[Published in the OSALL newsletter of March 2013]
I may recently have been among the last of the terrestrials to Google “moshpit”* (nor did anyone around me have a clue, so I wasn’t the very last to haul the search algorithm out of the empire’s vault) but I am certainly beginning to wonder what we did in the days before “hashtags” which have so much more relevance in my life.
* The search became inevitable when I awoke one weekday morning to “I will hold you like a chopstick, save you from the moshpit” belting out of the radio alarm. I drove all the way to work in a fever of ignorance. Lyrics like that remind me all over again why I love prose.
Back to hashtagging on Twitter, and twittering in general.
On 24 February attorney Emma Sadleir (@EmmaSadleir) posted this comment1 : “To say that twitter has been a game-changer for the way we report the courts is like saying that Mozart wrote a couple of catchy tunes”.
This came after a week in which hardcopy newspapers were almost superfluous in reporting on the death of Reeva Steenkamp and subsequent court appearances by Oscar Pistorius. Journalists apparently packed the court precinct before, during and after the hearings, and tweets proliferated. The hashtags #OscarPistorius and #Oscar were both used extensively but it soon became impossible to keep up with the flow of incoming tweets. The problem of volume was exacerbated by cross-posts relating to the imminent Oscar film awards. I was among those who abandoned these pages in favour of a single reporter2 whose number of followers increased from 17 429 to 122 7433 in the relevant seven-day period. Although the information being passed around by all and sundry included speculation and may in itself be open to examination in due course, the reports coming out of court enabled anyone with an interest in the matter to understand what aspects were being presented to the magistrate and get an idea of the nature of the proceedings. A number of attorneys and legal experts posted related tweets and even wrote blog posts on these events (see 4-8 and most of the Internet published between 14 and 25 February 2013).
The Law Society of South Africa was among those making representations to the Parliamentary Committee on the Legal Practice Bill on 19 and 20 February 2013. Instead of using a hashtag, the LSSA opted to create an independent Twitter profile (@LSSALPB). It’s rather disappointing to see only 51 followers kept up with the comprehensive coverage offered in this forum.
The National Association of Democratically Elected Lawyers (NADEL) created the hashtag #NADELAGM2013 on 23 February 2013 and it is still being used to disseminate information as I write this five days later.
Glynnis Breytenbach’s ongoing disciplinary hearing has its own hashtag #breytenbach which publishes periodically from hearing to hearing.
As far as searching for the meaning of moshpits is concerned, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble as the One formerly known as The Teen knew exactly what they are. Now I just lie awake at night praying that no-one is holding her like a chopstick in one. The imagery is overpowering.
2 Barry Bateman
3 Barry Bateman and Oscar Pistorius : inside the Twitter explosion. Lauren Granger. Memeburn. 22 February 2013
4 Pierre de Vos’s blog
5 Saber Ahmed Jazbhay’s blog
6 Oscar case : watch your tongue. East Coast Radio. 20 February 2013
7 Botha first casualty of the Pistorius media circus. Michael Trapido. Thought Leader. 21 February 2013
8 Sub judice rule, Oscar and media. Dario Milo and Avani Singh. Independent Online. 24 February 2013
Opinions expressed in this column are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.