Marikana – Turning-point or just another local incident?

Aug 24, 12 Marikana – Turning-point or just another local incident?

Posted by in Featured, News & Media

Richard Stupart argues eloquently that the tragedy at Marikana is something more than just another violent incident. I use tragedy rather than the much-hyped term “massacre” intentionally. While the situation at Marikana tragically left 45 people dead, I’m not sure it’s responsible to characterise it as a massacre. I’m also not convinced that the black-and-white terminology is convincing anyone else anymore. What at first shocked the nation as a simple-to-comprehend case of the big, bad government murdering its own citizens, has emerged over the past week – and is likely to continue to unfold so over the coming weeks – as a much more complicated situation. Conflict between different unions vying for power and influence probably fuelled the violence. In spite of the shock and horror of the liberal media, this isn’t exactly unprecedented. The mining company played a role in how they handled the run-up to the crisis, as well as the post-crisis management, but a 300% salary increase demand when the price of platinum is depressed isn’t an easy request to stomach. Of course, the Platinum mining companies are also learning what gold learned a long time ago – that worker satisfaction is not directly linked to the demands of unions and that blaming other people, whether or not you’re right, generally doesn’t help. The local municipality bears some blame – whether or not the miners identified them as such – for their dismal (and desultory) attempts at service delivery. Anyone who has visited townships in the area knows that the once-off donations from mining companies (even on the rare occasions that they really are the schools and clinics people want) can’t take the place of regular, everyday, ordinary municipal services. Basically, it’s complicated. What is clear, however, is that it is not a situation where the police systematically built up to an outright attack on enemies of the state. This wasn’t even primarily about the government. The cops were called in to try and keep the peace in a fight between labour...

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How to celebrate Osama’s death

May 06, 12 How to celebrate Osama’s death

Posted by in Featured, News & Media

The night Osama bin Laden’s death was announced (2 May 2011), I was nearing the end of my exchange programme in Washington DC. Because I lived a short 20 minute walk away from the White House, a group of us decided to become a part of history and see what was happening down the road. It seemed that everyone in the area had the exact same idea as within minutes, before Barack Obama could even finish his national security speech, thousands of people had gathered around Pennsylvania Avenue. Students made up the majority of the crowd who saw the announcement as a good reason to drink in public, climb up camera poles, chant “USA” and even attempt to scale the gates of the most famous residence in town. Needless to say, there were more snipers on top of the White House than usual that night. I tried to capture the atmosphere with this video....

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KONY2012 Roundup – an overview and evaluation

Oxfam must be salivating at the marketing success that the Invisible Children (IC) organisation has created with its KONY2012 video. Ironically, there has been an unprecedented backlash over the KONY2012 video, the likes of which has not been experienced by equally manipulative charities. One has to wonder why. There is probably too much Internet opinion already. An overnight library of detailed material on the video and IC has been written. Some of it is substantive, some of it is mudslinging, and some of it is factual pedantry. I wanted to try to extract and isolate some of the more salient arguments going around in an attempt to evaluate the actual impact of the campaign. I’ve “scored” the evaluation by simply multiplying the probability of an argument being correct with the impact it would have, were it to be correct. The numbers and ratings are my own guesstimate and open for discussion. Not all arguments fit this model well, but I’m running with it. In addition, I’ve linked, where possible, to sites with further detail. As disclosure, I have had a strongly negative reaction to the video, and I’m unsure I know why. I’ve spent some time analysing my reaction, and separating the emotional response from the rational, conscious of my own bias. This is what I’ve come up with. If you’ve heard this all before (very probable), skip to the end, where I provide my own opinion of what all the fuss is really about. Please suggest additional (reasonable) arguments if you think I have missed some.   Arguments in favour of KONY2012 I knew 0 before, but now I know 1 Argument: Tens of millions of people who did not know about Kony before now know about Kony. They will be put more pressure on international organisations and government to do something. Evidence: Number of views Probability of Impact: High Impact: Low, Positive Score: 5 / 25 Evaluation: It is true – many people now know who Joseph Kony is and what horrible...

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The Citizen Got the Zuma Warship Story Wrong

Jan 20, 12 The Citizen Got the Zuma Warship Story Wrong

Posted by in Featured, News & Media, Politics

Driving around Johannesburg on Wednesday, it was difficult to miss the blaring headline shouting out in big, bold sans serif from The Citizen’s signboards: ZUMA WANTS A WARSHIP Intriguing, no? On reading the article, you would have been greeted by a lede that ups the ante even further: Jacob Zuma wants an aircraft carrier, and it will be partly up to convicted fraudster Tony Yengeni to decide who will get the contract to supply a warship potentially costing even more than the four frigates bought as part of the controversial 1999 R60 billion arms deal. Seems pretty outrageous, doesn’t it? That our taxes are being spent in an apparently corrupt deal to buy something as insanely expensive as an aircraft carrier? However, on closer examination, none of these claims turn out to be true: it wasn’t Zuma’s idea, it isn’t an aircraft carrier, and Tony Yengeni is not involved in deciding who gets to sell us the ships. So most of the story is inaccurate and The Citizen’s slant is blatantly wrong. This is a truly awful article that misleads the public about an important military acquisition. First, despite The Citizen’s implication that this is a new revelation, the existence of Project Millennium, the subject of this story, has never been secret. On the contrary, the SANDF has been speaking to journalists about Millennium since 2008, outlining the requirement for a Strategic Support Ship (SSS) and the reasoning behind it. Not that attending SANDF briefings appears to be a priority for The Citizen, which would rather report by proxy. It’s not as if these have been obscure briefings either. All the major potential bidders were well represented at Africa Aerospace & Defence 2010 in Cape Town and covered extensively in the show’s official news handouts. Any journalist attending would’ve had to be blind to miss it. Nor is the claim that President Zuma ‘wants’ this ship true. This project was initiated by the SANDF under President Mbeki and Defence Minister Lekota and it was...

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Sexism in the Courts

Jan 18, 12 Sexism in the Courts

Posted by in Culture, Featured, News & Media, Politics

On Monday in a magistrate’s Court in Cape Town, Magistrate Chumani Giyos, sexually harassed a group of 12 women facing charges under the Immigration Act, saying to them during a hearing, “You are really beautiful, hey!” and concluding the hearing with “I have never seen so many beautiful women at one time, I hope to see you all again”, sending ripples of giggles throughout the courtroom. Times Live (sourcing the article from SAPA) seemed to find the matter as laughable as a number of those present in the courtroom when it published a report on the incident under the title “Strippers a hit in Cape court.” No doubt, many readers will find the clip amusing, picturing the antithesis of the sobriety of a courtroom in this line up of attractive women on a display to the ogling judge. Of course this kind of behaviour is painfully unprofessional and if readers were to laugh, no doubt it would be in part in that dry ironic way South Africans typically find humour in the exasperating. We love to laugh at government officials and unelected leaders saying menacing things and bumbling through policies. When we lose the words to express our frustration, we find solace in caricatures of the public sphere in our favourite cartoons. It’s much easier to laugh off resignation in the company of impressionists and comedians than to face the gauntlet of change. Because underlying Giyos’ glib display of unchecked chauvinism is a broader social acceptance of the way he treats these women in his court: as objects for men’s sexual gratification and as unequal in the very places they should be guaranteed respect. From a position of power, Giyos made clear that the persons before him were not human beings to him, equal in dignity to citizens and to men, but a mass of objects, disposable at his delight. If popular media is any barometer of social reactions, this kind of discrimination will not be protested, punished and condemned as it should be,...

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Is Journalism Being Crippled by the Internet?

Dec 09, 11 Is Journalism Being Crippled by the Internet?

Posted by in Featured, News & Media

On more than one occasion, I have wondered how our species can be so self-absorbed that we seem not to notice anyone else’s needs, yet at the same time be so curious about the worldly happenings that we need to stay up to date with the latest gossip on an hourly basis. Centuries ago, people certainly didn’t go out of their way to find out what went on in that love shack two villages down – they were quite happy tending to their own affairs. What changed between then and now? When did we become so intrigued by events that have little or no direct impact on us, and why? Perhaps it was the availability of information that spurned this interest. The invention of the printing press marked the origin of journalism and with the circularization of newspapers, there began a reason for writers to investigate, verify and report events to a wider audience. As the dissemination of information became easier, the scope of our interest grew wider as well. Since then, journalism has evolved into so much more than just a few pages in the daily tabloid. The internet has given everyone with access the platform to broadcast their writing to the world. But is it always a good thing? At a glance, it certainly seems so. Social networking sites such as Twitter provide real-time updates,and like a Fibonacci sequence, it has the ability to spreaddata faster than any other digital or print media. It is a great tool for warning people against seismic waves, but because it bypasses the verification process of traditional journalism, Twitter also serves as a tool for propagating disinformation. It is akin to publishing a newspaper that has not been proof-read by the sub-editors or verified by the fact-checkers. Sure, the timeliness is a bonus – in fact, one journalist (Mac McClelland) went as far as live-tweeting a rape incidence involving a girl in Haiti – but should we sacrifice accuracy (and maybe even ethics) for the sake of sensationalism...

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