Praise government, and you will be attacked

2013-07-13 20:46

In South Africa, exclusion comes in many different forms. It can be seen in the economy; it can be seen in education and to my surprise, this exclusion can also be seen in the Public Sphere. Sadly, people who get excluded in all these societal institutions are the poor who are now ignorantly in the new South Africa termed “previously disadvantaged” when they still are.

The Public Sphere is said to be an area where people or individuals come together to “freely” discuss and identify social problems.  In this discussion, people power to influence political action. This means, their discussions can sometimes be the first stage of public policy.

In his book Vernacular Dialogue and the Rhetoricality of Public Opinion, Hauser Gerard defined the Public Sphere as “a discursive space in which individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest and where possible, to reach a common judgment."

Other scholars deepen their definition saying the public sphere can be seen as "a theatre in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk" and "a realm of social life in which public opinion can be formed".

Before, people would congregate in coffee houses to discuss social issues. They would freely voice their opinions and influence public policy because that’s how policies start.

Sadly, as modes of communication became modernised commercialisation grew and the exclusion of the poor in the Public Sphere also started to grow.

Now the internet gives us that freedom to communicate and discuss societal issues with people around the word in our classrooms, offices, homes and sometimes while travelling in public transport.

We watch television, read newspapers and online new sites and listen to radios and form opinions on what we get.

We log in to our facebook, twitter and email account; on facebook we update statuses, share others and comment: on twitter we tweet, retweet and favourite: with our emails we share news with our friends. The Public Sphere has never been this vibrant and exciting.

The sad news is that only 34% South Africans have access to the internet. This means, very few people actually participate in this new Public Sphere.

The poor are obviously the people who don’t participate because they don’t have computers, smart phones or places that they work or study at that gives them access to these resources.

Those amongst the poor who actually make it to the Public Sphere get into this hostile environment where they are constantly attacked because they don’t meet the standards set by those who are not poor.

I only became active on the internet in 2008; before that I never used a Computer or had a phone. Fortunately, I went to a school that had a computer lab and had a wap-enabled phone. Like other people, I opened a twitter and facebook account.

By the end of 2009, I was already a loud mouth who sparks controversy and debate about political issues. In 2011, I started blogging on my personal account and here on New24; and my experience has only been bad. The internet is not receptive to people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. There is a bar so high that only people who have are advantaged can reach. Language.

Firstly, to be an internet darling you have to have a special kind of language which is proper Lindiwe Mazibuko kind of English.

Your spelling, typos and grammar will be checked. Those who have self-appointed themselves as Internet English police will spot “bad English” you how poorly you write.

On facebook and twitter; there are those who screen-grab and retweet. Your bad English will be a matter of public display. People will laugh at you texts. And here I must admit I participate.

This is the first bar internet users have set. This language bar is not only a bar for the poor but a barrier. I understand this because it applies to me.

I went to a public school; from pre-school to Grade 12 I was taught English in my home language isiXhosa.

It is impossible for me to master a foreign language but my compatriots and friends don’t care.

One, a Julius Malema supporter who read my blog “Jacob Zuma is 100 times more the man Malema is” went on to tell me that I must quit English and write in Xhosa. Some on my other blogs here on News24 Voices will go on to spot errors and ask how I could be allowed to write here with such appalling English. So it is evident that the internet should only be for people who speak and write perfect English; if you can’t, don’t tweet, update facebook status or blog in your public school English. Politics

In politics there are many expectations and it’s hard to strike the balance. Many South Africans use the internet to read news about current affairs which are in most cases about politics.

Pressured by the bottom line of making profits; online and traditional forms of communications are forced to tell us only bad news. Because if they sell good news, they papers will simply not sell and will close down.

This however does not mean there are no good stories or good things that the government does for people.

Hating the growing negativity; I choose to blog about the good things that our government does. I form my opinions based on facts and I well support my claims.

And this is not a welcomed thing in the Internet.

If you dare say something good about the government you will be attacked and accused of many things.

You will be accused of being a blind ANC follower for giving them credit where it’s due.

I don’t know, not being blind in nowadays is seeing only the negative. If you see both sides and talk equally about them you’re accused of being dumb blind ANC follower.

If you dare talk about Transformation and race you will be accused of many things. You will be dubbed a racist who is stark in the past in not willing to move forward.

And Apartheid is definitely a no go zone; you dare talk about it, you will be attacked for sowing divisions. On the internet, you cannot be talking about history.

The Internet Police don’t want people who talk and advocate for Transformation. They don’t want people who talk about race. They don’t want people who are optimistic about their country. They only want negative people who only focus on the negative side of things.

If you attack the government and follow the same trend of only talking and focusing on the negative you will be an internet darling.

You will be hailed as King and be worshiped if you attack and insult Jacob Zuma. Even if there are errors in your English, the language police won’t spot it; they will praise you for a well written blog.

Kenny Kunene a self-confessed criminal who rape young girls and was to start a new porn company was hailed a worshiped recently for his attack on Jacob Zuma. He went from the most hated person on social network to an internet sensation got interviews from most TV and Radio talk shows in SA.

You read any article online; if it happens by luck to be about government good news. No celebrations happen, only negativity and insults prevail.

We are so used to bad news that good news makes us angry instead of being grateful and happy.

This is the second bar set by Internet users. You cannot be in the internet is you’re positive. You have to be negative, you have to hate the ANC and attack Zuma. If you’re not these things you will also be attacked and some of my readers will ask News24 to shut my blog down.

One of the comments on my blog reads.

"This HASANE, ( activist )

Is nothing other than a snot nose little prick, with an attitude who needs a swift kick in the butt, and then thrown out of the U.C.T.for his aggressive manner and self importance"

The other one reads.

“Get off your ass and find a weekend job you lazy bastard!!!!!!!!!! If i was your teacher i would have taken the other half of your food basket too. LAzy ass wanka.......... Do you want to know how I got through Uni - No grant, No food pack, BEE, no family, I grew up on the street ate out off bins begged for money and still managed to integrate into society with not 1 but two degrees behind my name. So get off your lazy ass and look after yourself. You little prick.

News 24 Can you please stop publishing this guys letters. As this is a provocation!!!!”

Both these comments were posted on my blog about Government financial aid. For being a good student that I am I was thanking the government for giving us poor South Africans this aid and I was only voicing my concern about how the poor that get social assistance are seen as lazy by the middle class.

These angry comments are exactly what I was talking about. They are anti-government and positive news. Government funding the education of the poor should be something we are all happy about but not for these people.

There is an assumption that because I am poor and get financed by government for my studies I am too lazy to work and pay for my fees by myself. And there is hate for Affirmative Action policies as the second comment suggest.

On that blog I was accused of many things, being racist was one of them.

Tell me, where is a job that a full time student will get to finance his over R88 000 fees for just one year? I want it, because that assistance is a loan.

It’s my view that News24 VOICES is a public Sphere where members of the South African community come and share their opinions despite their Political Affiliation and social status.

It allows people who are not journalist to voice out their opinions. These people don’t have to consider being paid and this makes the debate more interesting because there is honesty involved.

Instead of chasing away poor people who don’t have perfect English and who are positive and optimistic about the future of their country we should value public opinions.

You cannot be crying about the Protection of Information Bill but come on the internet and try to block and shut other people just because they don’t share the same opinions with you.

Your perfect English from a public school should not be used to exclude others.

Your political affiliation should not make you shut or exclude those from opposition parties.

Your negativity out South Africa should not make you control those who are positive to an extent that you want other people to be negative like you.

The South African constitution grants us freedom of expression. Considering, our racist apartheid past the Constitution excludes the expression of views that may undermine South Africa’s democratic order.

Chapter 2, Section 16 of the South African Constitution everyone has a right to freedom expression which includes: freedom of the press and other media; freedom to receive or impart information or ideas; freedom of artistic creativity and freedom academic and scientific research.

These rights however do not extent to: propaganda for war; incitement for imminent violence or advocacy for hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion which can ultimately incite or cause.

And as long as there is a South African constitution and the Press Code that both advocate for Free Speech I will continue blogging with them in mind. I will only comply with their rules not the ones set by internet users

If you hate it; you just have to ignore any link that has my name because our constitution also gives you that right, Freedom to choose.

Esethu Hasane is a final-year student at the University of Cape Town in pursuit of a B.soc.sc Degree with Majors in International Relations, Public Policy and Media. Follow him on twitter @Esethu_u and respond to his article.

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