Mostly what it said was this: the idea of white privilege is a vicious lie cooked up by self-hating white liberals and corrupt black communists to take our stuff.

As I read these comments, each so angrily self-righteous and insular, I began to get a strange sense that I had read them before, and quite recently. And soon I realised I had.

A few months ago I was researching a column about people who believe that the Earth is flat, and I had found myself on a forum, gazing with a mix of admiration and terror, at people going to extraordinary ends to deny the most basic aspects of reality; refusing to believe what was in front of their eyeballs because it did not agree with the ideological niche in which they felt safe.

It was their tone that I was hearing now, that mad, self-pitying hubbub that gets more insistent the further it drifts from reality; but instead of shouting at astronomers they were shouting at Mmusi Maimane.

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, Morningstar financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.