Having worked for politicians, I can assure you that regardless of who they are they can’t be trusted – on either side of the fence…they all really have the same goals in mind and those goals are usually found in the general location of their wallets, egos and underpants.
Archive for politics
Note: Political correctness goes out the window here, so disappear if you’re likely to get precious
I was channel-surfing the other day and happened upon the Jerry Springer show (which I still maintain is a great way to feel better about yourself and the fact you don’t come from the American South – unless you do, that is…). I lingered a while as a large trailer-dwelling lady launched herself at a tiny tattooed man who had been sleeping with her rotund and by this stage, half naked, husband. Snap to Jerry looking bemused, and suddenly a dude climbs onto the stage on his hands. With no lower half. Literally – half a dude, walking on his hands, holding an envelope for Jerry.
After 2 intolerably boring weeks of recuperation, this shit stopped me in my tracks and I was forced to do some Googling. Turns out the guy’s name is Kenny Easterday and he works on the show as ‘The Messenger’ (bit of an ominous name, or do I watch too many horror flicks?). Anyway, Kenny (more pics here, for the rubberneckers) is in his mid-30′s, has never used prosthetics and has just fathered a child (yes, that bit is normal, according to his fiancée).
Given the choice I am someone who would rather look and acknowledge than turn away in pity, although it seems to be increasingly in human nature to get all bleeding heart liberal and ultimately patronise the shit out of the disabled. As someone who has their own little genetic cross to bear, I saw the ugly end of discrimination working for the Democratic Alliance (particularly ironic at the hands of a political party who claims to oppose it).
Kenny’s story led me to www.phreeque.com which as a lover of all things bizarre, I found totally fascinating. The site features what the author terms ‘frank discussions and vivid images of human beings with birth defects, many of whom were at one time exhibited for profit’, including bearded ladies (who knew?! I thought they were shaved bears), alligator-skinned men, lobster-men, 3-legged people and conjoined twins.
According to the author, most of these people were highly intelligent, sensitive individuals. The vast majority married (often within the carnival communities) and many had children where their deformities allowed. With a few utterly tragic exceptions, most chose to be exhibited, and generally they made a shiteload of cash (compared to their uneducated peers) – enough to support families and buy property. As babies not many of these people were expected to live long. Given a life with others within the sideshows and carnivals, they generally seem to have prospered to old age. Despite how difficult a life it must have been, I have to wonder whether being with others similarly disabled was a happier existence than braving such disability alone.
Judging from the amount of hate-mail the site gets, people seem to think they have a god-given right to champion the disabled, whether they ask for it or not – I didn’t see any disabled people actually weighing in there. Laws have been implemented in some countries, preventing people from exhibiting their deformities, preventing shows and exhibitions. In other countries, the odd sideshow still happens, including a tribute to these folks by cirque du soliel. In a world so mad people are getting arrested for selling goldfish to children, what does ‘politically correct’ even mean any more?
Now of course we don’t need the the freak shows, we have daytime television instead. In today’s media-dominated, image obsessed world with its mass-propagated ideas of perfection, exploitation of strangeness has worsened and I suspect the sense of isolation felt by the truly different has too.
So the Department of Local Government and Housing in Gauteng took out the following half -page ad in the Sowetan yesterday (probably costing tens of thousands of rands?), advertising the free electricity they would be providing. Now I’m not trying to be disparaging (well, yes I am actually, but only a little bit), but really – that was the only picture you could find? Epic marketing fail!
It was the source of many a throaty chuckle at the office – could it be that this dimly lit promise is a portent of the delivery we are to expect from the ANC in the next 5 years? Only time will tell I guess…
Of the many blunders made by the South African government for my personal amusement, the latest has to take the cake…we have denied the Dalai Lama (you know that robe-wearing Ambassador of peace?) a visa to enter the country to attend a 2010 World Cup-organised peace conference in Johannesburg on Friday…
“A choice was made in this particular case that our interests will be better served if we give priority to making sure that we don’t jeopardise our bilateral relations with China…” government spokesperson Themba Maseko said in the statement.
Fortunately for us, South African Nobel Peace Prize Laureates FW De Klerk and Desmond Tutu refused to attend the conference if the Dalai Lama wasn’t given pernission to enter the country, and now the conference has been cancelled – suck on that you douches!. As if that weren’t enough, the fate of Barbara Hogan the one person who dared to speak out (and incidentally also the only decent health minister we’ve had in 10 years after the liver-stealing alcoholic train-wreck that was Manto) now hangs in the balance because she dared express a modicum of reason and common sense.
In your honour, dear wankelburgs, i have put together a splendid little representation of what South Africa is rapidly becoming thanks to you… (thanks to Peter Sserwanga for the inspiration)
I very seldom write about work on this blog as it is largely dedicated to pure self-indulgence, and the two really don’t mix in my experience. That said, last week saw the culmination of nearly two years of effort in putting together the DA’s new website, launched last Thursday and that definitely merits a mention.
We began serious conceptualising on the site around 18 months ago, although I had been squirreling ideas away since 2006, ideas which got ever more exciting as developments in Web 2.0 and social media unfolded. Using these, I drew up a long and detailed proposal which went through numerous collaborative reviews after which we put it out to tender early last year. After reviewing quotes and companies, we chose World Wide Creative headed up by Mike Perk and Fred Roed to harness our vision and optimise our most important means of communication with South Africans online.
From the outset, Fred and Mike inspired confidence in making the whole creative process crystal clear and outlining the design and development procedures step by step. The first thing we did was brainstorm the needs of our prospective audiences and potential for including social media elements and we later moved on to the more detailed processes like site design and structure. The actual process was way too involved to go into here, suffice to say that we felt we were in good hands from day one and all my fears in tackling a project of this size were quickly allayed.
The site that was launched last week, while adhering to the underlying ideas laid out in the proposal, ended up being not only very different, but much improved in a number of respects due to the extensive research and marketing expertise added to our ideas by the development team.
Unfortunately, the launch date was unavoidably moved back several months from the intended date last November due to changes in our corporate identity. Several people have commented that we’re too late to launch this close to an election and that the site won’t have any impact on our campaign. I have 2 comments here. The first is that the website is way more than an election campaign tool, and is intended to serve as a portal for communication with our supporters at all times (reinforcing the fact that we are not just a party who pops up around election time, but wants to engage with the public all the time).
The second (and I am generalising here) is that Joe Public generally doesn’t take an interest in politics until a couple of weeks before an election. I can tell you this from personal experience as the one who watched the web stats in the last 2 elections (2004 and 2006). The peak in stats only started around 1 month before the election, with the highest spike in interest occurring from about a week before the election until about 2 days afterwards. As has been pointed out, we cannot compare the situation in this country and thus this web strategy to one like Obama’s in the US where web penetration is almost total, and while an earlier launch would have been nice, I don’t believe it would have made that much difference in terms of the stats and their implications.
When I talk about Joe Public, incidentally, I’m referring to the majority of web users in this country – I mean the people who are generally logged in for less than 10 hours a week and who are actually out getting on with living the rest of the time, not the small community of several thousand online social media experts (self named?), bloggers and geeks whom I all love very much, but some of whom (as Melissa said on Nic’s post) “are so far up there arses that they are out there to slam and test and poke holes in any new SM strategy”. So far up their own arses they’re seeing daylight in some cases, methinks.
The sites (and I’ve only really focused on the main site so far, www.da.org.za – the other one launched was contributetochange.org.za) actually provoked a lot of positive feedback online as well as the usual blunt dissections by the whingers and moaners which we’ve come to expect. In the end and without meaning to offend anyone, while it’s great that the site stands up to online review (and we did invite bloggers such as Justin and Chris to the launch because we wanted feedback from those in the know), the ‘experts’ are only a tiny percentage of our target audience, and the site and strategy are really not aimed at them (except perhaps the more specialised online tools such as twitter and the social media links).
The internet provides such a comfy mask and such a versatile soap-box that it is very easy for the online-savvy to be critical (of almost everything actually) – what they tend to forget is that their narrow world view is just that, narrow – a mere sliver of the rich and powerful tapestry that makes up the collective experience of South Africans. Some people are so busy knowing everything that they stop thinking about anything outside the paradigms they are comfortable with and forget that the majority of South Africans are just regular ouens, who may know what Facebook is, but don’t give a toss about SEO, social media strategy and blogging. The experts who forget this would do well to pull their heads out and subject themselves to some serious self examination.
It’s actually something I see quite a lot working in politics, and something that we are constantly reminded of by our brilliant strategists “Do NOT assume because your friends, parents, tennis partners, the lady in the shop (insert stereotype here) think XYZ, that the rest of the country thinks XYZ too” – it’s a special form of psychological extrapolation that’s easy to fall prey to. The number of times I’ve heard some cougal pipe up and say “well my MAID says that…..”, the implication being “all black people think that…” – It just isn’t that simple, people just aren’t that simple, and to assume they are is the grossest of insults.
The first thing Fred said to us when we met to discuss the site and something which really stuck, was “be authentic” – great advice on both personal and professional levels. Advice that we followed. So the long and short of it is this. These sites area tools – tools made to be gripped with both hands and used by the people who want to know about us, the people who want to talk to us, the people who want their voices, ideas and opinions heard and responded to, the people who want to engage and get involved on any level they desire. These are not people who are going to look at our online presence and try to pick it apart. They are the people who are going to look at it and say “hey – these guys are making it easy for me…perhaps I will get involved…perhaps I will write a letter to the press, or donate R10 via sms” That’s what we’re after, and judging by the response to our volunteer programme so far, that’s what we’re getting.
As for the place of our onlince strategy in the campaign as a whole, Nic questioned the amount of money put into the online campaign and its potential returns. While we obviously can’t divulge that, the cost is but a fraction of that being spent on the election campaign as a whole (as the potential reach is but a fraction of that of the more traditional methods of campaigning). As for the returns, we will only see them as they happen, as we are as curious as everyone else to see what kind of impact our strategies will have.
Just a final word: This post was not written to diss ‘online experts’ and I do apologise if I’ve offended anyone, it was merely meant to provide a view from this side of the fence
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I cannot think of a single person who was disappointed to see George Bush leave office (except perhaps George Bush and a few of the contestants on the Jerry Springer show), making way for what could well be a new era in the history of history.
I think we all felt the world breathe a collective sigh of relief when the results of the US election were announced – I’ve always been pretty derisive when it comes to the old US of A (mainly due to phenomena such as Bush’s election, Bush’s REelection – wtf?-, the Olsen Twins, Paris Hilton and some of the other colossal sources of dark power which nest there), but DANG, it actually seems the new leader of the free world is a sane and balanced human being. Who would have thunk it?
The Obama era was ushered in in dignified style on the 20th of January, and celebrations and tributes abounded worldwide. In their own inimitable and somewhat irreverent Australian style the Aussie manufacturers of Veet (a vile smelling hair removal cream) cashed in on semantics and paid homage thusly:
Being a peace-loving hippy (and secret anarchist) I’ve always considered Nationalism a very dangerous beast, as opposed to say freedom of choice, global oneness and other sane concepts. Found this little gem at http://www.sharenator.com
Well, it’s official…campaign fever has me, and we at the DA have some tricks up our sleeves to dazzle and delight over the next few months, including the launch of our new website in mid-November…prepare to be impressed.
Without realising it, I find I have rolled up my sleeves and slipped into hyper-manic machine mode forswearing food, men (HA!), fox-hunting, skeet-shooting and all those other mildly entertaining foibles I call life. This, in favour of sitting hunched in front of the master-console in my batcave, plotting the downfall of the ass-clowns who are squandering my hard-earned money on hotel suites and “fact-finding” missions to Hawaii.
Speaking of downfalls, the topic of this post, the following was my ‘laugh-till-you-cry’ moment of the week. It is a testament to the internet in general, youtube in particular and too much work on my part that my beloved younger brother in London saw this before I did and sent it on to me.
It shows South African MP Nhlanhla Nene being interviewed live on a parliamentary review programme, and leaves me in no doubt that the furniture at the SABC obviously bears a similarity to it’s policies – feeble, second-hand and outdated.
I work in politics, or rather on the edge of it, as close as I dare get. Rather like alligator wrestling or base jumping, I prefer to remain a spectator and not get my mind too bloodied – I leave that to the experts (yes, they are scary people for whom scorpion pits and lion’s dens hold no earthly terrors, and no, to the best of my knowledge, they do not wear women’s undergarments (except the women of course) and engage in strange sexual practices asDie Son would have us believe).
So upon visiting one of my all time favorite sites today (asofterworld.com), I saw this irresistible banner:
I really do find part of my job very satisfying, especially with some of the mad and surreal things that happen in politics in this country – (as I’m sure Zapiro would agree) it makes ridicule and parody all too easy at times.
But there are times when my sense of humour slips a notch and reality sets in, and I realise that although at times comical, some of the things that are happening in this country are extremely worrying. Even more so because they are, in many cases, happening in an insidious and subtle fashion, and by the time the alarm bells are ringing, it is often beyond too late.
Two examples which spring to mind are the Expropriation Bill currently before Parliament which gives the Land Affairs minister almost free reign to expropriate property at below market compensation rates, giving the owner no recourse to turn to the courts for an appeal (the only appeal process is an internal ministerial procedure).
The other is the independence of the judiciary which is taking a bruising particularly where the cases involve government officials and the well connected. There are countless examples of outright attacks on the institution as soon as any motions are brought before it which threaten to tarnish the impeccable record of the ruling party – JZ is a case in point (pardon the pun).
These are two things, which in the mind of Joe Public, are usually filed somewhere between buying toilet paper and the mating habits of the lesser spotted hermit crab. I am by no means a political commentator and compared to some of the dizzying intellects I work with my analytical ramblings probably seem about as sharp as a bowl of jelly, but it really worries me that people (and I don’t mean WASPs and NIMBY’s) aren’t getting passionate and angry about things like this.
OK some of them are – those that are directly affected maybe. For example, the disbandment of one of the strongest instruments of judicial independence in South Africa, the Scorpions, managed to garner around 100 000 signatures, but the protest organised outside the high court buildings in Pretoria only roused around 70 people off their couches and onto the streets.
I really despair sometimes when I hear about things like this – only 4000 people attended the million man march against crime in Gauteng – a well publicised event, for a cause that I’m sure has touched every single person in this country either directly or indirectly. Where was everybody? Where does the apathy stem from? Do people really believe they can’t change the world one minute at a time, or are they too self absorbed and inwardly focused to care about what’s really happening around them and where it could lead to in the next 20 years?
The brainy people here blame this lack of interest in a new ‘disease’ made up by more brainy people which they call ‘cognitive dissonance’ which is highly contagious and seems to mean in a nutshell that people don’t like to think about stuff that makes them uncomfortable (duh?) and thus tend to block out the offending thoughts. No really, it’s a seemingly obvious and very interesting theory, but I’d hate to catch it, seeing as the only cure obvious to me is a swift heavy boot up the arse (actually, I’m pretty sure I do suffer from it as do most people, especially where the size of my bum and the ever increasing tightness of my jeans are concerned for example).
I sometimes envy the Americans and the level of local political awareness in that country (not that that detracts from their often astonishing arrogance, ignorance and other things ending in ‘ance’ when it comes to the rest of the world).
Ghandi once said “be the change you wish to see in the world” . . . it’s a saying which often leaves me feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough. But I’m safe in the knowledge that I’m not the only one … that’s just where it starts, isn’t it? No one else is doing it, why should I care?
I’d seriously like to bitchslap all the people I hear complaining about life in this country – 9 times out of 10 when I ask them if they voted, they say “no, what’s the point?”.
If you didn’t get your lazy arse off the couch on voting day and chose to stay in watching Harry Potter or whatever blows your skirt up, you have (listen closely)…FORFEITED YOUR RIGHT TO COMPLAIN
Remember that at voting time next year…you want to bitch and whine at the state of the nation? Make yourself a part of it first.