Am I the only one to be irritated by the constant politically correct messages beamed to us via ads and even soapies now? I don't watch soapies; it is unbelievable boring though I admire the writers being able to stretch even a meal into something which needs two weeks of airtime to be completed. And then we have the wildly unrealistic social interaction between the characters. It may well be so in the corridors of the SABC, the State's mouthpiece, but in real life? Nah, I have some experience with media law and I can tell you, it is absolutely arranged beforehand. Nothing you see on television or at the movies or hear on the radio or read in newspapers including magazines is by chance. There is always an agenda.
Years ago I had a client, an African American, who I respected a lot then and now. He was a man of exceptional talents. The pro-forma Ivy League MBA degree, the time he spend at Jimmy Carter's Whitehouse as a young man and at that stage, heading a fairly large advertising company in Africa. He did not last long, he was soon disillusioned and that is how he met with me - to represent him for a severance package. That is just boring legal stuff but he made a comment which I remembered yesterday when I saw my mom's Afrikaans Magazines. She buys them every week out of loyalty and no other reason. Anyone with two brain cells will tell you it is almost not worth reading and has nothing of yesteryear's good journalism in it.
There was a time when these magazines had an uplifting function which was practical, had decent stories and was about the Afrikaner. I know this because I collect old magazines and read them. Today, well I don't read them anymore, except for a few glances when extremely bored or on the toilet with nothing else available. They are all about the skindernuus (gossip) from Hollywood and the latest scandals in court. Now I am sorry, but who cares what a bunch of overpaid long haired liberals and drug addicts in a different country have to say? Do I really need to know who is doing who and who is in which rehab center or who made what politically correct movie? Will my life come to an end if I do not read nor care what Oscar Pistorius's dad or whoever else has to say about a very tedious criminal trial which is far from over? I should hope not. Even though the legal profession is full of exceptionally boring people it would be very bad to admit to be one of them. After all, my motto is "Who wants a boring life?"
To get back to my American client, he pointed out that all television comedy shows, for instance Bill Cosby (my favorite back in the day) have the same theme. You have the main characters who are usually successful - see The Cosby Show & the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air etc as examples. They live in an unmarked house and have a nice family, yes a bit weird at times, but all for one at the end of the day. They are surrounded by the good things of life, fancy furniture, and a nice lifestyle and why is all this portrayed by the actors? What is the hidden message?
He said it was nothing but social engineering. That is what it is; they are trying to show the impressionable and underachieving young that Utopia is achievable. Look at the big house, see the nice cars and note now, mommy and daddy are still married and if sussie (little sister) has a baby out of wedlock they would not condemn her but take her in and love them both (Last Man Standing). Obviously you would be a bit moronic to disagree with the principle behind this for it has good intentions. It wants to create a better life and shows that with hard work (the characters all went to university / college and are professionals, doctors, judges, and marketing directors) then you will have the good life. And stay married to the same girl and have a whole bunch of kids (they all have larger families than the statistical correct 2.5 children). Of course, statistics will tell you that a university degree is no guarantee for anything in life. It is who you know.
The same thing is happening with websites pretending to be news sites on the internet. You have your liberal ones, I read them, and they are quite humorous. And the right-wing ones, I read them, and they are quite humorous. Before that website is up and running the ones behind them have already decided who their target market is and how to keep them happy. There is always an agenda and the poor journalist is expected to write his stories in that vein. It is really not difficult to do so and even a moderately sober journalist would be able to do so in his sleep.
From my knowledge on the media contracts behind these soaps and everything else you see and read, I know nothing is just perchance. That brand of beer you see them drinking on the show? Yes, it is paying to be on the show - note how the actor carefully puts it down for you to read the logo. See how they flash a scene at his wrist watch? It is not done to see the time but to advertise it. The name of the game is money and money comes from advertising only when on television. The subscription fees are almost inconsequential when considering the advertising billions. That is where they make the most money. Fair enough, we get that - it is a good business model.
In South Africa this is taken much further. If you talk to any producer alone, he will tell you, when you deal with the SABC and others, you will be told what color the main character will be. How many white faces there may be and at what level (the stupid blonde receptionist, the failed white man who is now the middle manager) and, of course, interracial relationships between them would be appreciated. I can go on and on and on about such examples. No matter that it resembles almost nothing in the real world. That is what they want to see and so it is.
The same with the printed or televised advertisements, you see this totally ridiculous view of life as if that is going to make you buy that product. Not that I can say much about it, I have, for two decades now, got into the good habit of turning the sound off whenever an advertisement flashes up. If I cannot figure out what it is without sound, it is a bad add. But then that is me, I am eccentric. In the US a company developed a device which will automatically cut out the ads and got sued for "changing the broadcast" - they lost and hence the device, it is just programming, is lost forever and we forced to watch this great social engineering experiment. Even most articles in those Afrikaans magazines I mentioned, is nothing but disguised advertisements and not even done properly for I could spot them.
I also wonder why the fuss? Did I not write that love is blind? That it does not matter if your soul happens to be of color or Chinese, you will find each other and be happy. Do we need to see these forced relationships every night on our televisions as if we are too stupid to figure out what is happening behind the scenes? Do we need to read the same nonsense in our magazines?
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. During his police years, he was awarded the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism twice besides lesser awards. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a commercial law attorney for eight years. These days he is the owner of JKLS Africa and Associates, a specialist legal consultancy which specializes in reducing legal risk in sub Saharan Africa. He wrote several books on business, law, counter-terrorism and security issues. At times he is asked to participate on the Voice of America regarding legal forensic matters.