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A state of emergency?

There was a time when journalists knew not to ask too many questions. A time when they knew not to dig too deep. There was a time when they had a healthy respect for authority and knew their place.

The Mail & Guardian‘s leak of the Nkandla report marks that moment when the journalistic profession is once again crossing the line, offering clever arguments about the public interest and accountability to civil society. Journalists from this irresponsible rag are not just putting No. 1 at risk, they are making a mockery of our security state. Was it not enough that City Press humiliated No. 1 by publishing that shameful painting of his exposed manhood? Luckily, its editor came to her senses and she reneged on her counter-revolutionary editorial approach.

What are we to make of these times when sensational, liberal media are seeking to undermine internal security? Are they forcing us into a state of emergency? Will they force us into bringing the full might of the law upon them? What is to be done?

Fortunately, there are a few things that we know about the educated, middle classes who read these rags’ drivel. We know that the middle classes and the aspiring middle classes are bound to be outraged when they read these latest shocking and undoubtedly untrue allegations against our democratically elected president, who has the full trust of the masses. We have no doubt that many of them will seek catharsis by letting loose a few racial epithets on comment threads and on Facebook. But we also know that they are very busy retweeting the antics of Miley Cyrus, that they are glued to the twists and turns on Idols or Breaking Bad, that they are very busy in the malls of Sandton, Rosebank and Century City.

The middle classes and aspiring middle classes are much too busy taking comfort from the consumer culture that the ruling party has crafted to perfection with its economic policies that place a high premium on economic growth. There lies their hypocrisy: they will complain about No.1 and his allies, but they do not complain about their middle class comforts. Their grumbling will amount to no more than grumbling.

I bet that many of them have not even downloaded AmaB’s cache of Nkandla documents, that they have not bothered to read the detail of the alleged abuses being reported upon. Perhaps they will wait eagerly for the Hollywood version, starring Thandie Newton as the Public Protector and Denzel Washington as No. 1 – Denzel no doubt reprising his role in Training Day.

They certainly will not join the landless citizens of Abahlali baseMjondolo in public protests against alleged abuses of the state and they certainly will not be joining residents of Bekkersdal in service delivery protests anytime soon. In short, civil society is divided along class lines.

The “informed”, “educated” middle classes are not about to set off a revolution anytime soon… or will they?

Crisis? What crisis?


  • Adam Haupt

    Adam Haupt writes about film, media, culture and copyright law. He is an Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town and is the author of Stealing Empire: P2P, Intellectual Property and Hip-Hop Subversion (HSRC Press, 2008) and Static: Race & Representation in Post-Apartheid Music, Media & Film (HSRC Press, 2012). In 2010, he was a Mandela Mellon Fellow at Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.