Choose between a blogger and an Al-Shabaab militant
Posted Monday, January 7 2013 at 02:00
- The default condition on sites like Twitter is seething and apoplectic, spittle-flecked, politician-lynching, combustive indignation. Anyone with more than 100 followers has the temper of a moderately powerful bishop’s catamite who has been ignored by a waiter
As the general election date nears, some people are determined to make a mark with a burst of empty political noise. But do not be fooled it is noise. This din will not amount to absolutely nothing.
The noise I speak of is coming from the National Steering Committee on Media Monitoring (NSCMM). Good work, guys. Keep those capital letters coming.
The NSCMM is now on the bloggers’ case. This comes after it warned us earlier in the year against sending hate SMS through public networks. (By the way, Bulk SMSes spreading hateful political messages have migrated to the Net, and the committee, which warned of hefty fines, has been unable to stop or charge those behind the messages).
Now that they have been unable to control texts that are within CCK’s control, they have decided to pick on an even bigger and more challenging target. After failing and flailing around in the shallow end with text messages, they decided to head on straight for the diving board and police the deep waters of Internet blogs and social media.
Can you imagine a more pointless public gesture and waste of time than calling a press conference to say that you are monitoring blogs (aside from, say, the National Prayer Day)?
For the few out there keeping score, this is the second time that bloggers have been warned that they are being investigated for hate speech peddling by the committee.
The last time, they asked those with information concerning hate speech to come forward and present the evidence. I presume that the public was not forthcoming with names. Now the committee will have to perform its own investigations.
Sites promoting hatred and intolerance of other people are few and rarely visited, and this dark claustrophobic recesses of the Internet will never rise to the levels of respectability with elections approaching. Most Kenyans, according to Internet figures, choose to receive news from reputable media sites.
If the commission is hell bent on tracking down determined hate mongers, those targeted will simply use cyber cafés, different e-mail addresses and multiple identities to thwart the efforts.
What about social media? I get worried when bloggers are dragged to court over something they said on social media because, frankly, I do not think we should take what happens on social media too seriously.
Social media’s use is clear. It is an open arena for character assassinators and poseurs, and serves as important therapy to the severely mentally ill.
Facebook was invented for the sole purpose of stalking your exes, while the default condition on sites like Twitter is seething and apoplectic, spittle-flecked, politician-lynching, combustive indignation. Anyone with more than 100 followers has the temper of a moderately powerful bishop’s catamite who has been ignored by a waiter. Should we really start to police it?
Courts have better things to do than mediate on arguments that happened in public networks. Similarly, the government has better things to do than monitor its citizens for idle tribal gossip as opposed to terrorism.
While newspapers are generally aqueducts of reason, the comments after the articles they publish are usually boiling torrents of emotion, especially when political matters are concerned. I agree with the media monitoring commission that the comments after articles should be moderated due to the sheer amount of traffic they receive.
If the law is followed through, amateur controversialists trying to get attention on social media will be targeted while politicians doing the same in public rallies with more clout will be left.
Political punditry in Kenya has always been a full-on contact sport. This is especially true in an election year. You cannot control discussions on social media because they simply are an extension of bar talk and gossip that Kenyans use to occupy themselves. If the talk is tribal-based, chances are that so is the bar talk and gossip.
Will the commission also listen in on our private communications to get rid of hate speech? Trying to stop hate speech by law is a bit like King Canute ordering the tides to subside. It is impractical and a waste of resources.
I believe that freedom of speech should be allowed to reign. Opinions should be aired, whether or not it is about a grave or inconsequential matter.