Making sense of revolution lost

Louw, P. Eric and Tomaselli, Keyan G (2015) Making sense of revolution lost. French Journal for Media Research, 4/2015 1-10.

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Author Louw, P. Eric
Tomaselli, Keyan G
Title Making sense of revolution lost
Journal name French Journal for Media Research
ISSN 2264-4733
Publication date 2015
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 4/2015
Start page 1
End page 10
Total pages 10
Place of publication France
Publisher French Journal for Media Research
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
This paper seeks to identify competing discourses and patterns of behaviour within South Africa‟s print media in its general reporting on the transition to power by the new African National Congress (ANC)-led government following the first democratic general election held in April 1994. A range of sources are used including media stories and websites. Stories (drawn from the full spectrum of media sources) are used to identify broad patterns of behaviour. But in addition, all political organizations now put up on their websites full speeches, policy documents and media releases. These proved during the course of our research to offer a gold mine of information about discourse formation and the competition between the various discourses that characterize contemporary South Africa.

Our colleague, media scholar James Curran, he of the book, Power Without Responsibility, inquired in 1994 about early post-apartheid changes in South Africa. After hearing a litany of complaints he simply retorted: “Democracy is merely the most efficient way of managing corruption. Nothing more, nothing less”. This comment revealed a flaw in Western thinking about enforcing democracy across the world – namely, in places where people vote ethnically or racially, democracy actually creates institutionalized corruption. And so our unrealistic hopes, our idealistic expectations that somehow we in South Africa would create a perfect society have all but vanished. Now ageing ex-United Democratic Front (UDF) activists huddle in dark corners talking about the “failed state”, what could have been, what once was when we had actively contributed to a UDF-led partial democracy – if only in the sphere of resistance. This was an indeterminate time in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the UDF had created liberated urban spaces, when leaders earned respect and support by hard constituency work, and when street committees ensured civil safety.

This was a time when the alternative presses were democratic, participatory, and when they acted as local or sectoral fulcrums of democracy (see Tomasalli and Louw 1991). The notion of „accountability‟ was the supreme discipline for UDF-supporting anti-apartheid collectives (and sometimes a threat also). This was a time when popular leaders and alterative press editors like Trevor Manual, later a Minister of Finance, had worked hard to earn consent of the governed, mobilised through community newspapers like Grassroots in the Western Cape to create the local fulcrums of democracy and an emergent public sphere. This was a time when we understood how media and cultural mobilisation helped us to identify, develop, and create a national project. This was a time when the foundations of media freedom and party-political media policies were laid, only to be later squandered, and lost in the state‟s adoption of a whole slew of media management and secrecy bills, many of them far more draconian than anything that had been enacted during apartheid.

Everyone wanted to be witness to a post-apartheid "miracle", and in the 1990s a number of activists wrote about the hard work through which it was achieved (see, e.g., Taylor 1996). Debates on media policy were intensive (see Louw 1993; Mpofu et al 1996; Jabulani 1991). But just ten years later, the miracle had gone sour. One of the reasons is that for many years too many people looked the other way and/or became silent as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) slipped into poor and often, corrupt, nepotistic and brutal governance. Why was silence the predominant response? This is the question that this article addresses. This paper seeks to identify competing discourses and patterns of behaviour within South Africa‟s print media in its general reporting on the transition to power by the new African National Congress (ANC)-led government following the first democratic general election held in April 1994. A range of sources are used including media stories and websites. Stories (drawn from the full spectrum of media sources) are used to identify broad patterns of behaviour.

But in addition, all political organizations now put up on their websites full speeches, policy documents and media releases. These proved during the course of our research to offer a gold mine of information about discourse formation and the competition between the various discourses that characterize contemporary South Africa. Another important source of information is You Tube where a range of political players and media now regularly post material. You Tube also transmits expressions of popular culture including political songs by Julius Malema, Jacob Zuma, Steve Hofmeyr and Bok van Blerk –who represent different ideological positions. The Internet has, of course, also become an important space for the circulation of political memes, jokes and attacks on opponents. These can be extraordinarily revealing about the mood of different sectors of society. When taken as a whole they tell us much about the political struggles taking place. Another important source of insights was the use of journalistic vox pops – i.e., simply asking people about their views. But when using vox pops it is necessarily important to speak to a wide range of people so as to ensure one reaches a full demographic spread of regions, class, age, race, ethnicity and educational level. All of these methods of information retrieval were applied to piece together a phenomenological feel for the discursive shifts that characterize an ever-changing South African social and political milieu.
Keyword South Africa
Journalism
Failing state
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes http://frenchjournalformediaresearch.com/lodel/index.php?lang=EN

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Communication and Arts Publications
 
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Created: Thu, 13 Aug 2015, 17:58:31 EST by Associate Professor Eric Louw on behalf of School of Communication and Arts