If I ever feel tempted to write about Julius Malema — aka Droolius, the Jelly Tsotsi, JuJu, Kiddie Amin etc — please remind me of this post. Remind me that I took a vow never to write about him again, because writing about him would make me complicit in fueling his continued rise to a position of extraordinary de facto power.
The more we talk about this loathsome turd of a man, the more power we hand over to him. I’m just as guilty as anyone, of course — many of my best-read posts have pondered the matter of Julius, and he supplied a significant chunk of the material for my third collection of South African insults. But the fact is that the media has created this monster, and it’s the media that are going to have to cut off the publicity on which it feeds.
The Julius media coverage machine has become a magnificent engine of self-perpetuating notoriety: it’s a sort of Foucault’s Pendulum of PR. Malema has cottoned on to the fact that saying stupid, outrageous things is a surefire way to remain in the public eye, and to build up his particular brand of popularity. Look at the reception he got from the Zanu-PF zombies: there’s no way they’d have paid him that kind of attention if the South African media didn’t wait breathlessly for yet more noisome rhetorical flatulence. Julius delivers every time.
Every time he is rewarded with screaming headlines and breathless commentary, it teaches him to do it again. The best way to gain traction in a leadership vacuum is to own public discourse, and, in this endeavour, Julius has succeeded beautifully. Who can blame him for taking advantage of the situation? He might have failed woodwork, but he’s a supremely cunning political operator.
Which means that he probably understands that death threats help bolster his appeal. Strategically, the notion of assassinating Julius (something that has been threatened by both the PAC and the AWB — which subsequently did something sensible and retracted the statement) is completely stupid. If there is one thing we can learn about the demise of Eugene Terre’blanche, it’s that offing the scum of the earth does not solve any problems; it only turns the arseholes of this world into martyrs. ET could not have scripted this better if he’d tried: in death, he’s making life far more difficult for the ANC than he ever did in life.
While the man with the blowtorch blue eyes was alive, he was a (fading) focus for the fears of black South Africans, a justification for the continued suspicion that the boers constituted a real and constant threat; a white supremacist who at the same time managed to demonstrate, repeatedly, exactly how un-superior he was.
In death, he’s succeeded in dramatizing — in the minds of many — the very real consequences of singing a song that the ANC has insisted is purely metaphorical, to the point where they’ll go to court on the grounds that when people sing about killing the boer, they only mean it figuratively. Terre’blanche’s death focuses the attentions of the world on the miserable failure of the government to address the issue of farm murders, and the possibility of violence during the event that is supposed to cement South Africa’s place in the world. This, while at the same time Julius tells the Zimbabweans that he thinks their approach to land reform is one that we should use — a statement which secured him the lead story in this weekend’s Saturday Star.
So, practically, how do we go about ignoring this festering boil on the bum of the body politic? Clearly it doesn’t make sense to not report on anything Droolius does, because he’s a public figure, a political mover and shaker, and it’s in our interests to keep tabs on him. But at the same time, how about giving him fewer hysterical lead stories? Fewer radio interviews? Fewer think-pieces speculating on what his next move will be?
The temptation will be difficult to resist. Julius is gloriously quotable. We, the South African public, are obsessed with him; at the same time, the media have become addicted to reporting on his every utterance, resulting in a feedback loop that guarantees top-of-mind awareness for an individual who doesn’t actually deserve the time of day.
But resist we must, because the longer the media feeds him the publicity he craves, the bigger the monster grows. Cut off the coverage, and the fearsome Jabberwock eventually withers and dies until finally, Ju Ju lives out his days in the obscurity he so richly deserves. I cannot think of a more appropriate end for him.
If we don’t consign the Jelly Tsotsi to obscurity, he’ll continue what looks more and more like an inexorable rise to a position where he won’t just be able to say stupid things, he’ll be able to put them into practice too.
Then all the jokes about Kiddie Amin won’t be so funny anymore.