The following is a letter I just wrote in order to complain about that TV show 3rd Degree. I hope it’s not too rude, but really, if we don’t stand up for genuine enquiry instead of bigoted tyrades, then can we complain when the quality of thinking is so poor?
To Whom It May Concern:
I would like to complain about 3rd Degree. It’s not that the show did anything wrong or offensive, but I think it’s necessary to complain about the awful quality of the interviewing.
Debora Patta’s manner is grating to me, and so I am rarely able to sit through too much of the show, but I was forced to watch the episode about Reitz Res last year, and I was drawn to this week’s Tutu interview, as the subject is important to me. In both episodes, I was strongly on the side advocated by Debora Patta, and in both episodes, she was so rude and sanctimonious that I found myself sympathising with the representative of the opposing view. I don’t like being made to sympathise with the Freedom Front, Debora.
The reason why interviews of this kind exist is to discover why it is that people have such divergent views. If she were a mediocre interviewer, Patta should set before us two opinions, and allow us to judge their merits. If she were a good interviewer, she would ask incisive questions in order to reveal inconsistencies in one or all of the positions so that we can all be enlightened and see the truth. She would give her guests enough rope with which to hang themselves, as we say, and she would guide us all forward.
But Patta is a bad interviewer. She nods patiently agreeing with the guest who is there to give the country her own opinion. And then when it’s the turn of the opponent, he or she gets five words in before Patta starts rudely interrupting in order to hurl abuse and accusations, and arrogantly to start preaching to a person whose views she has not bothered to hear. I know that people think that this makes her ‘tough’ and ‘willing to ask hard questions’, but they’re incorrect. It’s easy to be rude and not to allow your own thinking to be challenged. It’s easy to be arrogant rather than to be enquiring. Some of us would like to hear the thinking behind the seemingly strange things that other people believe and do. If we wanted to see blind, mindless testosterone, we could tune in for any of the 15 or 20 hours of wrestling that you seem to broadcast weekly. Perhaps Patta could become a wrestler?
I was enormously pleased to see Pallo Jordan putting her in her place this week, and it was incredibly funny seeing Patta trying to justify herself with a bald and transparent lie: ‘I must interrupt when you’re off topic’. Jordan was spot on, and I hope that Patta is able to reflect upon it and learn from it, so that she can progress by degree through mediocrity and hopefully on to excellence as an interviewer. I applaud her for being willing to put cerebral issues on TV, but I wish she would allow the people with the cerebella to do the talking. South Africa needs people who can think deeply and incisively when presented with our nation’s plurality of ideas. Patta’s intolerance and self-righteousness are just a bit too Old School.