'Marching on Pistorious:' Athlete and Democracy On Trial in South Africa
By Danny Schechter
New York, New York: With Nelson Mandela's death, news from South Africa seemed to have died along with the world's most famous ex-political prisoner turned president. It was as if the people there don't deserve to be covered unless there is a larger than life celebrity or scandal to focus on.
Happily for the media industry there is a now an anti-Mandela in the public eye---famous not for what he achieved, but infamous for killing his girlfriend, mistaking her for an intruder who he gunned down. It was either a tragic accident or the work of mad man.
Oscar Pistorius' trial is now getting far more coverage than the one that Mandela and his co-defendents went through in 1962 leading to his life sentence. That's partly because his late live-in lover, Reeva Steenkamp, was a stunning blonde beauty known to local media, while he was a medal winning athlete dubbed the "blade runner" because he had been a double amputee since childhood and overcame adversity to won races wearing prosthetic devices.
This story of white on white violence--although, note, it is never, described that way---is being given the full tabloid treatment with cover stories in People Magazine and lots of hype by the networks.
Unlike the days of apartheid, a black judge is hearing this case with race rarely alluded to. Oscar had lived in a pricey gated community where fear of black burglers is legion, all an unstated reflection of the dramatic inequality that remains in that country, and another dimension of the back story about his fears and guilt that gets less press attention.
If Pistorius had killed an unknown black intruder, instead of his celebrity paramour, this trial wouldn't be news.