As 2009 draws to an end, let’s see if we can remember any of the weird moments that made 2009 a crazy year. Here are my top ten news stories that flashed past my monitor screen.
1. Swine Flu Fever
Like Mad Cow Disease and Bird Flu, this story made news headlines by scaring everyone into thinking we were all about to die from the common cold. The killer pandemic, like earlier sensationalised reports, turned out to be nothing more than a bunch of frightened liberals, scare-mongering all and sundry with scientifically unsound conjecture.
Updating ones status took on an entirely new meaning with the microblogging platform coming of age. Twitter invoked a media frenzy about the death of the media as we all began following each other and tweeting. Needless to say, now even Yahoo has status updates — you can microblog from nearly any platform including your refrigerator. A case of the media caught up in a collective conversation that for once wasn’t of its own making?
3. Susan Boyle
The sad and tragic tale of Britain’s Got Talent contestant who rose to fame and then quietly disappeared after a nervous breakdown, grabbed entertainment columns everywhere as a new form of global culture was ushered in with Facebook, Youtube, DSTV and broadband connections. Needless to say, one wonders if pathos in the face of disability is the new black, or whether just plain butt ugly is the new shape of beauty in the world of tomorrow?
4. Iranian Revolution II
A story which mainstream newspapers in South Africa refused to carry in any detail rocked the online world as activists in the Islamic republic reported anti-government demonstrations and deaths at the hands of the Iranian secret police. Opposition leaders were arrested and the government went so far as to pull the plug on Facebook. Pity the O’Reilly and Murdoch media machine who continue to support the repression, torture and sentencing to death of pro-democracy dissidents.
One would think the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, or the 20th anniversary of the Cape Town Peace March, which ushered in the end of apartheid and the begining of democracy in our country would have been a big news story. Unfortunately the fascists at Newspaper House, SABC and eTV seem to be living in a coma of self-flagellating denial and censorship. The bad old days of apartheid were actually not that bad, at least we had an alternative press back then.
6. 2010, Fifa and the Soccer Stadium
Not even the suspicious death in January of a contractor veying for funding and the usual allotment of Euros from FIFA could distract us from the carnival of sleaze surrounding the World Cup soccer stadiums. With the mink and manure set lavishing attention on South Africa’s “black diamonds” it seems the 2010 Football is all about making the rich richer, while the poor can expect to see prices rise and rise as commercial interlopers take over. The Fifa franchise has asserted its intellectual property rights over your freedom and our municipal facilities.
7. Zuma and the Dalai Lama
Our president’s faux pas over Tibet seems to have been forgotten. What started out as an up yours to Freedom of Association, Freedom of Movement and Freedom of Religion, turned into a soul searching crusade as JZ joined a local charismatic church and found religion. Sadly it appears traditional African ancestral beliefs have lost out in the competition for votes.
8. Madiba Day
South Africa’s number one export, Nelson Mandela, lived up to his name by turning July 18 into an international public holiday. Madiba was given a concert in Central Park and deserves accolades for giving workers everywhere yet another excuse to lay off work.
While some might say the year began with the inauguration of America’s first black President, Obama quickly turned into just another white president by accepting the Nobel Peace Prize the very day after sending 30 000 soldiers into Afghanistan. That the prize was a booby trap meant to weigh The Man down, is certain, but at least have the decency to be the first person to decline the award, which many have criticised for being given too soon.
10. Mark Shuttleworth
Unbelievably, our local jingoistic press again failed to pick up on this one, as the brains behind Ubuntu took on the USA and won. The Linux-based OS is now up there alongside Windows 7 and OSX Snow Leopard. Then again, do we really need another Shuttleworth story? The boy genius however appears to have given us all the slip, after moving to London and joining Richard Branson in the competition for most youthful looking brand ambassador of our time.