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Updated 28 October 2013

The resurrection of Frankenjuju

Julius Malema is not a great political leader – he's the Paris Hilton of Politics, writes Cybershrink.

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I was hardly surprised when Julius Malema announced that he had formed a new political party – somehow it seemed inevitable. After a brief period when he was occupied with defending himself in court against a variety of charges, as well as handling the economic consequences of the seizure and sale of his prized possessions, he emerged to announce the formation of his Economic Freedom Fighters. It was like the clichéd scene in countless horror movies when the monster has been poisoned, stabbed, shot and pushed off a cliff, and just when our heroine is wandering home in relief – suddenly an arm shoots our from under a bush and grabs her by the ankle. 

Now once more the hills are alive with the sound of Juju... Julius Malema has indeed come back to life and taken on a new malicious role – rejujuvenated after expulsion from the ANC. Still somewhat mysteriously funded, he moves around the country like a heat-seeking missile, homing in on every potential trouble-spot – armed with a large can of fuel to pour onto any flickering flames.

Media celebroholics

Much of his power has always come from the celebroholics, the somewhat challenged majority of today's media writers. Just as the myriad trivial "celebrities" are hooked on being celebrated, so minor "journalists" are hooked on celebrities. They are routinely fed puff-pieces, easily converted into a "story" they can take credit for – and which won't raise any serious issues, or require anything resembling a thought process from writer or reader.  

Malema seems never to have had a formal job, other than being sponsored, no visible means of support, and owes his prominent profile to what these journalists choose to give him. He's an “easy story” who can always be relied on to say something annoying or tweetable. He is hooked on the attention he craves (and is generously provided with), and, like the naked Emperor in Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, once enough people notice the lack of clothes, the illusion ought to shatter. But, because most politicians fail to convince the people of any genuine concern for our problems, or have the ability or will to try to improve our lot, a maverick like our Juju can be attractive to those in despair, even if he lacks the capacity to effect any real change.

Put him in the naughty chair

Of course, he should have been handled from the word go just like an unruly, naughty and attention-seeking child, i.e. by a complete withdrawal of attention when he misbehaves, and comforting attention when he behaves responsibly, even if it is by accident. Feeding his ego with massive press coverage and bold headlines for his every utterance leads him to ever greater excesses. He is not a great political leader – he's the Paris Hilton of Politics. 

Our nation would be none the poorer for being spared the wall-to-wall coverage of the entire Thoughts of Chairman Juju. Reducing his opportunities for stirring in trouble-spots and blowing on the embers of other people's disputes could only benefit the country. It's not a matter of official censorship, but of re-discovering something which modern so-called journalists have sadly forgotten – the art of self-censorship. This is something competent writer have applied through the ages. Don't just write the easy stuff, the stuff everybody else writes. Write what needs to be written, while thinking carefully about whether the effect of your words will be useful or harmful. And feel free NOT to write worthless stories without any redeeming social value. It is not compulsory to cover every utterance of every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to be published. Every day a great many interesting and useful potential stories about real people are happily ignored in favour of puffing up the egos of blithering idiots.  

My own new political party
 
Meanwhile, I see no reason to leave the field entirely to Juju and have decided to re-launch a political movement I first launched in 1973. (I have a copy of the first statement to prove it.) And what is more, I think even Malema might be qualified to join me!

It was an era of multiple solemn "Liberation Fronts", and I took a stand for a distinctly underprivileged and ill-treated minority group – fat people. I launched the Fat Liberation Front. Malema's group has seized on a name, rather unfortunately abbreviated as the EFF. Is he inviting folks to EFF off, or what? In comparison the FLF or FLUFF is a lot less offensive.    

We're told that within the EFF, instead of calling each other "comrade" as in the ANC, they will address each other as "Fighter". Maybe this will predict how they treat each other, too, as no specific target for all the fighting is mentioned. In the same vein, calling your fellow party members “Fluffy” is considerably less likely to incite people to commit senseless acts of violence.

We can only hope that, like Mary Shelley’s unfortunate creation, our own Frankenjuju will destroy himself – never to be seen again.   

Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.

 

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