Art of Persuasion or Manipulation?

Actually a while ago when I started to jot down a piece as a response to the unwelcoming of the Delai Lama by our South African Government I never intended that I will write a few pieces surrounding JZ and the looming elections. And here I am again once more compelled to add yet another sequel to our interesting theatre of events in South African politics.

What is motivating the present jottings goes back to last year when SABC’s ‘Friends Like These’ began to televise a celebrity season. For the point that is to be made in the present piece a bit of explanation of the game is necessary. Friends Like these is presented by DJ Sbu who is an accomplished radio and television personality. In the television game show two groups of friends each consisting of five ladies exclusively and the other five gentlemen compete with one another in a series of games that ranges from testing logic, flexibility, memory as well as how much do the friends really know each other. The latter part is played out by the group that won the intermediate games. The prize is a holiday cruise of the Indian Ocean on board a luxury ship.

It is quite interesting that the present season as well as the previous one (not really spaced out like in the past) has been focusing on celebrity figures and to be precise – young men and women who has made something of themselves in the entertainment industry in South Africa: TV/Radio, film and music.

Now what has been pivotal to each of these episodes has been the posing of a question that has become mantramic (if there is such a word) to what we expect the DJ to ask the celebrity guests as they braced themselves for each of the challenges.

‘Are you going to vote?’

Technically this question will be preceded by the guest’s intro of what exactly it is that they do with their lives as far as the entertainment industry is concerned. To my knowledge none of the guests has ever said that they weren’t going to vote. Sbu then will re-emphasize the fact that young people are doing it for themselves, with reference to his guest celebs, and so should the rest of South African youth. This season then, that is in the final analysis, has been about motivating young people to stand up and do something with their lives.

Now my reader in middle of this celebrity season, against the background of this motivating campaign to the youth to stand up and do something with their lives the dear DJ appears at the background of the ANC president during the party’s last rally. Why?

Perhaps I am reading too much into the signification, but bear with me; you see when it comes to media I am always on the look out for the way media can manipulate visual information to achieve a certain effect. Sunday has proved that the current power bloc in South Africa understands what the phenomena celebrity means. Otherwise why will DJ Sbu appear, clad in shades as usual, at the background of the ruling party’s president moments before his speech is concluded? – Reason: To foster the idea of voting to the youth in the upcoming election, this is my bet!

But then there is more. We identify with celebrities based on what they do. DJ Sbu is an example of the results of hard work and success. At the time where young people do not want to hear about past injustices committed to South Africans and they are increasingly interested in their future and becoming successful in their endeavors it becomes of paramount importance as we move into the present election to highlight to the youth with the image of a successful icon who they can identify with that the ruling party is also for them; that it has their interest at heart. Indeed the mere image of Sbu suggests this. He is a mediated hero and we have come to believe in the mythical specification of our celebrities – we gage our lives based on them despite the mythical world they live in.

As I have said it before elsewhere and I shall say it again here: manipulation of events to ascend to our anticipated goals depends on whether we are able to see the present circumstances as they are and forecasts what we want and turn the situation around to get to that goal.

I hope that other political parties have been attuned to the way the ruling party has played this rally. That the most important person they need to have an appeal to is youth. That their so called devotee members need to know what that party that want their loyalty will give them in return. Furthermore political parties must now start to groom their affiliates at youth level in order to be able to connect with the crowds in this game and stop pointing fingers at the wrongs committed by the ruling party or any other party for that matter.

Would it not be a wonderful idea if political parties could start grooming their most active members in their political party structures/ state apparatus to be competent in their respective portfolios?

This way when the political party concerned ascends to national or local responsibility of any function in this country will ensure that the work is done professionally and competent. This way the political parties will prove that they represent progress rather than decadence.

This is what I have taken from the ‘Friends Like These’ phenomenon: wake up and do something for yourself. Just that act alone will be of beneficial to South Africa. Sbu like any independent body may move on to another power bloc in the future, we have already witness such events before as far as politicians are concerned. Independent thought is the foundation we will have to erect first before critiquing what is going on around us in our socio-politico environment.

20 April

© 2009 Mmutle Arthur Kgokong

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