DA’s circus of ‘Coronacast experts’
The DA’s ‘Coronacast’ was a circus of ‘experts’ who weren’t, of missing the point, and of petty political point-scoring
It’s been a week of some pretty astonishing drivel from politicians and their buddies. John "I Squeak for You" Steenhuisen, the temp worker the DA has called in to keep the party limping along while it looks for someone more capable, hosted what the party has wittily decided to call a "Coronacast".
As hellish as it was having to take notes while people who could be stunt doubles for a film called Things Your Old Relative Says Around a Braai mouthed platitudes, I watched all one hour and five minutes of this so you don’t have to.
I was pleasantly surprised when Steenhuisen opened with: "I apologise for any of you who have been trying to make a donation, and have been unable to do so. It’s probably a good thing." Alas, instead of being a rare moment of reflection about throwing good money after bad politicians, it turned out the website was crashing.
Can’t keep a website up; wants to run a country. That would be a better dig at the DA if the ANC hadn’t famously lost ownership of its own domain name because it neglected to pay the bills. And if we didn’t have a government that thinks 4IR had sex with 30% to become 5G’s evil father.
The reason the DA’s site crashed faster than its election results, we are told, is that so many people are donating money to the party’s legal fees. Even federal council chair Helen Zille, she made sure to tell us, had issues donating — but then she got a text saying, cool, we’ve taken your money, so that was OK.
Zille, much like the Catholic Jesus, appears to be the unseen guest at every DA table. At the beginning of the video, there was an ominous moment when the camera panned away from a nervously babbling Steenhuisen, and there she sat, the DA’s panopticon. Zille, Charybdis to Steenhuisen’s Scylla, the one living under a rock; the other, as his name suggests, inside a rock. Between them lie the straits of Twitter.
In the Greek myth, the monster Charybdis would swallow "a huge amount of water, before belching it back out again, creating large whirlpools capable of dragging a ship underwater". In much the same way, Zille swallows a large amount of misplaced ideology on Twitter, and belches it back out again, creating large whirlpools of nonsense capable of dragging the DA underwater.
A few days ago, Steenhuisen was incensed by SABC journalist Flo Letoaba, who asked him the loaded question: "Which South Africans [are you speaking for]? And where?"
Strangely, Steenhuisen, who really does become like a Fikile Mbalula caught in the headlights when he’s asked tough questions, couldn’t answer off the cuff. He decided to answer on his Coronacast, and I’m assuming he workshopped the answer, because it had all the hallmarks of a committee solution. You know — where they take two good ideas and shoehorn them together without noticing that they’ve now created gibberish.
"I speak for the millions of South Africans who are forced to break the law every day to sell atchar on the streets of SA," Steenhuisen proudly told us. That’s a shitload of atchar, John, and I use the adjective advisedly.
But on to the DA "experts". Steenhuisen told us he literally found one of his guests on Facebook, which must be a peak "the DA is the party of the streets" moment.
I also liked how the DA went the extra mile to make sure all five participants were white. It’s these little touches that solidify brand values with the general public.
One of the DA’s "experts", anaesthetist Anton Ferreira, began by saying: "I’m not an expert." You’d think that would be where it ended — Steenhuisen apologises to him, says: "Sorry, buddy, not sure why they asked you to be on our experts panel then, here’s an ill-fitting DA T-shirt and a lifetime subscription to Helen Zille’s Twitter account for your troubles."
But no, the non-expert then proceeded to regale us with jolly aphorisms like: "If you have to have a pandemic, this is the one." He also referenced one of "the interesting pandemics", "the Hong Kong flu of 1968/1969. It killed 1-million people, and there were much less [sic] people in the world in those days. We had Woodstock [music festival] in the middle of that, we didn’t even know there was a pandemic."
As much as we can all get behind dropping acid and listening to rock music as a cure for Covid-19, Dr Ferreira, I would venture to suggest that "ignore the bastard" is not great medical advice.
Other great insights from this "expert": "This pandemic is fuelled by the press, politicians and by the internet. There is absolutely no reason to carry on like that. We’ve established a tyranny of fear, that is driven by the press. I mean, they relate every death with bated breath as the main part of their news every day. Are they going to keep on counting until this pandemic is over? It’s totally irresponsible of them … This is an influenza!"
Let that sink in, as my friends over at the Conspiracy Café like to say. Ferreira thinks it’s irresponsible to tell us how many people die. "This is an influenza!"
He also displayed the classic verbal tic of confirmation bias. "There was a very good interview — I can’t vouch for it, but it made sense to me."
Unfortunately for the DA, once you’ve got people giving advice based on what they feel, rather than facts, the entire message is compromised.
After the "experts" had made their attempts to add credence to the DA’s "end the ANC lockdown" rallying cry, we got to the real meat. When Steenhuisen introduced his "in-studio guest, my former leader Helen Zille", he clasped his hands together and rocked manically up and down. We feel you, John, we feel you.
Weirdly, there were only two books on the bookshelf behind Zille’s head: Adriaan Basson’s Zuma Exposed, and SA Survey 2018. This goes a long way to explaining where the DA gets its patented "Attack Zuma, and live in the past" political strategy from.
(And who taught Zille the phrase "We need access to the data"? It’s become the new plaintive cry of the edgy contrarians and lockdown libertarians, people who in general wouldn’t know the difference between a data dump and a bowel movement.)
It’s unfortunate how the DA’s petty politicking and peevish gibes obscure what is actually a vital message about constitutional oversight and the government’s eager predilection for overreach.
The party’s crowdfunding drive is to pay costs for "challenging the constitutionality of aspects of the Disaster Management Act that concentrate massive law-making powers in the hands of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma … without any oversight from parliament, and enable her to delegate such powers to other ministers".
On the face of it, the court action is something we can probably all agree would be a good thing. Then why reduce it to roast chicken and T-shirts?
Steenhuisen and Zille discussed "this folly around laws about what you can wear and what you can’t wear".
Can Steenhuisen genuinely believe the government is telling us what we can wear? Does he not understand that the rules (and yes, they’re pretty silly) are around what you can sell? It’s the same crass Trumpian device he used when he referred to "the ANC lockdown".
Zille talked about "the things not related to the virus [such as] banning open-toed shoes, or saying what temperature food has to be when you buy it. I mean, these are precious freedoms. We don’t think of buying a roast chicken as a precious freedom, but it’s certainly going to become one, if we don’t wake up."
Seriously? You really think wearing open-toed shoes is banned? It’s this level of nonsense that makes any constructive DA message disappear in a welter of scorn. For every sober warning from Zille, such as, "Citizens have to understand that the rights [enshrined in the Bill of Rights] can be taken away very easily", there was an alarmist "especially by a government that now is drunk on power".
At one stage, Steenhuisen said: "I think wearing a T-shirt is going to become a revolutionary act."
Again, John: the wearing of T-shirts has not been banned!
And Zille wouldn’t be Zille, SA’s bargain-basement Donald Trump, if she didn’t end with a gibe at "English-speaking universities", those evil pedlars of critical race theory, and the media. "Now we have direct communication, so now we don’t have to rely on, with respect, many biased journalists to convey what we’re trying to say." (At this point, Steenhuisen contributed a sycophantic: "Don’t I know that! Heh heh heh.")
With respect, Zille (and I’m using that euphemism to mean exactly the same thing as you), an hour a week of preaching to the converted online isn’t going to get the DA any new voters, and neither is social media. If you don’t get media to spread your message to fresh ears, the DA’s slide into irrelevance will continue.
One can’t help feeling a modicum — nay, a smidgen — of sympathy for Steenhuisen. His Wikipedia page was edited right after the Coronacast Comedy Hour to read: "Steenhuisen is fluent in both [sic] English, Afrikaans and Bigotry." When the DA web drone erased that, someone followed up with "fluent in English, Afrikaans and Poor Understanding in Statistics".
I don’t like to steal someone else’s jokes, but I think this is a good place to cite that recent meme: "Eleven official languages and you decide to talk kak."