Monthly Archives: February 2009

Skrywenswaardige artikel – ek like hierdie ou!

Soos ek vanoggend op News24 gaan om die artikels te lees, sonder om die fotos te sien van bejaarde mense wat aangerand word en verkoolde lyke in Australie ala Beeld…..lees ek hierdie ou se artikel raak. Ongelukkig gaan ek myself in baie van sy kategoriee moet sit want (en ek se hierdie UITSLUITELIK om myself beter te laat voel) ek is menslik. Maar goeie artikel. Publiseerwaardig hier op die Mielie stronk 🙂

Margaret Atwood once wrote, apropos of the Holocaust and the common human condition of evil, “The trouble some people have being German? I have being human.”

Well, the problem some people have being scum-sucking bottom-feeders, I have being a journalist. Sometimes.

Is exposing Joost van der Westhuizen‘s private life in the public interest?

The Mail & Guardian staff broke one of their fantastic exposes last week, revealing ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus as a fraudster, effectively ruining his life. Well, at least until he gets rehabilitated in the Allan Boesak Church of the Second Chance.

Is exposing Carl Niehaus in the public interest? Most would say yes – he’s the spin doctor for the ruling party, a party that’s plagued by corruption allegations. The public needed to know how peculiarly well-qualified for that job he was.

But Joost van der Westhuizen? Exposing him seems to be more about an interested public than public interest. Of what possible relevance is it to me that an ex-Springbok is allegedly a hypocrite, a drug-taker, and a user of prostitutes? I never thought sportsmen were anything less than human, and I hope that, after Hansie Cronje, we’re all beyond thinking they’re anything more.

The South African Beckhams

I’m busy reading Steve Hofmeyr‘s intriguing autobiography, Mense van my Asem, and although I hold no brief for celebrities who whine when the hand they feed bites them, hearing the story from the other side does give you pause for thought. He describes Joost and Amor as “the South African Beckhams”, which becomes even more apt given current circumstances.

Now the customary argument here is, if you want to be a celebrity, you shouldn’t complain when the media hounds you. And that’s a fine argument, if what you’re arguing about is whether celebrities have the right to object to certain kinds of coverage.

It’s not an unassailable argument, of course. Tabloids and gossip magazines seem to feel that the fact that they and celebrities are involved in a symbiotic relationship of publicity and sales, means that the celebrity has sold his soul to the devil, and it’s the job of all vigilant tabloid saints to take every opportunity to burn him at the stake.

This can come back to bite them, as with the News of the World and Max Mosley, where the paper ended up paying £60 000 in damages, and £850 000 in costs.

But I’m not a celebrity, and neither are you. We’re readers, and the question we should be asking is, why do we want to read stories exposing celebrities as frauds and/or hypocrites?

Voyeuristic vampires

The only possible answer must be – because we’re childish wankers, voyeuristic vampires whose lives are empty and meaningless without the constant fort-da of erecting tinpot gods and then tearing them down, erecting them and tearing them down.

Carl Niehaus I can understand. There’s a certain kind of schadenfraud in it (like schadenfreude, but more particularly, the pleasure corrupt politicians experience when one of their own gets bust for fraud – and they don’t). There’s also a certain righteousness in that Niehaus is, in a sense, a servant of the people.

Hansie Cronje I can understand, Jacob Zuma and the Arms Deal I can understand. But a man who has no bearing on anything that I do, that my country does, and on anything that matters a damn – why take him down so viciously?

Sure, he’s a Blue Bulls supporter, but jeez – even that’s no reason. Some people will say that he claims to be a Christian and a family man, so he needs to be exposed as a hypocrite. Well, last time I checked, Heat magazine wasn’t exactly a magazine that had “pushing Christianity” and “building better families” as two of its editorial pillars.

Holier-than-thou

Let me make this clear – I’m not riding a holier than thou hobbyhorse here. I’m not querying the editorial decision to publish a Joost expose. If you asked me baldly, would I, as an editor, have made the Joost video available for my readers, the answer would, unhappily, be yes. When the Joost video becomes freely viewable on the net, will I take a look? Unhappily, yes.

In both cases, I could propose mitigating circumstances. The video will inevitably be available everywhere anyhow, so I might as well be the first to show it to my readers. And I’m a writer, so I need to watch it so as to comment on it.

But in both those cases, I’d be lying to make myself feel better. I’d show it because I want to beat the competition. I’d watch it because of prurient interest.

There are more ramifications to this tabloid culture than just inconvenienced celebrities. In the UK, 27-year-old “reality TV star” Jade Goody has just been told that her cervical cancer is winning the battle with chemotherapy, and she has just weeks to live.

Comment around this includes people saying she doesn’t deserve sympathy, that her imminent death is in some way a punishment for being exposed as a racist on Big Brother, and that they’re looking forward to seeing her death on tv.

People seem to feel she isn’t human. She’s a celebrity, a reality tv star, a creature created by the media. She’s fair game.

We’ve stopped believing that celebrities are human, it seems. And for every celebrity we dehumanise, we lose a bit of our own humanity.

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