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The Spear: gone… well, kinda
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 08:14
Written by Martin Czernowalow
One can only wonder if the ANC’s extremely aggressive and almost hysterical reaction to The Spear was orchestrated to purposely tap into the online phenomenon referred to as the Streisand Effect.
Conversely, it could have been the party’s overzealous and emotionally-charged response to the Brett Murray painting that inevitably sparked the unintended phenomenon, thus ensuring that it reached an audience of people that would have otherwise never even known about the entire affair. However, as such, some children playing in a remote rice paddy in China, or Eskimos ice fishing somewhere in a far corner of Alaska, are probably laughing at president Jacob Zuma’s goodly.
The Streisand Effect is named after actress Barbra Streisand, who fell victim to this phenomenon in 2003, when trying to prevent photos of her house being published. Her attempts to censor these had the unintended consequence of generating far wider publicity than if she had just kept her mouth shut.
Similarly, as the ANC’s outrage reached boiling point, it became clear that the depiction of the presidential schlong was fast-creating a big fuss over what was, essentially, a small issue.
As every South African ought to know by now, The Spear controversially depicted Zuma with his genitals exposed, and shook the country to its core as the ANC rather undemocratically bullied Murray, the Goodman Gallery and the City Press, in the name of defending the country’s democracy.
Personally, I didn’t think much of the painting when it first appeared in the press, and it certainly didn’t change my view of Zuma. In my opinion, he had done far more damage to his own dignity and reputation, with some dubious leadership and questionable conduct during his tenure, than any sketch of the second-most important Member of Parliament. Besides, Zuma and his penis had been accused of misbehaving before, even prior to them forcing out and replacing Thabo Mbeki as president.
His ever-growing collection of wives and other reported escapades cemented his reputation as a ladies’ man and created the impression that his Mini-Me was arguably more productive than some Parliamentary Portfolio Committees.
Thus, I was rather surprised at the furore that erupted around the painting, especially as the ANC is notorious for simply ignoring inconvenient issues. And it didn’t take long for racism to be added to the mix. Of course, for the racism claims to stick, the ANC went to great lengths to vilify the penis in the context of black culture and ultimately bulldozed over anyone who dared think they had a right to disagree.
I would have preferred a subtler approach – instead of attacking, perhaps he should have zipped it and put the dignity of country before himself, thus being the bigger man, so to speak, and rendering the painting impotent.
Oh well, instead Zuma’s winkie now has its own Wikipedia page.
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