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Trash trolls

As he performed the opening set ahead of the long-awaited concert in Joburg by Dave Matthews Band last week, Vusi Mahlasela introduced his song, Say Africa, by gesticulating at the row of white faces at the front and saying: "It's about ubuntu ... you can Google it."

Those who choose to take pictures at music festivals are missing a lot. As for the trolls, why bother reacting to them - you're only feeding them. (Image: Marc Averette, via Wikimedia Commons)
Nelson Mandela probably wouldn't have approved of his assumption of white ignorance of such matters. Mahlasela was probably just pulling their legs anyway, and had no way of knowing that a mere three days later, almost all South Africans would be uniting in their grief at the news of Mandela's death and showing that they all have a pretty good understanding of what ubuntu is.

The crowd reaction to Mahlasela's version of Weeping, the anti-apartheid protest song penned by Dan Heymann in the mid-1980s and made famous by the band Bright Blue, with its subversive inclusion of a refrain from Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, could have given him a clue.

SA-born Matthews' own thoughts on Mandela's death made clear his admiration for the man: "Nelson Mandela emancipated a people and did so in such a way that his actions also emancipated their oppressors. He did not do it alone, but it could not have happened without him. He showed no hatred or vengeance toward those who had murdered, tortured and terrorised his nation for generations. He saved a country and set an example for the rest of us which, if we choose to follow, will lead us to a better world."

Tech has changed the way we view, and do things

At the same time, there were probably some among us in the audience that night, enjoying Dave Matthews Band's set, with guest appearances by Mahlasela and legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who would not agree with Matthews' sentiments, as he expressed them on the band's Facebook page.

As my colleague, Penny Haw, points out elsewhere on this page today: "Technology has changed many things, including the way we grieve and commemorate the dead."

But it has also given a much louder voice to what would be referred to in internet parlance as "the haters". In this case, the Mandela-haters, and there have been far more of them trolling on Facebook and Twitter this week than I would ever have imagined. To my eternal embarrassment, the comments under Matthews' heartfelt post degenerated into a storm of racism and ignorance, of accusations of Mandela being "a mass-murdering psychopath" and of SA sinking into a genocidal bloodbath since becoming a democracy.

For the most part, I managed not to react, because that's what gives internet trolls energy. As the saying goes: "Don't feed the trolls." (In internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion - Wikipedia.)

Greater freedom is better than less freedom - but what about a bit of culture and breeding thrown into the mix?

To my great disappointment, some of my so-called friends were up to it too, which is where I drew the line, although I'm not sure Mandela would have agreed with that either. Whichever way you look at it, more freedom of speech is better than less freedom of speech, and that is something technology has brought us too.

Another thing technology has changed, and not necessarily for the better, is how we watch live music.

Dave Matthews Band played an electrifying and energetic set, tighter and more professional than any band I've ever seen (and I've seen a few). But instead of dancing euphorically or staring at the stage in rapt attention, the audience was a sea of mobile devices pointed at the large video screens on either side of the stage.

As my friend, Harry Fokker, of T-Shirt Terrorist fame, proclaimed after the same concert: "Always amazes me how many people with smartphones at concerts stand, turned away from the band, taking pix and videos of the big screen, so they can post s**t on Facebook stating: I was there. Here's your wake-up call. You weren't there. You missed the whole thing. You were somewhere in Tech Trap La-La Land, watching a screen of a screen of a screen of a screen ... endlessly removed..."

And as The Telegraph reported online this week, "Scientists have confirmed what many of us have suspected: that the very act of taking pictures of events blunts the memory of them.

"The same phenomenon applies to souvenirs of social events. Birthday cake candles in a viewfinder leave less impression. They may never be seen in a human sense at all, since the snapped image, not observed with the eye in the first place, is incapable later of awakening real memories."

A troll sows discord on the internet by starting arguments or posting inflammatory messages

Source: Business Day, via I-Net Bridge


I-Net Bridge
For more than two decades, I-Net Bridge has been one of South Africa’s preferred electronic providers of innovative solutions, data of the highest calibre, reliable platforms and excellent supporting systems. Our products include workstations, web applications and data feeds packaged with in-depth news and powerful analytical tools empowering clients to make meaningful decisions.

We pride ourselves on our wide variety of in-house skills, encompassing multiple platforms and applications. These skills enable us to not only function as a first class facility, but also design, implement and support all our client needs at a level that confirms I-Net Bridge a leader in its field.
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Stevie Godson
Good piece but it needs a byline, otherwise leave out comments such as: "As my colleague, Penny Haw, points out elsewhere on this page today...."
Posted on 17 Dec 2013 15:05
Rod Baker
Hi Stevie,
Good point - byline added.
Many thanks
Posted on 18 Dec 2013 06:23
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