Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

This is the last time I write about Julius

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.

  • MLH

    And while we’re on the subject, why is the ANC being so quiet? Why have we heard not a word about the writing on the wall in The ET bedroom or the fact that jailed prisoners knew about the killing before it happened? I was told both today; are there any investigative journalists out there? If there was writing, was it cleaned away before the family came home? Spoiling forensic evidence? Whenever the ANC keeps quiet, there’s a lot to hide; we know from experience.

    And in passing: I hold no truck for the AWB, but the way the AWB man was treated on etv news tonight was shocking. It showed a dearth of reasonable manners on the part of the interviewer, who should also know her place is to elicit answers, not shut people down. No wonder the man got upset and no wonder he retaliated. I immediately felt empathy for him, despite my total lack of interest in his cause. He has recently lost a close friend to a savage murder; the interviewer’s behaviour and that of her crony (missed his title) came across as deeply racist. And the fact that etv had the gall to show it leaves questions about their own understanding of common decency.

    Good grief SA, outnumbered by nine to one, white people have always felt vulnerable in this country. It accounts for our history and will acount for the future. Why hide it? We’re not smug, we’re terrified!

  • radiodave

    aww, come on, julius is the best entertnainment since george bush got his face booted off the planet. what are we going to talk about next, self-pollinating bio-fuels?

    that said, yes he’s dangerous and yes i’m scared. a metaphor to some is an instruction to others. perception is an ugly gamble.

  • Elaine

    Thank you Sarah! At last someone acknowledges that the media has created this monster! Now I hope you go and tell your fellow journalists to stop giving him any media space! If you ignore him he’ll go away!

  • Shamus

    By any rational person’s standards Malema is a disgrace and a complete embarrassment, he spits in the face of those who have truly ‘struggled’ for freedom in this beautiful country and he is undeserving of the support he receives because it was not earned, he stole it by creating an illusion around him that many have bought in to only because he tells them the things they want to hear, the same way Zuma got to power and who has since done an about-turn; case in point Mugabe who Zuma badmouthed while electioneering but has kept completely quiet about since becoming president, ditto for Malema who has performed a similar about-turn on the same issue and is now singing Mugabe’s praises (all fact and can be Googled). Unfortunately as much as I detest Malema he does serve as a release valve for many frustrated people through his circus acts, it’s just a pity they are not funny but instead, terrifying.

  • Peter

    OK, Sarah has thrown her glove on the ground – challenging her fellow journalists to cease reporting on you-know-who. Or are editors saying that the ‘child’ is good for business and hence they cannot afford to lose him. He knows that, he knows the media needs him. Even when he castigates the media, they will keep on following him. Money talks, and on this issue – sadly.

  • An observer

    seriously, can we all agree to just do this

  • Hintsakazi

    As a black South African youth, this leader has done nothing to inspire me. So I couldn’t agree more, Ms Britten!

  • An observer

    could you, or colleagues you know, get some articles going on people (incl youth) who are leading in a way that is contributing constructively on our national goals and who are demonstrating model leadership, with or without title…………

  • Roadrunner

    Amen, amen and amen!
    I cannot influence the media in what they cover, but, like Neil Grobler I can choose to stop reading the drivel they publish -starting right now.

  • peter

    well we must understand that any kind of word or a statement which has a racist word is very not acceptable which ever the so called race you are.that is why it is blood-cuddling to hear some one say “kill the Boer”.we all have seen how these kind of segregation have done to Africa, call the tribalism of Rwanda ,Kenya.religious animosity of Nigeria and Egypt or clan-ism of Somalia all this boils to one thing DEATH AND DESTRUCTION.am a Kenyan but i want to believe a south African is a person who is a citizen of SA whether black or white.The ANC’S Malema is just destroying Mandela’s legacy and am sure Mandela is angry about this guy it is only time before he speaks up !if this is what the future leaders of ANC are made of then all both black n white south Africans are going to suffer equally.but i don’t think Malema is such naive to destroy this great nation and if he is i don’t think ANC is and if it is then i certainly believe south Africans are not ! don’t let the rainbow nation die

  • Cas

    It is good to see a site with so many intelligent responses. As so many of these responses indicated, there are real problems, most of which have real solutions, and then there is the media circus surrounding certain “personalities”. What we need more than anything else in this country is transformation. On this we all agree. It is what this transformation might entail, and the subsequent repercussions of this transformation, that many of us are concerned about. What exactly is being proposed by these personalities? That we whilly nilly reclaim farms and cause mass starvation?

    Furthermore, unless we have something else to offer the frustrated, disillusioned and dis-empowered, they will remain ready to be exploited by the power hungry. We need sound policies, good governance, and leaders that will serve the interest of their constituents more than that of their own or, some or other political party. We need an electorate that understands the democratic process – that will hold their leaders responsible, who will vote intelligently, i.e. not merely on the basis of a empty promise, or some other excitable grounds. We need education, citizens with a healthy sense of social responsibility, and above all a more equitable society. We need leaders who can do more than merely excite the masses, and sing songs that can possibly incite people to violence. We need leaders with an understanding of good governance, with innovative and practical policies to real problems. Lets find these people and give them the media coverage.

  • Craig

    Well said Marmite, those who claim he is newsworthy clearly need to be reading the sun / heat / hello or whatever trashy tabloid rag that is prpared to continue dishing up the unadultereted rubbish that is *he who shall not be mentioneds* and indeed ANCYLS seemingly endless rhetoric. Like the common cold, it should be ignored until it goes away.
    PS: do you know how old you have to be to graduate from the youth league to the real party (excuse the pun)? I know that from cubs to scouts was at the age of about 10/11.

  • Obzino Latino

    Oh, you thought writting about Malema you are doing him a big favour, ill-indoctrinated as usual. In fact, it will be a breath of a fresh air, no more irritating distortions about our hero, yes, back off, your cowwward!

  • Juanel

    @ Shamus

    I could not have said it better

  • Juanel

    Wow. A response – finally. Guess it took the abuse of an international journalist to prompt a statement…

    http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/Politics/ANC-condemns-Malemas-behaviour-20100409

  • Barbara Harmel

    Terrific stuff! And as another commentator suggested, start a campaign amongst your colleagues to switch off the lights on Malema. The media has been largely responsible for making him one of SA’s best-known figures, thereby helping to spread his rightwing, racist, hypocritical populism – and now feeds off him voraciously. In the absence of leaders countering this real threat, please would journalists at least end his public life!

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  • jollytot

    Sentiment noted and agreed. But I’m just curious:

    I’ve been locked up for crimen injuria, and heavily fined, for putting a note on someone’s car – many years ago (1988) – calling him an asshole for blocking 4 cars in, in the parking lot. You can visualize it something like this: =!=

    Reference to arse (mpundu or kandako, let alone byproducts) is not tolerated well in African culture at all.

    How do you, and M&G get away with what is substantially injurious (injulius, should I say) – even if it’s true?

    Damn! There must be a fine line there somewhere…

    Just sayin’…