Fri Apr 18 15:16:33 SAST 2014
Fri Apr 18 15:16:33 SAST 2014

No you can't read all about it

Aug 27, 2010 | Public Editor - Thabo Leshilo |   12 comments

THERE'S a magnificent, imposing mountain in Limpopo, just after the Kranskop Toll Plaza on the way to Polokwane, that is always a marvel to see.

The Modimolle Mountain has a story to tell.

It is reputed to be the mountain of ancestors or gods. Its Sepedi name means "God has eaten" in English.

It is so called because, according to legend, whoever has been stupid enough to test the wrath of the gods by climbing to its summit has not made it back alive.

That and similar tales make for great fiction and children's bedtime stories.

But there is an unfortunate side to the riveting folk tale. It is that Modimolle, in all its splendour, might just as well be a huge monument to ignorance.

Taken to heart, such stories militate against the spirit of adventure and experiment that leads to discovery, which is vital for human progress.

There is no shortage of such myths. One that springs to mind is the claim that some people can make rain.

The problem comes when such myths are reported as fact in the media, contributing to the promotion of popular ignorance.

Unfortunately, they are not always innocent and often result in harm. The irrational belief that some people have powers to manipulate lightning and direct it to strike their enemies or those they envy is a case in point. Many innocent lives have been lost to this false belief and mumbo-jumbo.

Equally bad is blind faith in so-called faith healers, spirit mediums, witchdoctors (as opposed to inyangas) seers and other charlatans who prey on the vulnerable by promising miracle cures and instant riches.

Now this is the stuff tabloids thrive on. Like them or hate them, newspapers with the knack for finding unlikely stories about randy gorillas with an eye for beautiful women are a reality on the South African landscape.

They are the fastest-growing segment of the print media for their ability to offer light relief from depressing, deadly serious stuff about corruption and the death and mayhem caused by rampaging "democratic" teachers and nurses.

All that might soon pass, thanks to the ANC's crusade to fix journalism.

Even tabloids, not known for investigative journalism - like the report that exposed the killing of people at a mine owned by well-connected "patriotic capitalists" - are not safe from the ruling party's determination to protect the public from shoddy, "gutter and sensational journalism".

Its discussion document on media transformation, which calls for a punitive statutory Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT), states: "Sensation is ... pursued for its own sake and the balance among education, information and entertainment is missed.

"An approach is then encouraged where each media house competes ... in dumbing down.

"Thus, instead of carefully devised strategies to find and occupy niches, competition develops around 'tabloidisation' of content and pursuit of quantity without quality becomes the new deity."

Judging by the increasing misinformation and bellicosity of ANC members and supporters at public "debates" on the tribunal, it's almost a foregone conclusion that the tribunal will indeed be imposed on the media and the public.

Much has been said about the dire effect the fear of hefty fines, possible jail sentences AND the possible licensing of journalists will have on investigative journalism.

Imagine not being able to find light relief from the daily grind of life in the tabloids.

The outlook becomes grim. The future is not what it used to be: bustling with creative energy.

The Grinch that is the MAT has indeed stolen the party.

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