15. TECHNIQUES OF PERSUASION

BRITAIN VERSUS SOUTH AFRICA

In the Panorama program of 2012, there were 3 references to “South Africans”.

Only one of those references (at 54:41) linked directly to the case against Shrien Dewani. But Panorama in 2013 contains no fewer that 45 statements containing the words “South Africa” or “South African”. It is quite clearly a deliberate strategy to create an “us and them” (UK vs South Africa) mindset in the targeted (UK) audience. Jeremy Vine links the case against Shrien Dewani to “the South Africans”, rather than “the police” or “the prosecution”. At the same time, he suggests the defence is linked to Britain, and Britishness.

EXAMPLES

  • At 01:41 and 11:46, Professor James Fraser alleges “This is not an investigation that would meet the standards in this country.”
  • 09:36 an audio clip of Shrien talking to The Sun was doctored to include the phrase “He spoke good English…“, thus emphasising Shrien’s ‘Britishness’ (see “IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE EVIDENCE, YOU CAN CHANGE IT, RIGHT?” below).
  • 06:17 “It’s up to a judge to find Shrien Dewani guilty or innocent, but do the South Africans have credible evidence he was behind Anni’s killing?”
  • 44:36 Vine: “Home Office pathologist Dr Shepherd takes a very different view to the South Africans.”
  • 48:07 Vine: “Did the South Africans miss opportunities to put the identity of Anni’s killer beyond doubt?”

THE “COUPLE”

  • Throughout the programme there are many visual images presented showing Anni with Shrien as an idealised “couple”, undermining the real situation as revealed by Anni’s messages to her friends.
  • At 07:46 “But the couple flew to South Africa as planned, spending four days at the luxury Chitwa Chitwa safari lodge.” The implication here, that the flight to South Africa was “as planned” by “the couple”, is false. Anni actually had so little forewarning of their destination that she had not even packed appropriate clothing.
  • 17:33 JV “As the plot formed around them…“, essentially asserting without evidence, that ‘the couple’ were both innocent victims of a plot by others.

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS… SUGGESTIVE VISUALS

The transcripts of the Panorama program do not provide ‘the full picture’ (so to speak). In any video production, the meaning of spoken words can be enhanced, transmuted, hidden, or even belied by the accompanying visuals, and Panorama is no exception. There are several aspects of the Panorama production where these issues are starkly apparent:

Backdrops

The actors playing Mbolombo, Tongo and Qwabe are shown in a dark and dingy jailhouse setting with a background of locks and barred windows. All three actors recite their words in peculiarly exaggerated accents.

  • Qwabe: 14:23, 16:30, 17:07, 28:35, 35:05, 38:11, 38:25, 42:04, 49:58
  • Tongo: 14:38, 19:00, 22:15, 23:05, 24:35, 24:59, 25:20, 31:03, 32:02, 33:37, 35:11, 35:45, 37:06, 41:02, 52:45, 53:19, 53:42
  • Mbolombo: 14:51, 25:38, 25:55, 30:02, 30:18, 33:01
jailbirds

Leopold Leisser, the German Master, is presented against a similarly darkened setting, reminiscent of a dungeon. The actor recites the quotation with a menacing, slightly depraved style, using a stereotypical German accent. (21:05)

GermanMaster

The image presented of Mngeni is very different. We see him in a well-lit room chatting to police; we see snapshots of Mngeni with a friendly smile on his face; we see Mngeni struggling with his walking frame in the court rooms at his trial

  • Mngeni confessions video: 37:35, 37:45, 39:13, 38:42, 39:31, 41:40, 42:20, 50:20
  • Mngeni other footage: 16:42(still), 16:55(court), 46:58(court), 50:11(still)
Mngeni

The British forensic experts James Fraser, Mark Mastaglio, Paul Shepherd, and Angela Shaw are shown against a plain black backdrop, their faces well-lit. There are purely artistic reasons why such a stylistic convention might be used. But the convention is open to abuse, as it removes context which locates the interview in time and place. In the absence of such context, it is easy to post-edit in footage of questions which are different to the actual questions asked at interview.

experts

Close examination of video and audio footage suggests that in at least one of the interviews, such post-editing has been carried out. (See HOW TO QUESTION THE ANSWER)

Even without going to the extent of ex-post-facto alterations, the use of the plain background allows such footage to be dropped in as a comment in the middle of other footage, devoid of the original context, without incurring continuity problems in the narrative. There are other places where Panorama can be suspected to have done this, for example:

  • the barrage of expert opinion statements we see near the beginning (01:28,01:34,01:41)
  • James Fraser’s comments at 22:30 “We know that this is simply not true“, and 22:41 “A single thing that was inconsequential, even a number of things that were inconsequential wouldn’t worry me, but there are really quite a few things here which are plainly untrue.

What evidence to we the audience have, that Professor Fraser’s comments relate to Tongo at all? In these comments, Fraser does not identify Tongo as the subject of his comments, and the accompanying video footage is CCTV of Shrien and Anni at the Cape Grace. Vine is the only person who mentions Tongo in a suggestive interview question which could have easily been edited in later, taking advantage of the black backgrounding:

  • 22:33 Vine: “So it worries you that something – even one thing that Tongo says is untrue – that starts to worry you.”

Fraser’s comments may have been about Tongo, as suggested by Vine, but given the numerous deliberate misrepresentations we see elsewhere in this programme, can we have confidence?

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