Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The real significance of the Zuma wang painting

Some may be wondering why the ruling ANC made such a massive issue of a painting hung in a gallery that would have been seen by maybe a few hundred people had the government not made it such a massive issue. There’s been comment along the lines that the ANC obviously doesn’t understand the Streisand Effect. For those who haven’t heard of it, in 2003 Barbara Streisand’s lawyers tried to have a picture of her mansion, part of a web site illustrating coastal erosion, removed. Before they made the issue public, the picture had been viewed 6 times, 2 of which were her own lawyers. Arising from the publicity of the case, the picture was viewed over 400,000 times during the next month.

Of course the ANC knew what they were doing. All this happened in the context of a situation where the ruling party is facing increasing flak for corruption, nepotism and failure to deliver.

The thing that really brought it home to me was when I was listening to SAfm and right after we were told that  the gallery and the ANC had reached agreement, with some details to be announced after a march of 15,000 people, the Gauteng Transport MEC was on air explaining that e-tolls (an issue that had raised ire across a swath of constituencies that usually hate each other) were perfectly normal, in line with the accepted economic principle of user pays.

The thing is, the user pays principle is a cornerstone of liberal economics, and the ANC claims to be fundamentally opposed to liberalism, to the extent of a visceral hatred of the rather tame opposition Democratic Alliance. I’ve heard this hatred justified by a claim that the DA represents a throwback to the apartheid regime, a rather odd claim given that the rump of the National Party abandoned the DA project and joined the ANC.

So what’s this all about, really?

The ANC is mobilising around populist outrage to disguise the fact that they have not only failed to deliver, but they have become their own enemies.