Friday, May 25, 2012

What Is This I Don't Even

I've been staring with morbid fascination at the whole Spear debacle. I don't really care that much about it, but it's been pretty hard to avoid, so I've kept more or less up to date. I don't know how to parse any of it, so I figured I'd just share a few thoughts.

Firstly, it seems to me to have been just one stupid thing after another. Probably the most baffling thing to me in all of this is why anybody cares... it seems to just be a few obsessed people spinning their wheels in futility.

As I said, I haven't been paying very close attention, so I may well have some details wrong. And I don't care enough to do extensive reading about it. But this is how I understand things:

The Painting

So this artist, Brett Murray, painted our crooked President, Jacob Zuma, with his bi'ness hanging out. I'm assuming Zuma didn't sit for the painting himself, so Murray presumably painted an imaginary Little President on there.

My response to this: "Heh."

It's some pretty low-brow social commentary. It's not without it's place, but I don't think it's all that interesting. As my sister says, it's "cartoonism". Mildly entertaining, but not even worthy of a "lol".

The Suit

The painting made its way to an exhibition at the Goodman Gallery for some reason. I guess there's no accounting for taste. This made the messiah President Zuma lose his goddam mind. So he sued the gallery to have the painting banned.

My response to this: "Um, what?"

Zuma is so offended that someone painted (not photographed, mind you... painted) him with someone else's twig & berries on him, that he wants to have it banned. Banned. Regardless of the legalities of this notion, it's just plain stupid. My first thought was that obviously the boerewors in the painting is way bigger than Zuma's own, and it's embarrassed him in front of all his wives. (Yes, international reader, that's plural. Our president is a proud polygamist).

This bit is probably the most significant part, in my mind. If someone can sue someone else for displaying a cartoon of them, that says some pretty bad things for freedom of speech. Political cartoons are an important manifestation of public commentary - even when they're dumb.

I'll grant that it's potentially defamatory, but should it be banned? Absolutely not.

And besides, in the age of the Internet, what's the first thing that happens when you try to censor something? Everybody makes a copy of it and posts it on their own website (as I have done). It's called The Streisand Effect.

The Public Outcry

A lot of people, apparently, think that Zuma is legitimately upset about all this, and they demonstrated and performed and vandalised the gallery and so on.

My response to this: "Meh."

Plenty of people will get up in arms about anything. Don't care.

The Vandalism

Two guys, within seconds of each other, and in front of press and public, defaced the painting by smearing paint all over it. They were arrested on the spot, but they'd already ruined it.

My response to this: "Lol, wut?"

I still don't get it. Last I heard their names have been made public, but it's still not clear why they did it. The youngest of the two men was quoted on the scene as saying "It's an insult.", but who knows what he meant by that. The older of the two is apparently an art professor.

One leading hypothesis: it's performance art. The two vandals collaborated to make some sort of public statement.

I have no idea how true that is, and I still don't really care. Having seen the footage, though, it's kind of surprising just how calm, confident and deliberate they were in doing it.

The Breakdown

During the court proceedings yesterday (whether it was Zuma's censorship suit or the trial for the vandals I'm not clear on, and don't care enough to check) Zuma's lawyer broke down in tears in court. And then the judge forbade the TV networks of broadcasting the footage of it (although the BBC aren't bound by that ruling)

My response to this: *facepalm*

Here we have the Streisand Effect again.

This whole thing is just flippen crazy. None of it makes any sense, and, as far as I can see, it's all just stupid! A mediocre screenwriter couldn't put this story together, because it's just so inane!

But I guess there's nothing else interesting happening this week. Like the SKA decision or the Dragon module docking with the ISS.


  1. Yeah, it is a nightmare.
    The problem with it is that the ANC is putting a racist slant on it and selling it to it's voters as a rallying point against racist imperialist whites, and the evil media.

    "The portrait depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed was an assault on black culture, the Black Management Forum (BMF) said on Monday.

    “The tasteless depiction of President Jacob Zuma… is not only a personal assault as well as an attack on the dignity and institutional office of the President of the Republic,” the forum said in a statement.

    “It is also an attack on the culture of the majority, the black people of South Africa. It cannot go unchallenged.”

    The painting was a “crude attempt” to reinforce the “hostility harboured by a small number of South Africans towards our democratic dispensation and towards members of the national leadership”, the BMF said.

    The artwork did not advance South Africa's constitutional democracy or public discourse on the topic in any way, the forum said.

    It also questioned the “apparent ease” media organisations had shown in reproducing the portrait of Zuma.

    1. Yep.

      But then the BMF has to say things like that to justify their existence. They probably have a mad-lib press release ready to go for just such occasions.


  3. If I may split a hair, Zuma is specfically a proud polygynist, not a more general polygamist. I think it's extremely unlikely that he'd accept (proudly or otherwise) being one of several husbands.