and physically

      Martin Willemse - 2013-07-19 09:28

      nobody is justifying what they said. simply pointing out that the actual rape of that poor woman and to women in general does not get as much attention as these two are. they are easy targets. their letter of apology has hit home thats why everybody up in arms again. they have reminded us of that fact. where are the protests? zip, zilch, nadda

  • Nicholas Smith - 2013-07-19 09:25

    there is no privacy in the internet world, it always gets out in the end

  • Martin Willemse - 2013-07-19 09:30

    media are like vultures. they are feeding on peoples histeria as it sells. 2 weeks ago they were feeding on compassion for mandela...because it sells....they had their fill...now move on to next feed

  • Martin Willemse - 2013-07-19 09:37

    go read any story on here that has to do with rape....man arrested for raping 13 year old......got 13 comments...13? but this story has attracted how many comments since it first broke.

      Jane Longmuir - 2013-07-19 12:57

      Martin, I agree with you and that's all to do with people becoming desensitised to what they read in the news because it happens sooo often. It doesn't mean they don't care but have become weary with a situation that is not being addressed by Government and the Law, however I think most of the uproar is because these two men thought it was funny and expressed it inappropriately on a media platform which all know may supposed to be private but sn't!

  • Jacques Kleinhans - 2013-07-19 09:42

    If they didn't utter such insensitive - and just wrong - comments, jokes or whatever in the first place, there wouldn't have been this social media and countrywide stir. Of course people will be upset. What they did was uncalled for. Fullstop. With all this said, I do however agree with some points made in the so-called 'apology'. Especially the media attention and outcries regarding rape cases - yes, more attention and pressure from the media is needed. And education. So at the end of the day something good could still spawn from all this.

  • Phae Rayden - 2013-07-19 09:51

    Corrective rape jokes are made on this site everyday and no-one says a word. Does 'pappa wag vir jou''hope he has his vaseline' ring a bell? I get furious when I see these comments. Any person who makes jokes about any form of rape needs to take a long hard look themselves and learn from what happened to these two fools who seem to have got carried away by a very stupid moment. Their apology sounded sincere and they certainly should not lose their jobs. As for the friend who hung them out to dry, I hope they are now an EX friend.

  • Michael Duckworth - 2013-07-19 10:09

    I find it hard to believe that anyone apart from a total scumbag could either joke about any form of rape or defend those who make jokes about something so sick. Just saying.

  • Lyndatjie - 2013-07-19 10:21

    "Apology" is NOT accepted by me SORRY! And as for the people defending their “right” to make this type of joke and berating those who object for over-reacting.Good heavens! Do you even read what you write? Can you comprehend the level of depravity trying to defend these two guys and their “joke”? A joke by its very definition is a thing someone says to cause amusement or laughter. So we can now laugh at Correctional Rape? It’s a joking matter? It’s funny? It’s a source of amusement? We are allowed to laugh in the face of a person who was raped? We are allowed to poke fun at parents who lost a child to this? We are allowed to chortle in mirth at the funeral of somebody who died from this? The very act of labelling their disgusting comments as a “joke” should be seen as a criminal act within itself. Do you “joke” about slapping a woman around for not listening? Do you laugh when your neighbour talks about kicking the crap out of his kids for misbehaving? Do you guffaw when somebody jokes about raping a baby? Writing the words gives it power… because somewhere out there are RAPISTS reading this thinking its OK now to continue because you made it a JOKE! It’s OK therefor to RAPE because after all – it’s funny. Just because THEIR moral compass is broken – its not to say that the rest of us must perpetuate the crime by defending them. And the reason this is such a sensation in the media right now,because NOBODY thought that this was a joke like these two did! THAT is the story!

  • Matthew McNulty - 2013-07-19 10:45

    I fully agree with the writers, their joke has offended more people than the act rape itself. That can't be right. And to anyone who has ever privately joked about anything that is socially unacceptable and find themselves outraged at this; you dear Sir are a hypocrite.

  • Camille Darné - 2013-07-19 11:42

    Hmm, can't help but admit that rape is a sensitive topic. Yes, we all joke here and there with our friends about things that others may find offensive. However, Facebook isn't exactly the space for possibly offensive jokes (screenshots by friends can spread 'private' messages around pretty damn easily). Unfortunately for these two guys they are actually influencial figures who have a say in what goes into a magazine. If the public knows who you are, well, then sorry for you buddy, you can't actually joke. The fact remains you have to be careful when hitting 'post' or else suffer the consequences. Whilst I don't agree with jokes about rape (eish) I can't exactly throw stones. Mental note made- keep offensive jokes around the braai or in your head.

  • Cuthbert Murwisi - 2013-07-19 12:10

    A half-hearted attempt to apologise so no thank you I hate homophobic jokes.

  • Sarah Corlett - 2013-07-19 13:10

    If you'd accepted that you were in the wrong and left it at that all would be forgiven, but you apologise and undo all the sincerity of it by shifting the blame. It's not about who was or wasn't raped, the issue at heartbis that you made distasteful and insensitive comments which many people found offensive. What was more offensive was your half hearted attempt at apologising. You don't deserve to be in a position where you can write and influence other people when you clearly can't see or accept the mere fact that you were wrong. You most certainly deserve to lose your jobs for bringing your company's name into disrepute. Until I hear that you have been fired no FHM magazine will come into my house. I won't support anyone who employs such trash!

  • Sarah Corlett - 2013-07-19 13:12

    I agree michael. Complete and utter trash these two!

  • Sarah Corlett - 2013-07-19 13:14

    Did you read the full so called apology? They apologise in the first paragraph and then shift all the blame and basically say they did nothing wrong. Goodbon their 'friend' for exposing them. They deserve all the hype and humiliation they get!

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