This has been a week for some spectacular sense of humour failures but then again, this is South Africa and it has always been thus. There’s nothing more humbling than having to explain the punchline of a joke, especially when people resolutely don’t get it.
But what happens if you weren’t actually joking – and they were right?
Musician the Kiffness, aka Dave Scott, re-invented himself as a latter-day Jeremy Taylor during lockdown keeping himself busy doing increasingly brutal (but immensely clever) parodies of hit songs past and present to illustrate some of the more banal and bizarre regulations. In the process he got up the noses of some critics, memorably Ekurhuleni’s Mzwandile Masina when he spoofed the National Anthem.
Most recently, he has managed to delight a whole bunch of anti-govt, possibly anti-vaxxer types – and irritate many others with his queries about the government’s anti-COVID 19 app that Cyril Ramaphosa was asking everyone to install as part of the country’s move to Level 1.
Initially it looked like Scott was playfully parodying the app as another potential tenderpreneur invasion of privacy. Now it appears as if he has bizarrely metamorphosed into a parody of himself, doubling down on his claims that it is credible threat against privacy as real experts have weighed in, fact checking and disproving his claims. In the process, it looks like his lost his own sense of humour.
Many conspiracy theorists refuse to accept that the government app might be exactly what it is supposed to be – an anonymised, massified early warning system allowing us to be as free as possible from an infection that has effectively kept us under house arrest for six months. Many of those baying against its download, are the ones who bitched about being locked down.
They’re the people who will happily spend hours playing innocent seeming quizzes, blithely giving away the very metadata that we use to create our passwords. They’re the same people who love that somehow Facebook magically knows that they’d like a particular item of clothing or accessory, or are interested in travelling to an exotic locale or even suddenly want to connect with someone they might only have emailed for a business query – or gossiped about around the water cooler.
The Deep State, the illuminati or even the sex traders don’t need us to download apps on our phones; the more cookies we happily accept on or quizzes we blithely answer ultimately let “big business” know us better than we know ourselves. In fact, our news feeds get curated to such an extent that we are sucked deeper into a vortex of echo chambers of bigotry and confirmation bias.
The government is under fire for killing less people than the doomsayers said it would and tanking the economy. Yet, Latin America is consumed by COVID, Donald Trump appears to be culling blue voters and Boris Johnson might cancel Christmas.
Could it possibly be, that Ramaphosa and his team actually got it right? Perhaps it’s time to give him the benefit of the doubt and bin the tin foil hats.
Originally published on 26 September 2020 in the Saturday Star