Bees Roux: A revealing zeitgeist

Jacobus ‘Bees’ Roux was the fastest rising search topic in South Africa for the last seven days, according to Google. The Blue Bulls prop was arrested on Friday August 27 in Tshwane after allegedly murdering a metro police officer. The rugby player’s rise to online notoriety is attributable to the furore surrounding his arrest.

The results are courtesy of Google Zeitgeist, a statistics function of Google. It aggregates how often particular topics are searched over time, and records trends and patterns that emerge. The tool can be adjusted to measure trending topics globally or regionally over any set period.

A “zeitgeist” is an idea or image that is iconic of a particular moment; the spirit of the times.

Roux’s prevalence as a Google search has spiked since August 26, increasing in popularity by more than 400%. Roux is followed in popularity by the death of a member of Afrikaans band DJ Ossewa. Other trending topics include MTN shares and the Blue Bulls rugby team.

The trend is reflected on the country’s major news sites. Roux has featured in News24‘s “most read” section since Saturday, and an M&G article titled “Unanswered questions surround Bees Roux” was the second most popular article on the site between August 26 and September 1. There have also been a continuous stream of tweets appearing under his name.

However with far bigger stories dominating the news agenda – from public sector strikes to the political troubles of Jacob Zuma — it seems unlikely that the Bees Roux story would be the number one interest of all South Africans.

Rather than indicating that the entire population is following Roux online, the results correlate with the uneven internet access amongst South African citizens in terms of race.

In South Africa 5,3-million out of 49-million people have access to the internet. According to research by Nielsen Online, 63% of these users are white, and 55% are male, in a country where whites make up about 9,2%.

Google Zeitgeist also shows the regions in which the topic is most popular: Bees Roux, rather than being the zeitgeist of South Africa, is actually the spirit of Parow.

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