America is no South Africa, that’s for sure


Photo by Max Sulik on Unsplash


“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art”
– Andy Warhol

South Africa’s highest court has sentenced former president Jacob Zuma to 15 months in prison for contempt of court after defying an order to attend an inquiry into allegations of corruption.

In America, former president Donald Trump, is swanning around the country, endorsing toadies and other loathsome Republican sorts, six months after inciting an insurrectionist mob to invade the Capitol.

Across South Africa, many are hailing the court ruling as a victory for the young democracy and celebrating the powerful message it sends — that no one, not even a former head of state, is above the law.

In America, members of Mr Trump’s Republican Party are continuing to promise that he will win a presidential election for “a third time”, revelling in their fluency in the “big lie” that he defeated Joe Biden in 2020, while also working to pass voter suppression laws.

As The Washington Post lamented in a comment from its Editorial Board, “Arizona Senate Republicans are running an abortive ‘audit’ of the vote in their state, a mockery of process and common sense bankrolled and conducted by election conspiracists. GOP lawmakers in other swing states are pushing for similar circus recounts. Many Republican candidates are already running on the ‘big lie’ in the 2022 election cycle. GOP state legislatures are raising barriers to the ballot box and asserting control over election procedures on the pretext of promoting ‘election integrity’, raising the prospect that they will interfere in the casting or counting of votes in future elections based on another slew of Trump-like lies”.

America is no South Africa, that’s for sure. In fact, I’m not even sure America is America any more, considering that it increasingly seems to care more about money than morals and about manufactured “culture wars” than the common weal.

It is telling to consider the metric recently used by an American media outlet to sum up the half-year since Mr Trump’s departure from the White House. Axios noted the decline in the news business, with web traffic, social media engagement and app user sessions all showing a downward trend.

Using its own analysis of publishers’ readership and engagement trends, Axios said that both left-leaning and right-leaning publishers had seen social interactions on stories drop by more than 50 per cent while mainstream publishers have experienced a slightly more modest drop of 42 per cent. It added that this was because “the personality-driven controversies of the Trump years have been largely absent under President Biden”.

In other words, Mr Trump was good for the media business. True, but rather an inadequate way to gauge the past six months, I’d have thought.