Mail and Guardian letting it Slip (Knot)

I have the luxury of not being a journalist.

Mail and Guardian on the other hand doesn’t have that luxury. That’s why when I saw this: “Krugersdorp school rocked by ‘Satanic’ killing” I sighed quietly to myself. The article would be perfectly at home in Die Son and uses phrases like ‘crazy-eyes’ and ‘satanic-like ritual’

Here’s the deal. A kid who was obviously a little fucked in his head took a sword to school and stabbed a few other kids (one of whom died) and some of the school gardeners (who no doubt were trying to stop him). That is all. There is no need to try and justify his actions with claims of satanism or his music interests, or, for gods sake, the amount of time he spends on the internet. I’m sure he also played violent computer games; just like pretty much every other fucking kid in his school, who, for record, didn’t stab anyone with a sword yesterday.

These sorts of things happen, and they are tragedies, and they are possibly preventable, but not by censoring the kind of music your kid listens to, or freaking out because they bought a cheap sword at the Chinese knock-off shop around the corner, or banning the internet in your home. The only way to (possibly) prevent things like this happening is to be more aware of your child’s emotional well being, and, should you think your child might be a little nuts, get them to a psychologist who can either help them, or send your paranoid parent ass home because your kid is actually normal.

It seems like society is always looking for an excuse to justify our behavior. We blame MixIt for infidelity and computer games for violent kids… but we forget that a 70 years ago kids were being exposed to far more violence in the form of a World War and had access to more artillery than our current defense force, but they didn’t go to school and shoot up the classroom.

There’s also a stupid trend where people claim an unstoppable addiction to idiotic things like smoking, pornography and alcohol. They claim they have a disease because they can’t not buy that next box of smokes, or drink that next glass of scotch. Like Kyle so brilliantly said to his father in South Park, “No dad, you don’t have a disease, you just need to stop drinking so much”. If you don’t have the willpower to stop smoking, rather just admit to having no self control than muddying the waters for people with real  problems.

So please, journalists of the world, stop looking for reasons… back in the old days people were just plain old nuts if they stabbed their school friends … I liked those days. Can’t we please go back?


Update: After a long discussion with Gavin, who knows a thing or two about mental issues, I must note that I agree that kids are doing this more now days than they were 100 years ago, and that the reasons for that must be something societal.

So maybe modern society (and everything that entails from bad foreign policy to violent movies) is to blame as the catalyst that triggers kids (and people) who are completely fucking nuts, to do stuff like this… but the key is, they were completely fucking nuts to start with.

The crux of my post was this; Journalism like this is likely to have a few thousand mothers confiscating their kid’s swords and slipknot CD’s, only further increasing the divide between them and their kids, which, will no doubt make them far less able to detect real signs of the kind of insanity that actually drives kids to kill their school friends, not to mention just plain old bad parenting.

Like Terri says, we want easy answers, not hard, complicated ones like ‘perhaps it’s a mixture of bad parenting and George Bush’s unjust war that kills thousands of innocent people every month, and violent movies and economic depression and the chemicals in our food and a bad case of ‘insane in the membrane’.


8 thoughts on “Mail and Guardian letting it Slip (Knot)

  1. Thing is, people will always ask “why”. I read that story this morning and my first comment was: “Did they find actual evidence of Satanism? Or are the authorities just so completely freaked that someone in their area would do something like that, that the only possible explanation (to them) could be Satanism?”

    It’s a sad story. And obviously there are reasons, but knowing those reasons won’t make it not have happened. They may not even make it easier to deal with.

    But (maybe this is because I’m a journo), one of the first questions I ask when I hear a story like that is “why?”. No one just goes “oh” and carries on with life, we want to know what caused it. How was it allowed to happen? How can we stop this happening in our own school? To our own kids?

    Because in the old days it seemed that, yes, occasionally some kid would go nuts and mow his family down with a chainsaw, but that was somewhere out there in the big wide world. It’s a different story when the sword-weilding kid wears the same uniform as your child.

    The sad thing is that instead of really digging, people are too quick to blame the “easy” things. Internet, games, music etc. Because that’s easier. Because that confirms our suspicions we’ve had all along – that those things are evil.

    And that there was nothing we as his friends, family or teachers could have really done to stop it. I mean obviously if the music he listens to caused it, then there really wasn’t some other deep emotional reason that we, as the people who are close to him, should have picked up on.

    And then we can tut a few times, turn the page to read the comics and eat the rest of our soggy cornflakes.

  2. In the defence of journalists, however, the school had not released a media statement, they didn’t comment. So the journalists spoke to people who were there at the time and community “experts”.

    If you go back to your news editor and tell them that there was no official comment, so let’s just run with “incident, date, place, casualties” you’ll get sworn at and kicked back out there faster than you can say “hold the presses”.

    You’re expected the get the story regardless, and some newspapers want more sensationalism than others. When you go to work at a newspaper you know what they expect of you. And when your readers buy that paper they know what to expect of you as well.

    The “M&G” runs more comment pieces than other papers. It’s readers are looking for stories to be colourful, dissected and expounded upon, rather than just straight news.

    And the sensational comments were all attributed to people – not just the journo getting creative. Obviously, as a journalist you pick and choose which quotes you want to include, that’s all about working your angle. But ultimately the editor is going to give the readers what they want. If the journo has been too over-the-top for the liking of those who sit at the big desks their story will be cut.

    Let’s just wait and see how “You” handles this one, or the “Daily Voice”…

  3. Terri, the age old excuse of “The media is only giving us the sensationalism that we want” is sad when we’re talking about “Die Son” or “You”, but inexcusable when we’re talking about the Mail and Guardian. Surely someone has to take the journalistic high ground? Or are we destined to be a society of happy meal journalism?

  4. > If you don’t have the willpower to stop smoking, rather just admit to having no self control than muddying the waters for people with real problems.
    How is having “no self control” not a “real problem”? You seem to be drawing a distinction here, but I’m not sure it’s a useful one; alcohol / nicotine / whatever addiction is still a serious problem that needs to be dealt with, regardless of whether the cause is physiological or psychological, and this is especially true if it’s triggering psychopathic killing sprees or what have you. Saying “oh well, they’re just lacking in willpower” doesn’t magically solve the problem, or make it any less serious.

  5. Tristan, perhaps I didn’t explain my point aptly. Addiction to Alcohol, Cigarettes etc are definitely serious problems, but far too many people hide behind the “disease” label because that way they don’t have to actually deal with their problem. It’s a way to disassociate your actions and your responsibility. The disease label helps people believe that the problem is somehow not in their control, but rather something that has been afflicted upon them.

  6. Hey, I’ve never been given a free toy with my M&G!

    I know what you mean though. I’ve read the article again and to be honest it’s not nearly as sensational as it could have been. Yes, it mentions “crazy-eyes” and an “apparent statanic ritual”, but the writer is reporting what people said. And in the wake of such an event people won’t have had the time to sit down and analyse the events. The councillor, to whom most of those remarks are attributed, had spoken to the children at the school.

    While teenagers generally think they know everything, they’d just witnessed something they only usually see laid on by Hollywood. Of course people will jump the conclusions that it was satanism/music/internet.

    The writer simply reported those comments, did not dress them up as final official fact.

    The case will go to court and the M&G, along with many other publications will cover the outcome. How they cover it, however, is pretty much their call. But when a kid has attacked a bunch of people with a sword you can be sure they won’t give it the same angle as a weather report.

    It was a sensational crime, and the way it is covered will probably be the same.

  7. I havnt read the article, I prefer to avoid filling my head with useless crap.

    However negative news could be inflicting fear. Words like “Crisis, suffering, hunger, murder, rape, agony, pain, hate” are common. And people react to fear in different ways.

    Besides that, there is so much that could affect a person. Bullying, upbringing, personality, social status, social acceptance, ability, patience, trust, loneliness, ones academics, unstable emotions, confusion.

    Surely we all have good and bad inside? I know ones perceptions of good and bad can be entirely different to one another’s…
    Does anyone here reckon the kid understood what he was doing, was wrong?

    Maybe he WAS just a lil messed in the head.. With the parents failing to react to it in time.

    I had a chat with a work colleague the other day about crime in their area etc. And having a paranoid father, Im witness to seeing someone going to the extreme, security wise.
    He was explaining that since crime has increased(in his area), it has become difficult to raise his kids as he would like.

    When I was young, the majority of my friends, I met on the streets in and around me area. During this time, on an average weekend, its was chaos. Roller blading, braais on street corners, downhill skateboarding, bikes, treehouses. Every kid was on a mission.
    What I didnt understand until recently, was that it was the community themselves keeping it safe, living fear free, without even realizing. Slowly this diminished. After a few criminal occurrences. As more and more believed that safer, was indoors. Locking themselves in there own prison. As if they sitting and waiting for it to happen. Allowing an opening.

    Strong communities, stronger society, understanding, trust, morality?

    Who knows…

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