The Laureate of Okesby Chipa Gazi / 24.02.2012
I really don’t like news24 columnist David Moseley. He’s a bad writer. His writing is so bad that even news24 readers, who are normally just happy being casual racists, comment on it: “definitely one of THE worst articles ever to grace the virtual pages of News24” / “what a load of old bollocks, please can I have the two minutes of my life back that I spent reading this utter effluent drivel” / “not only was the style literary poor and lacking in any sort of texture, but the overall portrayal and communication of the story left me weeping for the state of writing in this country”. That’s right, weeping!
Moseley puts in his little bio that he graduated from Rhodes with a “BA Cstl Drght”. See what he did there? David is all about the common touch. He can’t help doing an Everyguy swandive to the bottom of the barrel. Mister Moseley is the Laureate of okes. He is their guide to making sense of a threatening world full of job threats, pushy women and bewildering change.
David preaches to a crowd that concentrates (hard) to keep up with Top Gear. He was a features writer for Men’s Health before the big move to news24 – his spiritual home – the blandest online media hypermarket in the country – where he’s been flinging his own poo like a riled macaque ever since.
Moseley is a bad writer in technical terms. Here’s a very long sentence from a Moseley column about whether or not to have kids:
“Would you, without all the valid cooing and oohing arguments that parenthood induces (“they make you so happy” etc etc), want to have children in a world where food riots are becoming increasingly common, where almost every future scenario is bleakly disheartening (rising sea-levels! Increasingly violent weather! Sharks winning the Currie Cup! Again!), where unemployment marches on rampantly, and other such miseries that can all be found on the first four pages of every newspaper, daily, plague us?”
Well would you? That big sentence has one idea that could be far more simply expressed: “Do you want to bring children into a dangerous world?” Everything else is padding. The adverb ‘bleakly’ slopped onto ‘disheartening’ is redundant. Go with one or the other. Unemployment somehow “marches on rampantly”. Marching is a controlled exercise and doing anything ‘rampantly’ suggests mayhem and disorder so the metaphor is mixed.
But craft doesn’t matter if you have something worthwhile to say. Is David Moseley enriching us with his insight? Ah no.
This is from a column about how women shouldn’t’ be allowed to drive:
“Call me misogynistic, shake your heads in dismay, tut disapprovingly…but please go to the closest toilet and flush your car keys as far away as the drain can take them, because, despite all the wonderful things you bring to the world, like boobs, you okes can’t drive for shit.”
His defenders say this is satire. But it isn’t. It’s barrel-scraping for okes to enjoy. Real satire is Jonathan Swift’s essay “A Modest Proposal” where he suggests the Irish poor use their children for food. Satire brings to the surface what is going unsaid but Moseley just squeezes the udder of sexism for a few more squirts of sour milk. Plus he means it. “My colleagues in the office think I’m joking when I go on about the female (in)ability to responsibly maneuver a vehical. Well, I’d like to say to them, once and for all, that I’m not. Women should not be allowed within 250 metres of a car.”
In another column, he calls on whites to “Join the White Peoples March to Show Black People That We Also Want to March For Stuff.” More satire apparently. Whites, he writes, need to “take back the dance floor with our awkward white person dance” and march if “you’re tired of standing in line at Woolies for longer than ten minutes.” Again Moseley means this crap. “We don’t demand enough free shit…we’re just too content to work hard and expect results from effort. We pay for our electricity, we file our tax on time, we ensure our over-inflated rates are paid.” This is exactly how his audience sees itself: blameless and right. He doesn’t challenge them at all.
A reader suggested he try “some postcolonial literature” for a “more sensitive understanding of historical legacies”. But Moseley has a ready-made answer his okes will lap up: “It dawned on me recently that South Africans aren’t racist. You’re all just stupid… the agitators, amnesiac freedom fighters and befuddled hangers-on-to-the-past”. Using an empty term like “stupid” has the benefit of setting aside history. A history of racism and exploitation that helps explain why the majority of the country can’t shop at Woolies. A nebulous concept like stupid explains nothing.
“Racism,” Moseley writes, tickling his suburban audience right where they like it, “is a word for stupid people who don’t know any better.” By emptying out our history he can more easily affirm the resentments his readers have about the country. Then comes the money shot: “The greatest threat to the future of this country isn’t racism, because racism doesn’t exist amongst normal South Africans.”
And who are “normal South Africans”? They’re David Moseley and the segment of our society he represents. Us. We have cars, homes, jobs, and we’re justifiably sick of political bullshit, sick of the past. Normal South Africans, black and white, want normal lives. We have a right to be normal. But normal has a price. For every normal South African life there are ten abnormal ones. Moseley is a bad writer because he doesn’t begin to ask why.