Mak­ing news out of noth­ing

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - ANALYSIS & OPINION - Ted­die Bepete

JOUR­NAL­ISM does not tell us that hu­man be­ings are au­to­mo­tive ma­chines.

Nei­ther does po­lit­i­cal science teach us that our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers should be­have like pro­grammed com­put­ers that can only fal­ter dur­ing elec­tric­ity load-shed­ding or when “the sys­tem is down” sim­ply be­cause we are in the Mod­ern Age.

Even cy­ber­net­ics tells us that the world of cy­berspace has never been 100 per­cent per­fect.

Last week, the “in­tel­li­gent” pri­vate me­dia proved us off-side and blew their stri­dent whis­tle.

But this time, in­stead of an off-side, the pri­vate me­dia - in par­tic­u­lar those op­er­at­ing solely from the do­main of the world wide web - which have mor­phed into self-made ref­er­ees of the so-called suc­ces­sion game ac­tu­ally de­clared a penalty kick.

‘’Shocker: Mu­gabe ‘ap­points’ Supa Mandi­wanzira as Pres­i­dent,’’ screamed one head­line. Of course, this was less mis­chievous than an­other which read: ‘’Mu­gabe re­veals suc­ces­sor for 0,5 sec­onds’’.

The first head­line was meant to ac­knowl­edge the Pres­i­dent’s slip of the tongue and si­mul­ta­ne­ously em­bed some kind of irony whose source is best known by the writer/pub­lisher of the ar­ti­cle.

The sec­ond head­line was laid out to de­ceive the pub­lic by not ac­knowl­edg­ing the Pres­i­dent’s ap­par­ent er­ror.

It sought to fool read­ers into be­liev­ing that Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe had un­wit­tingly re­vealed who his suc­ces­sor would be.

But me­dia com­pa­nies must sell news not mean­ing­less head­lines.

Apart from rob­bing their read­ers, such kind of re­portage by the me­dia is mis­lead­ing the pub­lic by cre­at­ing facts and per­pet­u­at­ing fake news.

Dis­torted news can never be con­struc­tive.

Me­dia com­pa­nies ex­ist for the progress of our so­ci­ety and not to loot peo­ple’s hard-earned dol­lars and in­sti­gate in­sta­bil­ity.

A slip of the tongue is a slip of the tongue; whether it is by the Pres­i­dent or by an ordinary per­son. It can never be­come a pol­icy pro­nun­ci­a­tion, nor will it be a dream come true for suc­ces­sion­ists.

When land re­forms were de­clared two decades ago, a slip of the tongue was not in­volved.

A re­peated voice di­rected that tra­jec­tory.

Why then has a slip of the tongue be­come a source of news to­day?

It is the same kind of noth­ing­ness that fol­lowed the in­ci­dent some time back when Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe broke his fall at Harare In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Sud­denly Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe was not al­lowed to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing as mun­dane as miss­ing his while walk­ing.

It is an un­de­ni­able fact that our Pres­i­dent, though en­er­getic in body and mer­cu­rial in mind, does not con­sist of atomic cells but hu­man flesh.

The tale of jour­nal­ists get­ting paid for writ­ing about slips of the tongue is not com­i­cal. It tells about how far the qual­ity of our me­dia con­tent has fallen, and how far some peo­ple will go to swin­dle a dol­lar out of the pub­lic.

These same forces have em­bed­ded the pri­vate me­dia with voices that will never say any good about our coun­try.

Wher­ever there is a slight, hu­man er­ror, they jump with glee and start scream­ing all sorts of non­sense.

And when­ever they see some good done, they re­treat into their shells and pre­tend that noth­ing has hap­pened.

Peo­ple who ex­ag­ger­ated this faint in­ci­dent in which Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe mis­tak­enly ad­dressed Cde Mandi­wanzira as “pres­i­dent” did it pur­posely.

They are el­e­ments ad­dicted to the no­tion of “suc­ces­sion cri­sis”; el­e­ments that fan it in the hope of ul­ti­mately in­flu­enc­ing our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in par­tic­u­lar and the po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses of the coun­try in gen­eral.

We have to pause and ask our­selves, and this is some­thing each and every one of us must do: Is this well-doc­u­mented and highly-cel­e­brated id­iocy the hall­mark of the free­dom of ex­pres­sion that the pri­vate me­dia al­ways clam­our for?

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