09 April 2010

The danger of social media: Terreblanche, Malema and Opinion

As the "Eugene Terblanche murder vs Julius Malema singing his struggle songs" story broke (rumour has it 1 hour earlier on Twitter than mainstream) last weekend, I watched a pretty scary flood of communications roll out.

We all know that citizen journalism is all about man-in-the-street opinion. That's logical. And we also appreciate how much context citizen journalism or any social commentary can add to a news story. But when the news spreads via social means, and a certain communities first contact is public opinion rather than verified fact - well, that's a scary thing indeed.

Some examples, if you will... I've removed the poster's name for obvious reasons.

RT @--- Etv reporting that the police has confirmed the murder of Eugene Terblanche. Julius, you r in kak my friend. #willhecare


ANC hate speach has claimed the life of Eugene Terblanche. The writing is on the wall people, whites get out or be murdered.


RT @--- **Fuck that racist cunt! Eugene se moer man!** RT @--- Eugene Terblanche is dead?! Who gives?


RT @--- Get off your high horse on Terblanche,he was a racist and so what? We respect him now? 


RT @--- Should Terblanche's death be seen in context of boer song or as brutal man who beat up black pple?

And then my personal favourite from user Fidel Castro on a prominent news site:

In fact, I support the ANC on this one. How can a court tell an oppressed people that their memory and expression of an oppression infringes on the rights of oppressors? The Boer represents oppression in South Africa. He might have been white during apartheid. The Boer is now black. He is now Indian. This is the Boer, whose oppression black people sing against, otherwise how do you explain black people marching against poor service delivery in the townships whilst singing 'kill the boer'? They might be poor, they might not have education, they might not have the wealth, they might be backward looking...but the truth is black people lived through that apartheid oppression (which still stares them in the face in form of the failure to transform the economy) and they have the right to express their memory of that oppression. This 'kill the Boer' song should be taught to little children, so that they should not forget that it was the Boer who put them in those matchbox houses, the boer who didnt want them to live in the city, the boer who evicted their parents from their land...the boer who still controls the economy...


If the courts and the boers dont like the song, why dont they change the situation that is making people sing that song? In fact that song should be sung in school every morning, it should be sung in churches, it should be sung to unborn babies.....It should be written and tied to people's heads so they don't forget. that the Boer created the conditions which are proving difficult to undo after apartheid. That's a fact.

That's some inflammatory stuff. I'm not going to comment either way - it would be contrary to the theme of this post, lest to say that I'm still a little blown away at the unverified voracity of the medium. Is opinion and knee jerk reaction just part and parcel of the modern landscape? What is this going to do to our trust of reporting in general?

As I finish tapping this out - I noticed a tweet come in...

Stand by for the first ever @mailandguardian front page with crowd sourced editorial input from Twitter.