​Zuma and Trump: A tale of two bullshitters


The presidency reacted angrily this week to comments in the media comparing United States President Donald Trump to our President Jacob Zuma. It said that doing such a thing is like comparing apples and oranges, where apples is a demagogue who rules in South Africa and oranges is a demagogue who rules in the US. Only, they used the words “democratically elected leader” when referring to Zuma.

As a moonlighting journalist with a tenuous grasp on how the media works, I side with the presidency on this one. There is absolutely no comparison between the bullshitter Zuma (the words of the media) and the bullshitter Trump (also words used by the media) when it comes to how they handle the media.

The first glaring difference is the initial knee-jerk reaction to bad news. The angry letter from the presidency lambasting the media and its proxies contained 1 814 characters, including spaces. As a tweet, that would have put it over the limit by a kilometre, should the presidency have opted to go with Twitter for their rant, something they never do. Trump, on the other hand, has a healthy respect for Twitter’s guidelines and always uses the platform when he’s upset. Chalk and cheese.

Then there is the way the two men like to keep up with current events. The New Age and Fox News — the only two news authorities Zuma and Trump trust — are vastly different, pointing to two individuals who get their facts on different continents.

I watch Come Dine with Me South Africa because I like to see my countrymen (and women) making fools of themselves on home soil. This makes me different from a fan of the US series of Come Dine with Me.

Other than that, an Australian with a penchant for buying media corporations owns Fox News whereas an Indian family with a penchant for buying governments owns The New Age. Day and night.

Infinity pools and fire pools are different and so the personal tastes of Trump and Zuma are different. I have yet to see Zuma in gold or Trump draped in a leopardskin. Trump likes high-rise buildings, Zuma prefers a city of rondavels. Next to each other, the two bullshitters could not be further apart.

The media went on to draw lines between Trump and Zuma as liars, crossing those very lines by saying both have lied to us in the same way. A stretch to say the least; the ways they lie are worlds apart.

Zuma giggles while looking up at the ceiling when he lies. Trump faces the cameras. Zuma does his lying wearing his tie to his belly button. Trump prefers to wear his long. Zuma occasionally asks employees to lie on his behalf. Trump does his own lying. Zuma is a shy, Pinocchio-like liar who often has to adjust his glasses as they attempt to slide off an ever-growing nose. Trump lies brazenly, happy to have his pants on fire if it will reset the news cycle. I could go on.

In light of the above, I truly don’t know where the media gets off comparing two very different bullshitters as if they were one and the same. The media today is clearly beyond the pale and way outside the conventions of responsible journalism, as the presidency aptly put it. Sad. 

JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit

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