Split: Missing the Master Signifier in the Role of the Media in a Democracy: The Tension between the ANC’s President Jacob Zuma and the Media in South Africa
This is a work of political philosophy theory which deploys concepts pertaining to power and democracy to make sense of the relationship between the African National Congress (ANC) and the media in post-apartheid South Africa. The rationale for this research is to unravel the recent and current news media–state relationships, and examine how the media has split into two factions since President Zuma’s regime. Judith Butler’s theories in The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (1997) on how power works and how a subject becomes a subject is important for this chapter as it contains pertinent theoretical positions. These will be used to understand the attempts to subjugate critical media voices in South Africa through the idea of interpellation (hailing, naming, labeling, calling, shaming, as in the Frantz Fanon sense of ‘hey nigger’) and, even more importantly, to reflect on what reflexive turns were made towards the voices of power, and why. Butler’s concepts of ‘passionate attachments’, ‘subjectivisations’ as well as ‘resignifications’ will also be used. Political power is symbolic in nature, and through the roles and the masks, that is to say through the performative dimension of interpellations, ideological subjectivisation can take place. The methodology is, first and foremost embedded in the theoretical framework. The concepts will be explained and operationalised to shine light on the complex and contradictory nature of the ANC/democracy/media relationship and how attempts are made to pin down floating signifiers such as ‘democracy’ into a fixed meaning; tied to transformation and loyalty to the ANC. The empirical findings, through discourse material, and newspaper stories specifically on President Zuma’s corruption scandals, will be examined through the prism of the conceptual analytical tools above. These enable the drawing together of reflections, the identification of patterns or attachments, the splits and contradictions, and ambivalences on the part of both the media and the ANC. Critical discourse analysis has been used primarily to understand the ideological workings in the tensions between the ANC and the independent media.
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