When I first wrote about Lauren Southern’s documentary, Farmlands, it hadn’t even been released. The ex-Rebel Media correspondent had been teasing a project on the treatment of white farmers in South Africa for some time, and had eventually appeared on Stefan Molyneux’s Freedomain Radio show to discuss it. The conversation was mainly fearmongering about what might happen if white people become a racial minority in the U.S., just as they are in South Africa.
After I published the piece on Southern’s Freedomain Radio interview, and stated that “white genocide” was most decidedly not occurring in South Africa, reactions were pretty hostile. In fact, they were so over-the-top that even Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt, who only shared it on Twitter, was denounced as a “natural traitor” to his race by Millennial Woes. Other epithets included “self hating white man,” “disgusting,” and “no better than a holocaust [sic] denier.”
Nevertheless I continued to report on Southern and the people who helped in creating her film. After President Trump tweeted that he would order Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “study” South African farm murders and land seizures, the issue of “white genocide” was suddenly propelled from the fringes to the front page.
And in light of the ongoing debate over the South African government’s efforts to expropriate farm lands, I’ve decided to review Southern’s documentary here. Obviously people are free to watch her movie to judge it for themselves — not that I would particularly recommend it. Still, for people who want to, the link is here.
She began the movie with a monologue, telling her viewers that, “Ever since I started my work in politics, I have heard stories and rumors of something sinister happening in South Africa. I was regularly sent images and videos claiming there was a white genocide going on right now.” She insisted that, as a journalist, she does not “take anything at face value,” but also that “there is never smoke without fire.”
She continued this attempt to position herself as a truth-seeker who really believes what is going on in South Africa “lie[s] somewhere in the middle” of the Left, which she says dismisses the murders of white farmers, and the Right, which predicts a bloody race war. This, as we will see, is completely disingenuous on Southern’s part. (This also happens before viewers even get to the title screen, filled with ominous storm clouds.)
She took the next 8 or 9 minutes to provide an abridged history of South Africa, from 1652 when the Dutch East India company formed the Dutch Cape Colony, to the fall of apartheid in 1991 and election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. And she did include important people and events, including Shaka Zulu, the Mfecane, Dingane, the Weenen massacre, apartheid, etc.
But conspicuously absent from Southern’s history lesson was any mention of the Native Land Act. Passed in 1913 — well before South Africa officially adopted apartheid — the Act allocated 7% of arable land to black South Africans, while the rest was given to the nation’s white minority. It prohibited the sale of white-owned territory to blacks and vice versa, paving the way for the vastly unequal land ownership we see today.
Indeed, the Act is not mentioned once throughout the entire film. Although, to her credit, Southern did point out that black South Africans were forcibly relocated to small areas called “Bantustans” or black “homelands.” The purpose of the policy was to separate blacks from whites and prevent blacks from living in the nation’s urban areas. Still, to neglect a major piece of legislation that prompted today’s land reform does not bode well for the rest of the film.
After some brief flashes of news reports of civil unrest, Southern described what happened after landing in South Africa for the first time. “As we drove from the airport, my guide told me protesters had burned down the town hall,” she said. “He said this happened every day. But ‘every day’ was an understatement.” Southern doesn’t name her guide yet or show his face, but — spoiler alert — it’s Suidlanders spokesman Simon Roche. (More on him later.)
After this tangent, Southern circled back to the subject at hand: the murders of white South African farmers. “When investigating the farm murders I was met with a remarkable scarcity of information,” Southern claimed. “The government statistics did not report any rise or increase, and the BBC and other mainstream outlets echoed this position.”
Southern did not share what statistics she found, but it is true that calculating the number of farm murders is a difficult task. The nonpartisan fact-checking organization Africa Check lays out why that is. However, from available statistics, including murder dockets, it is safe to say that white people in general are less likely to be murdered than any other racial group relative to their population.
Instead of turning to fact-checkers or speaking to members of these mainstream outlets, Southern instead turned to the “Blood Sisters” — founders of the group Crime Scene Clean-up (CSC) which, as its name implies, works to scrub down grisly crime scenes. Southern said she “figured, surely, if anyone they would know what the reality of these numbers really looked like.”
I have no idea why she assumed this. CSC may very well keep accurate records on the victims whose crime scenes they clean. What is unclear is whether or not their records are reliable, and to what extent their data can be extrapolated to the rest of the farm murders in South Africa.
One CSC member said, “Between 2012 and 2016 the attacks on smallholding farms or properties deemed as a farm or area non-residential has increased by an average of 72.9%. The figures that I’ve just given you is according to our statistics. Government statistics will differ.” Again, the audience has no idea what the government statistics are so no comparison can be made.
The kicker is that this CSC representative doesn’t offer any explanation for why they differ — instead saying he would prefer not to hazard a guess. Southern’s response was that a “qualified government associate had confirmed my worst fears” that the farm murders were “real” and “much higher than we imagined.” Again, how is this a confirmation?
But before the audience even has a chance to let that question sink in, the film cuts to one of the Blood Sisters discussing just how gruesome the farm murders are. It’s a blatant appeal to emotion, but an effective one. She described finding a “piece [sic] of nails being pulled out,” “hands being removed from bodies,” “brutally murdered babies,” — even a child scalded to death in boiling water. And she came across as kind and genuine.
The problem is that she claimed, without evidence, that these were not motivated by theft as the overwhelming number of farm murders are believed to be. And even though the murders are real — and often brutal — it doesn’t mean the CSC’s numbers are right, or that the crimes are racially motivated. No one disputes that South Africa has a crime problem. Still, that does not indicate a “white genocide” is taking place, or will in the near future.
But that’s what Southern appears to want the audience to think, as the music starts to resemble something out of a low-budget horror flick.
The Blood Sister went on to say that, according to their organization, 90% of the increase in farm attacks was caused by both “unemployment” and “racial discrimination.” One would think “unemployment” as a cause would mean they were robberies, which is weird because minutes earlier she said they weren’t.
Southern asked who the racial discrimination was against and a voice from off-screen told the Blood Sister to be careful. She repeated the off-screen voice and said they did indeed need to be careful because they “work very closely with the government.” The implication being that these racially-motivated attacks against white people are being hushed up. Twenty minutes in and we have our first government conspiracy.
Southern then said she knew she had to “investigate further” by speaking to victims of these tragedies and their loved ones. Again, the stories here are disturbing — one family still has blood stains on the wall from a gunshot. But what’s striking about this is that Southern only meets with white farmers. If she’s trying to get to the truth of the matter, why doesn’t she compare the brutality of attacks on white farmers with attacks on black farmers? Or black farm workers?
According to Africa Check, the last analysis of farm attack victims by race occurred in the early 2000s. Out of 1,398 people attacked on farms, 61.6% were white (unsurprising given what we know about who owns the most farm land in South Africa) while 33.3% were black. Another 4.4% were listed as Asian while 0.7% were listed as “other.”
Clearly black South Africans have been farm attack victims, and one wonders what the motivation is, or if they’re just as brutal as the crimes described by the Blood Sister. Unfortunately the audience will have to continue to wonder, as Southern made no mention of black victims. It’s as if they simply do not exist.
This is strange coming from someone who told her audience at the beginning: “As a journalist, I have learned to never take anything at face value.” Yet so far she’s taken plenty at face value, including statistics, the motivation for farm attacks, and the idea that these attacks are only happening to white South Africans. If she were really searching for the truth, why hasn’t she tried to test these claims more thoroughly?
Fast forward a bit, and Southern is talking about land reform — mainly on the ongoing debate over whether to change the South African Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation. Even the late Nelson Mandela, a “known radical Communist,” believed in compensating farmers for their land, Southern noted. And it’s true that the land reform debate is complicated.
Unless you’re watching Farmlands, that is. Remember, only around 8 minutes were spent devoted to the history of South Africa. There was no mention of the Native Lands Act of 1913. She interviewed no black farmers or farm workers affected by South Africa’s high crime rates. She never even interviewed a single black farmer waiting for a land claim to be processed.
Even the Economist offered a more balanced news story about land reform, highlighting the story of Zabalaza Mshengu, a black South African born in 1914 — a year after the Native Lands Act was passed. Mr. Mshengu stayed to work as a “labor tenant” for no pay on a white-owned farm in exchange for a piece of “untitled land.”
He lodged a claim for land in 2000, and 7 years later the Land Claims Court said he met all relevant criteria. Yet the authorities never acted on his claim. He died on August 13th at the age of 104 without ever having been a bona fide landowner. Lauren Southern was apparently uninterested in telling that part of the story.
Instead we cut to Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party. Malema’s rhetoric is often tinged with violence, so it’s not terribly difficult to portray him as unhinged. In 2011 Malema was found guilty of hate speech for singing an apartheid-era song called “Shoot the Boer.” Much more recently he’s made comments like, “We have not called for the killing of white people…at least for now.”
If Southern wants a bogeyman to make “land reform” synonymous with “anti-white hate,” Malema’s her guy.
Yet she doesn’t even interview any EFF members. Instead, Southern opted to interview a representative of Black First Land First (BLF), a fringe political party — even more so than the EFF, of which it is an offshoot — which explicitly calls for taking all land owned by whites and redistributing it to blacks.
According to their website, “All of the South African land in white hands was stolen from black people. Therefore, all white people who hold land are in possession of stolen property. Justice will only prevail once the land which was stolen from the black majority is returned.”
BLF Deputy President Zanele Lwana told Southern that they must “expropriate” the land “back to the people,” and seize the means of production — BLF is a pan-Africanist and socialist political party, after all. She also remarked that “confrontation” might “unfortunately” be necessary because “black people have been patient enough for more than 400 years of colonialism.”
But it was the last line that Southern had been hoping for: “We are coming for you and we are going to get everything that you own.” But while the EFF at least has some form of political power, with 25 out of 400 National Assembly seats and 30 out of 430 seats in South Africa’s Provincial Legislatures, BLF has none. They occupy zero seats in South African government. Southern never mentions this once.
And the only member of a mainstream political party that Southern even interviewed in Farmlands is Thabo Mokwena, a businessman and low-level ANC member accused of corruption. Southern described Mokwena as “a member of the ruling party’s Provincial Executive Committee.”
Although Mokwena isn’t listed as being part of the North West Provincial Legislature, some news stories do list him as “a member of the North West ANC’s provincial executive committee.” Other more recent stories describe him as a “Mahikeng local municipal manager.” Of course those same outlets note that Mokwena has been heavily criticized for allegedly spending R96,000 a month (roughly 6,300 U.S. dollars) for a nonexistent toilet.
But this is the ANC member Southern chose to interview — not someone with more political clout, like a member of South Africa’s Parliament, of which there is no shortage. Even what Mokwena had to say wasn’t particularly revealing. Mokwena said that there has been “very slow progress” in addressing land reform, which he blamed on the “bureaucracy” being “way too slow.”
“This seems to be the official party line,” Southern said in voice-over. “Don’t worry. Everything is fine. Ignore, cover up, and don’t mention it.”
Following her interview with Mokwena, the audience got its first look at Southern’s guide: Simon Roche of the Suidlanders organization. To put it bluntly, Roche is a white nationalist. He collects donations from Holocaust deniers and other white nationalists, and spoke at American Renaissance‘s annual conference not once but twice.
His latest speech was about, in white nationalist Gregory Hood’s words, why “whites can no longer justify using services and companies that fund our racial enemies.”
Last year Roche attended the deadly white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. And during a 2018 appearance on Christopher Cantwell’s Radical Agenda podcast, Roche boasted of the Suidlanders’ “terrific relationship” with the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), a Neo-Nazi group, and praised its founder Eugène Terre’Blanche as a “man of genuine and sincere conviction” who had an “absolute devotion to his people.”
Given the timing of her documentary, Southern could have asked Roche about his association with white nationalists, including his decision to stand with them in Charlottesville. She could have asked him about his 2017 speech at that year’s AmRen conference. Or his decision to appear on multiple white nationalist shows, including Red Ice TV. Yet she did none of those things, and kept the audience in the dark too.
Instead, she let Roche rattle off statistics on unemployment and the value of the rand. This is not honest reporting, and is the clearest sign yet that Southern is pushing a specific agenda and, as usual, taking things at face value.
Eventually Southern asks rhetorically whether or not there is a “solution” to the problems plaguing South Africa. This is a prelude to her visit to Orania — an all-white enclave in South Africa which, she said, experienced “virtually no crime.” She spoke with the mayor of Orania, who apparently turned down interview requests with CNN and BBC in the past.
The mayor, Carel Boshoff, said Orania was founded in 1988 “when it was quite clear that minority government in South Africa was unsustainable.” As he bragged about how the crime rate in Orania is “quite close to zero,” the camera zoomed in around his office. Eventually it landed on one of several portraits hanging on Boshoff’s wall: that of Andrew Breitbart, whose eponymous website became a pro-Trump propaganda outlet in 2015.
There were numerous pictures on the wall, so why did Southern specifically zoom in on Breitbart’s picture? Likely to signify to conservative viewers that the people living in this “ethnostate” are conservatives just like the people who read Breitbart.com. The upshot being that the white nationalism of Orania is not incompatible with conservatism. It’s a subtle attempt to nudge the Overton Window.
Southern suggested that what the people of Orania did was working, claiming she was “struck by the sense of peace in Orania” and holding it up as “one potential solution to this crisis.” She then added this gem: “On and off-camera many people, both black and white, did suggest segregation as a potential solution to this crisis, and even more worrying is the growing number of people preparing for a race-based civil war if another solution cannot be found.”
Cut once again to the Suidlanders and Simon Roche, whose work Southern promotes in the film. The Suidlanders showed Southern the preparations they were making in the event of a race war, including a mobile hydroponic system and a canopy for trucks to pick up “refugees.”
This type of paranoia had reached a fever pitch after Nelson Mandela died, when a handful of Afrikaners feared a “Night of the Long Knives”-style scenario where whites would be killed en masse. Among those warning of violence were the Suidlanders, who suggested members go “on holiday” to stay safe. Needless to say, these fears were completely unfounded, but the Suidlanders have been fearmongering over a race war for years.
In voice-over Southern said the Suidlanders’ talk of civil war “seemed extreme,” but if you expect her to challenge Roche’s views you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, she asked Roche “how he thought South Africa could go down such a dark path.” Roche, who, again, praised white nationalists and takes donations from them, said it would be “very spontaneous” because South Africa is a “bubbling cauldron at the moment.”
He even cited as evidence an incident where people protested and vandalized H&M stores over an advertisement depicting a black child modeling a hooded sweatshirt that said “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” H&M was forced to apologize due to the widespread outcry.
Southern then said that the Suidlanders have been criticized for their “dramatic approach in dealing with the country’s problems.” She added: “But as the crime wave deepens and the government’s anti-white rhetoric is now being realized in legislation to take white land, I have to wonder if we were in their shoes, would we be compelled to act in the same way, and could the Suidlanders be preparing for what is becoming an ever more realistic, bloody future in South Africa?”
Farmlands is a slickly-produced piece of propaganda that tells white nationalists from South Africa to the United States that their fear of majority black rule is justified — that they can expect widespread racially-motivated violence and anti-white legislation if whites become a minority.
It glosses over key context in discussing the land reform debate, presents the most radical voices in South Africa as the norm, fails to offer evidence that the nation’s farm attacks are increasing or racially-motivated, fails to hear what prominent ANC Members of Parliament have to say, ignores the situation faced by black South Africans (including farmers and farmhands), glorifies segregation, and lets Simon Roche spread unfounded fears of civil war without disclosing his ties to white nationalists.
With Farmlands Lauren Southern showed off her skills as a filmmaker, but not as a serious journalist.