Rand ClubWhen I first wrote about David Bullard’s dismissal over his Sunday Times column on colonialism, I described it as offensive and condescending. Given the supercilious faux-Victorian persona he’s cultivated, however, I found it not all that surprising, and not worth suppressing by his dismissal or otherwise.

I must admit, I did not expect an apology from Bullard, but that’s exactly what he’s written in Business Day today.

I can’t claim to believe everything I have written because some columns were written purely for sensation. Readership of the column grew and I became heady with its success and pushed the boundaries. Last week I pushed that boundary too far.

… I offer sincere and heartfelt apologies to those who were offended, including Mondli Makhanya, my friend and former editor, whom I respect enormously.

Given his previous comments on Makhanya, notably that, “I was found guilty in the kangaroo court of Mondli Makhanya,” and that controversial Empire column on his motoring gig in the Sunday Times, I’m not sure what to make of this turnaround.

It seems clear that the vast majority of readers missed the satire; that few saw it as a provocative fiction, designed to make a point about a particular narrative about the past that is partly true but wholly one-sided, and to make a point about the convenient politics of always blaming present ills on these past evils.

Condescending and offensive though I found the column — writing is rarely as ugly as when satire fails — I never thought he intended to offend, or meant to present those crude caricatures as reality. Either way, it appears out of character for the public Bullard persona to apologise when readers misunderstand his intention and take offence. So why the grovelling now?

Update: Ray Hartley, editor of the Times comments on his blog:

Where does that leave all those readers who came out in defence of Bullard’s column, saying that it was a legitimate piece of commentary? Gazzam, you was all outed!

I’m not so convinced. Most people I have read on the subject agreed that his comments were offensive, that the column was badly written and that even if there were a valid debate about colonialism to be had — as I maintained — that he made several points with which one might disagree.

He apologised for causing offence, which is fair enough as far as it goes, but that just says he agrees the comments were offensive and the column was badly written. It says nothing about the validity or otherwise of the commentary, or about those who defended him. Besides, until a few days ago, one person who came out consistently in defence of David Bullard was, ahem, David Bullard. Where does that leave him?


  • Ivo Vegter writes and argues for fun and profit. He is a columnist, magazine journalist and apprentice model shipwright. In his spare time, he helps run a research company. He specialises in the tech and telecoms industries, but keeps a blog on politics, economics and other curiosities on the spike


Ivo Vegter

Ivo Vegter writes and argues for fun and profit. He is a columnist, magazine journalist and apprentice model shipwright. In his spare time, he helps run a

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