Thursday, December 12, 2013

Turns Out The Batusi Is Not The Sign For Anything

It's probably wrong that I think this is hilarious:

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - A man who provided sign language interpretation on stage for Nelson Mandela's memorial service, attended by scores of heads of state, was a "fake," the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa said on Tuesday...sign language experts said the man was not signing in South African or American sign languages and could not have been signing in any other known sign language because there was no structure to his arm and hand movements.
I used to think finding stuff like this funny made me a jerk. Now I realize it's just a symptom of the underlying condition.

I need to update my will. I hereby request that at my funeral, somebody who doesn't know sign language should stand up at the front making random gestures as people speak. Rudeness is encouraged. If at all possible, work the Macarena in there somewhere.

We can only hope this episode inspires a new fad on Youtube: superimposing fake sign language interpreters at famous speeches. Imagine having someone standing to the side looking like they're playing charades and/or having a petit mal seizure (a fine line, that) as Reagan talks about tearing down this wall, or King talks about having a dream this afternoon (it's always a good idea to catch a nap before giving a big speech), or Obama lies through his teeth and says you can keep your plan if you like it, or Walter White proclaims himself The One Who Knocks. Internet, make this happen!

The Gettysburg address would be a good one, but for some reason I can't seem to find it on Youtube. With all those people gathered to hear the president's big speech, you'd think somebody would have brought a camcorder.

At first I assumed that this was a prank that got way out of hand. Maybe the guy was one of Johnny Knoxville's buddies, or one of Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd accomplices. Maybe the ghosts of Dick Clark and Ed McMahon are orchestrating bloopers and practical jokes from beyond the grave. The fake signer probably thought that surely somebody would call him out before the event actually got rolling. It wasn't until showtime that he finally decided between fake sign language and an homage to Garrett Morris's assistance for the hard of hearing.

Or maybe it was a wacky misunderstanding, like that time a cab driver got shanghaied into appearing on the BBC as a computer expert.

But no, turns out this isn't the fake signer's first time to the rodeo:

The man also did sign interpretation at an event last year that was attended by South African President Jacob Zuma, Druchen said. At that appearance, a deaf person in the audience videotaped the event and gave it to the federation for the deaf, which analyzed the video, prepared a report about it and a submitted a formal complaint.

Seriously, guys, checking references isn't a bad thing. Next time at least Google the name of your prospective hire.

At least this kind of thing is too ridiculous to be a widespread problem, or even a regional one.

Wait, what?
 Bogus sign language interpreters are a problem in South Africa, because people who know a few signs try to pass themselves off as interpreters, said Parkin, the principal of the school for the deaf. And those hiring them usually don't sign, so they have no idea that the people they are hiring cannot do the job, she said. "They advertise themselves as interpreters because they know 10 signs and they can make some quick money," said Parkin.
This reminds me of Marge Simpson's plan to give piano lessons despite not knowing how to play the piano: "I just have to stay one lesson ahead of the kid."

I have a nephew who lives in South Africa. I wonder if he can account for his whereabouts on Tuesday. Assuming he wasn't involved in this fiasco (which is probably the case, given that he's seven), I have a moneymaking suggestion for his future reference.

This situation has only gotten funnier / more disturbing as more information has come out:
The man accused of faking sign interpretation while standing alongside world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial service said Thursday he hallucinated that angels were entering the stadium, suffers from schizophrenia and has been violent in the past.

Thamsanqa Jantjie said in a 45-minute interview with The Associated Press that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were "armed policemen around me." He added that he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than one year....

Asked how often he had become violent, he said "a lot" while declining to provide details. Jantjie said he was due on the day of the ceremony to get a regular six-month mental health checkup to determine whether the medication he takes was working, whether it needed to be changed or whether he needed to be kept at a mental health facility for treatment.... He said he has previously interpreted at many events without anyone complaining.


......... Anyway, that's a thing that happened.

As for Mandela himself, I have no opinion. I used to think he must have been a great hero, because Rolling Stone magazine said so. There were even songs about him, and surely bad people never have songs about them released on major labels. However, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 13:11, I've long since stopped blindly believing what the media tells me. The death of my former liberalism was the inevitable result.

My travels around the Net leave me unsure what to think of Mandela. Sorry, no links because I didn't keep track. However, you can probably type "Nelson Mandela" into a search engine as easily as I can, or even easier since you can just copy and paste it from where I just typed it. Looks to me like he was a communist sympathizer (at least), explicitly refused to renounce violence while in prison, and didn't even qualify for any sympathy from Amnesty International.

Standing up against Apartheid is certainly a huge point in his favour. He also seemed to keep things pretty peaceful once he was in power. If there was a lot of revenge-fueled racial violence in post-Apartheid South Africa, it's been kept pretty quiet (which is a distinct possibility).

However, Mandela was also a mover and shaker within the ANC, which has used some pretty questionable tactics over the years. I have a hard time endorsing the organization that invented necklacing. The enemy of my enemy can still be pretty reprehensible.

I was discussing this uncertainty with a friend who said, "You have to respect his spending 27 years in prison."

I replied, "Manson's been in longer than that. You may want to chose a different yardstick."

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the patio stones in my back yard.

1 comment:

RebelAngel said...

I know Fake Sign Language. If you kick the bucket, have your wife give me a call.

I also do weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Merry Christmas from the rain-soaked South.