Home Opinion A Recipe for a Social Media Maelstrom

A Recipe for a Social Media Maelstrom


So here’s the recipe for a Social Media Maelstrom:

1. Take two parts FHM employees (Max Barashenkov & Montle Moroosi)
2. Add one part inappropriate Facebook status update;
3. Add [also] initial response questioning the nature of one part Facebook status update; and
4. Sprinkle comment (inappropriately) supporting the nature of the initial Facebook status

And what you get is the social media maelstrom that had recently engulfed Twitter (mostly) and every other media platform that you can think of. The individuals at the centre of this storm are one Max Barashenkov (former features writer for FHM) and Montle Moroosi (editorial assistant).

The story goes thus: Max stated that any white person caught “twerking” (the act of moving the posterior in weird and wonderful ways – Google it) would be subjected to sterilisation and corrective rape. The rest, as we say, is history. The first respondent was not too impressed with the status update, and tried to talk down Mr Barashenkov. Before any sort of headway was made in the attempted admonishment, in stepped Mr Moroosi – well at that point the ante was upped, quite substantially in fact.

What started off as a series of inappropriate and insensitive remarks (Google them) about a serious issue, at an unfortunate time in light of the corrective rape and murdering of Duduzile Zozo six (6) days prior, turned into something that nobody could have foreseen – especially the two individuals at the centre of the gathering storm.

What followed was an outcry from social media activists who turned their anger and frustrations towards the two. No amount of silence from their employer at the time, FHM, could stop them from also getting embroiled in the mayhem. Within 48 hours the two were suspended, and by Friday they were given their respective marching orders into the circumspect world of unemployment.

Everybody and their grandmother’s dog had something to say about the events that took place on Max Barashenkov’s “private” Facebook wall. In an instant, we were made aware that a majority of the people on social media were in possession of a law degree, or at the least a highly functional working knowledge of the legal system. As with any and every issue, camps started to emerge and battle lines were consequently drawn. “These two have to be made to pay” seemed to be the call for all those who called for their public execution. “Pay for what” came the retort from all those who believe that the response has been heavy-handed, especially when a mere apology would have sufficed.

But who must the apology be made to? To those who were offended because they have a problem with taking offence to every issue under the sun, or to the victims and their families? This is the gist of the argument for all those who called for calmer heads to prevail, and warned against the all-too-frequent tendency of flying off hinges.

What is an inarguable fact is that the status update was deeply insensitive and wholly inappropriate. Statements of this nature, even though made in “private” by many (many more than care to admit) can, and do, cause great offence – and the lesson being taught here is that one should care for what they say irrespective of how “safe” the space of expression is.

I am certain that those deemed to be crusaders for justice, and Internet prefects will also now start minding what they say, and many of them may now sleep well or sit back and watch with a degree of smugness or satisfaction now that their campaign against the two individuals has resulted in their being immediately fired.

What is your take on this? Are we compensating for the lack of physical sense of community that has been somehow negated by the advent of social media by re-imagining communities across the vastness of the interweb? Or are we justified in doing everything we can to make sure that people can’t say such things regardless of whether they meant it or not?

Let me know what you think, feedback is appreciated and welcome here.

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