As a blogger I have not made a habit of hitting back at other bloggers’ criticism of others because they have as much a right to freedom of opinion and expression as myself especially when such criticism is informative and educated.
But, Your Highness Mr. McKaiser, it is uninformed and self-entered criticism by bloggers/writers or “academics and professionals” such as yours that I think sometimes deserve a response which you are, of course, likely to liken to the “spewings and rantings of very drunk [blogger]” as Andrew Marr, the former political editor of the BBC once observed.
According to a “very drunk” blogger, Sipho Hlongwane, you seemed to suggest that we, bloggers, are just a bunch of online thought leaders who had so much influence on our Twitter followers and Facebook friends “precisely because they [social networks] have no gatekeepers” and therefore allows “many of us to simply dump data into the virtual abyss that is the Internet”. This, unfortunately, allows us to “become social networking celebrities not on the basis of [our] thoughtful comment(s), but purely as a function of the number of so-called ‘followers’” we have on Twitter, if not on a “hordes” of friends we have on Facebook.
You words, to according to Hlongwane, were contained in a link which is no longer available because – as many of my Twitter ‘followers’ have said on their timeline – you immediately removed your profile on Facebook a day or so after you made these sad remarks about us.
Hlongwane went further to quote you as saying these social networks have now “become the message” where “traits like thoughtfulness and habits like reading before you speak or (heaven forbid) reflecting before you comment” have become so “dispensable in the virtual world” and seen to be the order of the social networks day. These, unfortunately, have now become “trends [that] hurt public debate”. But that’s not true. Not all of our comments on Twitter or Facebook or other microblogging web sites have become “trends [that] hurt public debate”, at least not mine and neither are those of Hlongwane and many other bloggers you mentioned at the time.
This is because as an administrator of your article or comments – whether on your blog, Twitter or Facebook – you have the right to delete or edit comments you find offensive or insensitive. And this is where your gatekeeping kicks in you. Moreover, where you find comments which you deem as spam, pornographic, hateful, and discriminatory and seem to incite fear on others – you still have the administrative “gatekeeping” right to delete them. On Facebook, those that have commented also have the right and access to remove their own comments from your status or Notes. And if you still want them out, you can just do that yourself. So, your “no gatekeeping” on social networks is not true.
This reminds me…
In her criticism of bloggers, especially Sentletse Diakanyo, Britten said she found that Diakanyo “expressed [opinions that] were tongue in cheek” but that was before she realised that he was a “shit stirrer of note” and decided to block him. This after he wrote a controversial column on Thought Leader that not all were Africans but that ONLY black people are.
Britten became “worried” with the “attention” Sentletse was getting. She said “the more coverage the media gives him, the more power he will accumulate — power he would otherwise not have”. Britten went on to say Diakanyo’s opinions were so “amplified by the media to a degree that was out of kilter with the significance of JuJu’s actual newsworthiness”.
So it is quite clear from this that while you found us to have “become social networking celebrities… purely as a function of the number of so-called ‘followers’” on the social networks – Britten, on the other hand, was getting gatvol with the media coverage Sentletse received which accumulated him “more power”, the power she said he “would otherwise not have”.
But it is not true, at least not for me, that we are just after the number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends we have or the so-called media coverage. No, we are not. By the way, when I last checked Khaya Dlanga’s friends on Facebook they were less than what you first mentioned (4,979): it was 4, 974 while followers on Twitter were at about 13,613 when I last checked at 21:24 PM on 18 April 2011.
And that whatever Dlanga says “gets talked about, gets him invited to conferences and radio and television debates, and even gets him a place at the table with the US ambassador to South Africa” is certainly not a cry for accumulative media coverage as Britten once said of Sentletse. It is not. With Sentletse, Britten criticised the “marketing opportunity” he was using which she said was to “leverage the frenzied response to his kak arguments and position himself as a serious commentator whose opinion on the issues of the day should be sought as a matter of course”.
This sounds like bitter jealousy, if you ask me.
I mean, when someone says “if he [thinks he] is clever, (then) he will leverage the frenzied response to his kak arguments and position himself as a serious commentator whose opinion on the issues of the day should be sought as a matter of course” – what does that mean? Anger? Hatred? – I asked Britten at the time.
That when Dlanga et al express their right to freedom of expression and opinion – irrespective of the number of their followers or friends on social networks – does not mean we should label, insult or be seen as trying to censor them due to the “attention” they do not deserve just because we feel threatened that “the more coverage the media gives [them], the more power [they] will accumulate – power [they] would otherwise not have”.
This is because if we do, this self-centered view of others would be seen as some kind of a censorship by the so-called professionals and academics who, like yourself, unfortunately seem to suggest that that the social networks and writing for publications only revolve around them. But I hate to bring it to your attention that you, Your Highness “political analyst” – if that is what you’ve always thought – that it does not.
Neither does it revolve around Britten or even David Bullard who once criticised us bloggers for being just a bunch of people who “desperately want to be columnists” and whose blogs have become the “air guitars of journalism” that are “cobbled together by people who wouldn’t stand a hope in hell of getting a job in journalism, mainly because they have very little to say”.
I would like to concur with Hlongwane that “online commentators with high followings cannot be painted in the same brush”. I further agree with him, as said before that, Your Highness you seem to suggest that “it is only the opinions of ‘serious’ academics and columnists [like yourself] that we should take seriously” and that they are the only ones “fit to mould public debate.” Unfortunately, as said Hlongwane, this “argument has the same ring to it as the former political editor’s tirade against bloggers”.
Oh, by the way, Your Highness of world of academic and professional writers, in the words of Hlongwane, a very drunk blogger you dissed: “There is room enough for the type of commentary that Dlanga and Diakanyo [and myself] offer without crowding out academic commentary” that you are “obviously championing”.
And lastly, we all have something to say: academics, professionals, Twitters and Facebookers. So let us…