Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Famous Grouse: May 28

Latest Weekend Argus column, as submitted. Please note: the newspaper did, after consultation with me, change "Nazis" to "despots" as there was some concern about the "potential for suing". As I have no money however, and therefore very little potential as a defendant in such an action, I have left it in. -- AD

HOW weird that there should be surprise at the unseemly haste with which the ruling party is attempting to bully into legislation its fascist Protection of Information Bill.

I mean, come on! It’s no secret that these people don’t like the media. They feel nothing for the press and want to drag us into the street and there gang-rape us into a puddle of submission before a cheering mob of youth league drunkards.

So why the shocked reactions? Could the fact that the municipal elections were largely incident-free have lulled us into a false sense of security?

Could that be the case? That the simple act of casting one’s vote had left us soft and fuzzy-minded, basking in the warm comfort of an evidently misguided impression that we were living in a democracy, one in which the rights of a free press were enshrined in a constitution, only to be rudely and very suddenly bitch-slapped into a frightful state by Cecil Burgess, the ANC MP who is chairing the allegedly parliamentary committee processing this atrocity?

Burgess, sensitive readers may not wish to recall, was in boffo gauleiter overdrive mode earlier this week when he curtly informed opposition parties that the committee would not be discussing input concerning the bill, as had been expected, but would instead start voting on it most pronto.

As he put it, “the enthusiasm to accommodate all different views was an error”, that the process would take “forever”, and that it was unlikely the committee would have “100% consensus on everything” in the bill.

It was a disgraceful business. He may not have clicked his boot heels together, but really, it was there in his sentiment: don’t waste our time with trifling concerns for your rights -- you mean nothing to us, and your concerns of civil liberties even less.

Burgess and his grubby friends may take exception to the association with Nazis, but really, what else can one say?

After all, it is the ANC who are forever reminding us that it was they who are the party of “liberation”, that it was them and them alone who delivered us from the oppression of our apartheid past and gave us our freedom.  And with that, the tacit implication that it is they who will be taking that freedom from us, too.

They get so angry when they’re accused of behaving, if not like the old Nationalists, then a whole lot worse. But really, what can you say about the unhealthy urge to give reporters mandatory prison sentences of up to 25 years for doing their job?

This is not the customary personality disorder so prevalent with politicians -- that venal compulsion to interfere with and manage people around them others for their own good -- but a whole new psychopathy, one borne of a repugnant moral narcissism.

But they forget that, for all their draconian measures and threatened punishments, these types of law always eventually fail.

For example, it may well be that, in terms of the proposed bill, the open toilets at Makhaza and Viljoenskroon and elsewhere can at the whim of a minor municipal functionary be declared “state secrets” and that reporting their whereabouts could land a journalist in a heap of trouble, particularly in the run-up to an election, when its potential to embarrass was greatest, but does that mean they will disappear?

It’s tempting to suggest that, in this digital age of electronic and social media, there are no secrets anymore. Certainly, the Ryan Giggs “superinjunction” debacle -- in which the philandering footballer’s attempts to prevent British newspapers from identifying him were thwarted by a massive Twitter campaign -- is proof that the truth will always out. It’s amazing that with each successive reign of ratbags there is the heartfelt conviction that they are the exception.

But moving on, as we must. Here at the Mahogany Ridge disturbing uncensored news has reached from London concerning the UK leg of US president Barack Obama’s European tour.

It appears that, in an attempt to ingratiate himself with his visitors, prime minister David Cameron hosted a massive braai for about 150 guests in the garden at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon.

Both leaders rolled up their sleeves and got busy with the tongs and soon, according to The Times of London, “the air was filled with the smokey aromas of sizzling British sausages. . .  Rosemary Kentish lamb chops were also available, as were hamburgers and corn on the cob. . .”

Excuse me, but you do not braai English lamb. Ever. They’re far too bland. The Karoo lamb, on the other hand, seasons itself with all the pungent herbs out there in the scrub.

Everyone knows this. It’s not a secret.

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