Ismail Mahomed:Birdwatchers out to pounce

IsmailMahomedTHE race is on! It’s birdwatching season in South Africa. This is the year when anyone who tweets incoherently or recklessly could find himself or herself with an albatross around his or her neck.

Since Penny Sparrow flew into a media storm earlier this year, there have been a few other lame ducks who thought that they could outdo her by trying to use their tweets to kill two other birds with one stone. For some of these silly birds their reckless tweets resulted in them losing the nest egg they were hoping to build.

Others found themselves having their wings clipped.

If there is one lesson that most South Africans have learnt quite well these past few weeks it is that social media is not for the forest bird that never wants to be caged. Social media can give all kinds of birds the voice to sing but it doesn’t give them the kind of audience that will necessarily applaud their singing.

This was quite evident again when a Port Elizabeth entertainer came out singing a similar tune to Penny Sparrow.

Entertainers who acquire fame too soon are often like scatterbrained birds. They glide through the air like butterflies when their careers are beginning to take flight.

The difficulty that they often have is that too soon in their rising careers they let their bird brains take control and let these bird brains shorten their flight to bigger stardom.

Entertainers are like politicians! They need to understand that there are a lot people who spend their day birdwatching and listening out to see if the little birdie tweets out of tune.

Politicians and entertainers operate in a public space. They have no immunity from what they put out in the public space.

Often the thoughts expressed are not spontaneous. These thoughts may have been brewing in their bird brains for a long while.

In the wise words of Thomas Bailey Aldrich, “no bird has ever uttered a note [word] that was not in some first bird’s throat”.

In the world of social media, it is important to know that the wrong tweet makes the worm out of the bird that hatches his egg too soon. Social media is a space where birds of a feather flock together.

When there is a lame duck that falls off a tree because he made a wrong tweet, it won’t take much time before the rest of the birds in the bush show him to the slaughter house to get him defeathered and stuffed.

Anyone who intends engaging on social media needs to understand that he or she can no longer do so like an ostrich with its head in the sand. South Africa at the moment is no longer going to be a comfy nest for those who claim that what they posted was an error due to predictive text or, as in the case of politician Dianne Kohler Barnard, reposting an offensive Facebook comment claiming that she had not read it.

Kohler Barnard was always among one of the wisest owls in the conference of the birds. With her reckless post she behaved like a silly secretary bird, trying to retype simply what had been dicta-phoned to her.

Her recklessness not only impacted on her career but it left a massive dent in her political party and made her look like an absolute dodo. The same can happen to any artist.

It not only dents their careers but it hurts the venues in which they perform.

The chicken run from South Africa reached fever pitch before and immediately after 1994. Any bird who could not afford to migrate when the rest of the birds flew out to Perth must now stick around but with a full understanding that while the South African constitution gives them the freedom to fly like a bird it doesn’t give them the absolute freedom to flap their wings in the faces of other birds.

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