Here is a question: why is it that no one in the media stands up to Julius Malema? Sure, there are critical columns here and there and his more incendiary remarks generate a small amount of negative coverage on the day. But fundamentally and in any meaningful way, no one takes a hard line. The man is a disgrace, his policy programme constitutes an economic wrecking ball and his politics is infused with racist vitriol and the threat of violence. But, in the mainstream media, he does not suffer the commensurate reputation. Three reasons explain this. The first is that Malema is, in many respects, a journalist himself. Certainly the ultimate outsider-insider when it comes to the ANC. The media relies on him to provide what it cannot: direct access into the ANC’s inner universe. He is, in this sense, an invaluable commodity, certainly to a far greater degree than any other politician. And so he is feted for his intel. Second, the South African media cares primarily about personality. It...

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