When outrage over the Loose Canon column – “Zuma will sort out white people” – seemed to be turning into a feeding frenzy a few days ago, we flighted an explanation on our website.
I have saved one classic response.
Thank you for the clarification – I did get the irony as comments notwithstanding I do occasionally read Loose Cannon (and did NOT mean to hit “reply all” on that email, as my comment was a continuation of a longer email thread on how people only pay attention to Botswana when something upsets them and ignore how good life usually is there – sorry!!!).
Good luck with the education of non-Batswana.
Here is one well meaning woman who got all worked up because she read Loose Canon out of character and context. And there are many. The Sunday Standard has received close to 1000 such letters, mostly from South Africa.
The Loose Canon controversy is not unique to the Sunday Standard. Satire presents editors with a problem on how to make acceptable a genre that dabbles in taboos. Often times we take it for granted that both the author and the reader know the rules of engagement: For a text to present itself as satire, a specific set of assumptions on the part of the reader must be involved, as well as particular responsibilities for the author.
In the case of the Loose Canon, an appeal to our readers’ common sense expectations of slapstick satire is implicit in the title: Loose Canon.
Loose Canon is a fictional character. His face, the face that appears on the opinion pages of The Sunday Standard has been created by a computer. He is like a cartoon strip character, more like a male version of EVE, the character in the South African popular cartoon strip MADAM and EVE, only that he is presented in text not as a cartoon strip.
The true meaning and import of Loose Canonspeak must therefore be sought on another level ÔÇô different from that of hard opinions like editorial comments and analysis.
Removing all those facts from discourse unfortunately can colour white as black and good as bad, as is the case with the current controversy.
Removing the column out of its true context and presenting Loose Canon out of his character presented mockery of vice as exaltation of vice.
Another way of contextualizing Loose Canon amid the many labels thrown at him is to locate him within the trajectory of his many shocking but hilarious statements gleaned from his previous columns.
Loose Canon is a caricature of the stereotypical black man whose brain is between his legs and has an incurable obsession for white and Indian women.
For example, Loose Canon likes Kofi Anan, “because he has managed to do what many of us can only dream of. He has a white wife.”
He thinks Kofi Anan’s decision to get himself a white wife was a brilliant career move because “it gave the powerful men who run the world confidence that he would behave himself. After all if he didn’t, the white woman would quietly whisper to him that darling it’s not how things are done in the civilized world.”
Loose Canon loves America and its presidents. He hates enemies of America. He says things like: “The United Nations is housed in New York. For those of you who didn’t stay long in school, New York is in America. Apparently life is so good that diplomats posted there weep when they are recalled home. They weep even more when they are deployed to nice places like Libya, Iraq, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iran and Cuba. That is the beauty of America. Even her enemies want to live there. I am yet to understand hypocrisy.”
The greatest love of Loose Canon’s life however is American athlete, Marion Jones: “Folks, unlike a lot of people in small, poor countries that cannot even tie their shoe laces, I love America. I certainly don’t love Osama Bin Laden. He is an enemy of America. And America’s enemies are my enemies. And the reason why America’s enemies are my enemies is because of Marion Jones. I just don’t want to imagine a day when that terrorist decides to fly some hijacked planes onto some skyscraper in New York with the intention of wiping out as many Americans as possible. Now it may just happen that one of the many people being wiped out would be my sweet Marion. The whole idea of Marion being killed makes me an enemy of America’s enemies. Anyway such were my feelings for Marion that I was not amused when I learnt she was in love with a short putter called Hunter or something like that. I don’t like the Hunter character one bit. Hunter was also a huge man. He was a giant. Whenever thoughts of him on top of little Marion, squashing the life out of her came across my mind, I hated Hunter even more. I used to console myself by thinking that because Marion spent so much time training and racing, she probably denied Hunter conjugal benefits.”
Loose Canon’s pet hate is Robert Mugabe who he refers to as Old Man. Bizarrely Loose Canon has a crash on Mugabe’s wife, Grace who he fondly calls Pretty Face. This is what he says about Mugabe and his wife: “Okay I don’t like Old Man. But I certainly like Pretty Face. Perhaps the reason I have an attitude against Old Man is because I am jealous of him. Anyway we will see about that one when Old Man finds himself languishing in jail in The Hague for all his nasty deeds. Hopefully, Pretty Face will not be in the dock. With her free from the shackles of Old Man, it will be down to the powers of persuasion of long envious men in this part of the world.”
The latest edition to his list of hates is Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela. Says Loose Canon: “Since coming into office Chavez has gone out of his way to join the rogues. At some international conference he even embraced Old Man. Imagine. Lately he has been shuttling around, voicing solidarity with all the countries that are enemies of America. As a friend of America, Chavez is my enemy……….. A man should be given a long rope to hang himself. And when it’s all over Chavez will find himself in the dock with his friends such as Old Man. I think that is the best proposition. Chavez at The Hague. Actually for a good reason too. I once saw footage of Madame Chavez. I had to look again because she bore a striking resemblance in looks to Pretty Face.
Madame Chavez is another Pretty Face. Now how lovely it will be when Old Man and Chavez are in jail and we have fun with Pretty Face Old Man and Pretty Face Chavez. And how within the four walls of their cells the two comrades will weep every night at bed time when they think of their pretty wives and what’s happening to them outside! And how they will regret messing up with America!”
Loose Canon is slapstick satire which specifically strives to elicit a shocked hilarity from its readers. This is based on the understanding that people read satire to purge their base instincts. To be liberated and not corrupted.
In the controversial article, “President Zuma will sort out white people,” racism and bigotry are placed in their proper moral context.
They are properly presented as illogical and stupid.
It is when Loose Canon is understood in his proper character that what he says about Zuma comes out clear as a back handed compliment. By agitating for the shooting of whites, supporting Zuma’s relationship with Shabir Shaik, defending the alleged rape and dreaming of a presidency where Zuma will distribute white women among his supporters Loose Canon who is a caricature character projects himself as a like mind with Zuma. This is a back handed way of saying Zuma’s presidency may tolerate corruption, rape and the distribution of white women amongst his black supporters. It presents Zuma as an Idi Aminisque figure.
Has anyone ever stopped to think how Zuma felt when he read the article?
Probably angry and embarrassed. And that is the point. Loose Canon is the last laugh in the face of evil.
Outsa Mokone (Editor ÔÇô Sunday Standard, Gaborone, Botswana)