Can a tweet be worth Sh50m? In Kenya, yes!

Tuesday August 18 2015

To whom much is given, much is expected, but

To whom much is given, much is expected, but the Bible was written centuries before Twitter, and so whom many followers are bestowed, little is expected. PHOTO | FILE | FOTOSEARCH 

By LARRY MADOWO
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This just in: I have been doing Twitter horribly wrong. There is a backstreet Twitter where you can pay an “influencer” to tarnish your competitor’s name or disparage someone whose nose you don’t like.

In that dark corner of the Kenyan Twittersphere where I have not bothered to venture, there are also brokers that can then mediate between the slandered victim and said influencer to arrange “terms of engagement” that will make them “walk away” from the manufactured scandal.

If the price is right, they will delete all tweets and commit to never talk about the brand or individual. Forever.

Strange as this tale may sound, it unravelled in the past few weeks. First, a barrage of tweets appeared from one Tweep under the hashtag #BidcoExposed.

He, and whatever number of bots or fake accounts he owns, accused the manufacturer and its CEO Vimal Shah of land-grabbing in Kalangala, a remote region of Uganda.

He also accused Shah of “exploitation and other inhuman activities”.

Over several days, the gentleman channelled his inner Jicho Pevu with 140-character dispatches of Bidco’s alleged errant ways, wrote lengthy blog posts, and generally had a field day with the story.

The man is what a clueless section of Twitter calls a “bigwig”, for his pseudo-influence and relatively high number of followers.

Within an impressionable circle of college students, Twitter newbies and other wannabes, their word holds some ground. A true bigwig in real life — someone who’s influence exists independent of Twitter — such as Bharat Thakrar has only 11,000 followers compared to the gentleman’s over 600,000.

POWERFUL YET UNDERSTATED

Thakrar is the founder and CEO of Scangroup, truly one of the most powerful men in Kenya, and also the most understated. The Tweep, on the other hand, is most famous for getting expelled from Meru University after “tarnishing the university image through the use of social media”.

Safaricom has sued him for defamation and obtained an injunction, leaving him to attempt raising legal fees through — where else — Twitter.

Enter another “influencer” and self-proclaimed “trendsetter”. Approached by Bidco to counter the tirade, he offered to negotiate with his friend to delete his tweets and blogs, as if you can ever delete anything from the Internet.

The first gentleman asked for Sh50 million, according to an audio tape leaked to a gossip blog.

In the video, the influencer talks his friend down to Sh15-20 million, and he promises to “walk away” from the whole thing. The recorded conversation is between the middleman and an unidentified Bidco representative.

They get the blogger on phone and he expressly agrees to scrub the Internet of his Bidco expose and never mention it or Vimal again if he gets his oily pay cheque.

I know the middleman, because he’s been a guest panellist on #theTrend twice, both times invited by my producers to talk about trending topics. He put me on the spot on air the last time for not having his number.

“I don’t need your number, because my producers do,” I shot back.

We didn’t invite him back. He, his blogger friend and two dozen other “bigwigs” make a living off being “social media influencers” who can get their legions of followers to talk about a brand or campaign, or whatever.

They wield their e-power with immense pomposity, taking on targets at random and eviscerating them online. I am a regular recipient of this cyber-bullying, perhaps because I pay them no mind and have never been one to worry what anybody thought about me.

 

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Uganda’s sweet-and-sour deal with Kenya

PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA says the deal to import sugar from Uganda is better than getting it from Brazil, but his Foreign Affairs people say there was no deal signed. Does this government talk to each other? They don’t have a group WhatsApp where people talk about what they’re really doing? Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga famously opposes the “deal” and has a post on his website — rao.co.ke — titled “Why the Uganda sugar deal must not stand”. It is pretty standard political stuff, except it quotes a story Nicholas Kalungi reportedly wrote in the Daily Monitor of August 12, 2015. “Why is Hon Raila Odinga dragging me in his political games with President Uhuru? For the record I left Daily Monitor in May 2013,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “There is no way I would have written an article dated August 12, 2015. An article published on his website is quoting me.” But there is, in fact a way, because Mr Kalungi did write the article, but on February 4, 2013. “Unless local sugar production capacity is increased, consumers will continue paying high prices for the commodity,” his lead warned.

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Even the UN does not pay interns!

DAVID HYDE, 22, flew from New Zealand to Geneva to take up a prestigious internship at the UN’s European headquarters, but accommodation in the Swiss city is so expensive he had to live in a tent, sleeping in a rolled-up foam mattress, according to the Tribune de Geneve.

“I just want to make it clear that no person forced me to sleep in a tent, but rather my circumstances and the conditions for this internship made it the only real possibility that I could see,” he told a press conference. I was reminded of this situation when a friend posted an internship opportunity that paid Sh30,000 per month and was attacked for it. The United Nations doesn’t pay its interns.

Hyde quit and put in a passionate plea for organisations to pay their interns. Maybe he should bring his campaign to Kenya.

 

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Feedback: On whether it was misdadvised for #KOT to celebrate the antics of #Mollis

ATROCIOUS PRAISE: Larry, one morning while catching up with my tweeps, I came across a post that read “Why is Mollis trending?”. My curiosity stirred, I sought to find out. Because I tend to form my own opinion before it is influenced, I opted to listen to the recording before seeing what everyone else had to say about it. But I could not listen past the 49th second.

Clear as day, that was nothing short of rape. I was sick for the next two days, knowing it was all in my head, but that a poor Kenyan lady had gone through something so horrific. If #KOT can join to give voice to #SomeoneTellCNN and protest the ill-labeling of their country, why this atrocious praising of #Mollis?

The depth of our depravity as a society threatens to consume us, but thank God for the few men out there who saw it for what it was: rape. Stephanie Aketch

 

MORAL HIGH GROUND: Larry, if I told my sister that prostitution is bad but she is captured on viral video doing what I told her is wrong on Koinange Street, I wouldn’t care less if the whole world made fun of her. My take on your #Mollis piece is, to quote another guy, two per cent moral (preachment) and 98 per cent indignation. You pontificated as the whole country ventilated! You came out as an uptight matron who doesn’t understand an iota of joke in a school where the pressures of class work and exam fever are draining.

Let me, therefore, bring you up to speed; young Kenyans are so frustrated by their leader, politicians, entrepreneurs and teachers that they feel the only way they can have a voice is through a hashtag. So when #Mollis came to the scene, they jumped onto the hashtag to lynch, insult, abuse and even make fun of faceless entities! How beautiful! It’s the moral high-grounders like you who are trying very hard to give the story a face — or a soul, for that matter.

The reason comedy cuts across our tribes is that its stereotypes are directed at faceless communities.

The day any comedian will mention a known, identifiable public figure as a target of their ridicule, the whole comedy roof will come down. So, brother, as the good book says, there is a time for everything under the sun, including to laugh at #Mollis. Samson Onyango Odiedo

 

PUTTING UP A SHOW: Larry, I read your article on #Mollis heart in throat. Imagine being a young woman on the dating scene. You go out most weekends.

You meet — mostly — normal men. You might even plan to date one, but dating probably means different things to you two. You have to be careful in this country.

You can’t be the girl with so much attitude that she gets herself stripped of her clothes, and you can’t be the smiling, nodding girl that isn’t sure about that guy but ends up in his room anyway and gets her rape recorded.

We, the young and informed women of this country, are also online. We see the anonymous bloggers saying the girl was asking for it in a city where ‘No’ means ‘No’ only when the suits are on and you don’t want to annoy the feminazi.

The guys saying real men get what they want and the women saying men are in danger because they lose no matter what they do in bed might be your classmates in college.

That troll demeaning women and their rights as sexual beings could be sitting too close to you in a bus. You say that the Internet is where every good argument goes to die, but discussions on rape and rape culture happen everyday on the less anonymous sites like WhatsApp.

Your man puts up a show in real life, so you don’t know who he really is until you’re trying to get away from him at the end of the night. You’ve got to smile and say ‘No’. If it does not work, you have to smile and try not to cry when they ask: “Well... what were you wearing?” To be young and female is to be constantly vigilant, to hone the skills of a behaviourist from the moment you hit puberty. Since it’s not written on their faces, you have to try and do the impossible, to hear the unspoken, fill in the misogynistic silences, and read between the charming smiles.

Maybe the worst part is that #Mollis did not surprise me. I was not shocked that he became a hashtag and was celebrated for his barbarism.

It’s just another reminder that democracy and equal rights are things we put on after the morning coffee and take off after we watch the news. Kambura Matiri