On hearing about the journalist who was banned from attending Hillary Clinton’s SA visit the other day because of a quip about his bag containing an “explosive notebook” when asked whether it contained anything at a security checkpoint, I both giggled (yes, men do that too, it was a very strong manly giggle, I promise) and sighed deeply. I appreciate dark humour (see my recent piece entitled “What about all the good things Hitler did?”) and his comment was indeed pretty darn darkly witty in the circumstances. Perhaps not as dark as say Zapiro’s violation of justice cartoon for example, but dark nonetheless.
This might lead some people to ask me if I’ve lost all understanding of things like poor taste and matters of national security. Well, I haven’t, and feel strongly about both (negatively on the first and positively on the last, for clarity’s sake). Let’s be honest though: that journalist’s comment affected neither of those in any significant way. Neither did the joke the SA chap flying on Kulula last year made about there being a bomb in his suitcase, for that matter. Granted, both men displayed a lack of sound judgement, but that’s where the transgression ends for me.
Despite perhaps thinking that they were showing the world they were “teaching those confounded terrorists a lesson” by banning the journalist, the embassy only managed to prove one thing — that they have no sense of humour. I mean, seriously, some questions do need to be fired their way on this one. For a start, are real terrorists in the habit of announcing they have explosives on them prior to the intended use of said explosives? Is the word of the person being searched the final deciding factor at a security checkpoint on whether they’re “clean” or not? And, wouldn’t a terrorist have been doing Hillary a favour? That last one was a J*O*K*E for those whose funny bones are still broken.
I’ve always found asking liars if they’re liars a bit of a futile exercise. The exception possibly being if you’ve known somebody long enough to have psychologically profiled them and evaluate their responses accordingly, and even then it’s only a slight hint. So, in the event of hosting a high-profile dignitary (using that word with the Clintons still feels a bit awkward for me) I have this hugely controversial suggestion: instead of lighting the fuse in a chirpy journalist’s mind by asking them a stupid question, ensure that adequate scanning equipment and search procedures are in place so that the farcical Q&A session doesn’t happen in the first place.
Such tight-arsed application of protocol in the wrong places can’t be good for public morale in general. Surely it actually fuels the fire of paranoia even further. We all know there’s a lot of tension in the world today regarding terror threats but banning a guy for wittily bragging (presumably) about the content of his writing is taking things a little too far. I’m convinced that the energy directed at punishing people like him could be utilised far better elsewhere in maintaining public safety.
The sheer pedantry of the journalist being banned from Clinton’s visit does ultimately raise another valid question: If, some “homie” at a support rally for Clinton very enthusiastically shouts out “Hillary is da bomb!” in the crowd, would it result in both him and Clinton being banned from the function?