Why I’ll Never Make The Freshly Pressed List

I used to really, really want to make that illustrious “Freshly Pressed List” because it would bring followers forth unto my blog, feeding my ego and giving my childhood dreams of being admired for my writing some luster. Yea, it would maketh me a minor god amongst bloggers, or so I had imagined.

But when I do survey that list of blog entries I can’t help thinking that they are remarkably dull. Like the sparrows of the blogging world, they are safe and drab and attract nothing more than a passing glance. The blogosphere is full of mad blogs and interesting thought patterns, so why does the Freshly Pressed list sound like something a rabid Oprah fan would choose? (No respect to the Queen of the Talk Show: I take minor offence with her followers who seem to absorb all of her opinions rather than form their own. The refrain of “I saw it on Oprah” usually preludes the kind of conversation that makes buttered bread look like an olfactory feast.)

Today’s FP blogs include: rhubarb recipes, travel in China, photos of Prague, some unicyclers, a timid religious book review on meat-eating (this person thinks god will cure global warming and eliminate factory farming), art, events and books. Yesterday’s choices included “Do people mispronounce your name?” and “Paper bag mailer tutorial.” Nothing politically controversial, or even left of centre. It is a middle-class blogging nightmare that makes 1984 seem appealing because at least the bland amongst us couldn’t post.

Do I want to be counted amongst these people? No, not any more. I blog about things far more exciting than recipes or “my summer holiday in Venice” which is hardly the kind of fascinating material that blogs can often provide. There are incredible science, art, literature and personal blogs out there that really show up the blandness of the Freshly Pressed list. Perhaps there is an arbitrary algorithm that picks the blogs according to their varying levels of safeness and domesticity, or maybe there’s just one person who really does like to read about what recipes people think are positively delightful.

There are over 377,000 bloggers on WordPress. That’s a lot of bloggers to choose from. But its so rare that I land on the WordPress home page and actually click through to the blogs they suggest. And when I do decide to visit a blog, the writing is so drab as to make porridge practically sparkle with originality in comparison. With so many blogs to choose from, how is it that the same boring topics keep showing up? What about a blog on abortion? Or the misconception that Twitter actually had anything to do with the Arab Spring revolutions? Cracked.com provides blogs a thousand times better and it isn’t even a blogging site. But no, we get people writing about how to be a better writer (ugh) or “I like made this awesome blueberry crumble and everyone was like soooo happy”.

I’ve said it before: blogging is one of the most fantastic ways to say something constructive and brilliant, even if it is about a TV show or standing in a queue. I know not everyone is a great writer, but that’s not the issue here. The point is that WordPress is not showcasing the best blogging it could. It is sticking to safe, boring blogs that do not reflect the amazing potential of the blogosphere. They’re probably doing it because they can’t risk any kind of controversy knocking out their ad-revenue. Admittedly a great number of viewers on the internet are conservative, but not everyone is. In the great democracy of the web, I just think it would speak better to the WordPress team if something a bit more interesting than people’s arts and crafts showed up on that landing page.

Bad Humour

While I might not agree with Ivo Vegter at times, he is the closest thing we will get to a PJ O’Rourke in this beautiful and tormented country. In this article he discusses the potential blowback we may get as a result of Juju Fridays.

I understand the frustration that Malema arises in the best and worst of us, and while I still find him as puerile and insultingly bourgeois as the next person, doesn’t it seem a bit ridiculous to everyone to launch an entire day dedicated to making jokes? As Ivo pointed out, those who contributed to Juju fridays have handed him all the ammo he needs to mislead those who are unfortunate enough to follow him because they lack the education and tools.

Of course only the rich in this country can really afford and contribute to the Twitter campaign. Of course its not going to look good that an elite group is taking the piss out of someone who still holds some thrall over less-educated South Africans. We know that it was just satire and frustration and maybe a little meanness coming through. While I’m not calling for the policing of Twitter or any kind of social media, a little common sense would have been welcome.

Unforutnately, we still live in an age where white people think its funny to tell black jokes with that particular accent, and say ‘its harmless’. Of course, being a white, straight English-speaking male means that there are very few jokes directed towards that group, so it is easy to take the piss. Let’s consider the following joke types:

Stupid Afrikaner (Van Der Merwe), dumb female blondes, gay jokes, lesbian jokes, Muslim jokes, fundamentalist jokes, poor/ignorant black jokes (Philemon/Sixpence), disaster jokes (based on the suffering of others in natural disasters or others) and the list goes on.

So, when my white friends tell Philemon jokes, or dumb blonde jokes, then wonder why they’re just not that funny after standard 6, maybe they will understand how unfair it seems when its your gender or group that’s always having the piss taken. I don’t really like that the blonde jokes are always about women. I also really don’t find gay/lesbian jokes funny, as I am sure that they don’t either.

Of course there’s always place for humour, but some jokes are just downright mean. And while I myself am partial to a great joke that takes the piss out of something as indefensible as Shariah law or a sex joke, making fun out of someone for their hair colour seems a bit retarded. Especially since its always a woman.

Likewise, we should all just have the maturity to just ignore Malema. Like the child he is (calling other adults ‘cockroaches’ is not the most fabulous sign of maturity), he should just be ignored. He’ll eventually realise that there are better ways of getting attention. Speaking nicely to people is a start.

It’s all turned into petty name-calling, and a lot of people fail to see the danger of handing a child more sharp sticks to poke back with. Malema’s danger is that his wealth is not an insult to all of us. There are people who see him as successful, not corrupt, and there are enough people who are still ignorant enough to believe the tripe that comes out of his mouth. South Africa is one of the least literate countries in Africa. We are ranked 107th in the world for literacy rates, which is pretty fucking pathetic. Without going on a sidetrack about the failure of the education system, one of the by-products of failed education is the susceptibility of those who don’t have adequate education to the manipulation of politicos. There are some people who think raping babies and virgins cures AIDS because their traditional healers tell them so, and they unfailingly trust their authority. In the absence of education, structures like authority and tradition still hold sway. Churches and elders still have an influence regardless of their superstitious and backward ways. For the love of biscuits, we still allow polygamy. The fact that no one is marching in the streets to protest that our taxes support the president, his wives and 22 children is proof that, for some people, there’s nothing wrong with it.

So, let’s consider how Malema might use the ammo given to him by Juju fridays to show his following (shrinking but still enough to be worried about) that people use the internet to be racist. Because that is what it will be reduced to, and the intricasices of the argument will never go across. Could you sit and explain to people who don’t even have a standard six the full implications of free speech, the vivacity and turbulance of social media, as well as the signs of Malema’s aspirations to start something disturbingly like the SA or SS? We know there’s enough hatred rolling around in his oddly shiny head to make anyone worry. While we shouldn’t have the same approach to him as Chamberlain did with Hitler, there needs to be an informed, mature and firm response to Malema. I don’t promise to have all the answers, but I think that it would be more effective to organise a march to raise awareness around his ill-gained wealth, or launch an education campaign.

There has to be a better way to do this than name-calling on Twitter.