The disturbing hate speech on social media mere symptoms of societal rot
Posted Wednesday, March 20 2013 at 16:50
That education has done nothing to change our primitive ways is explicitly written all over the social media. If the 2007/8 post-election violence was largely blamed on illiterate, poor masses who had nothing to lose even if Kenya burnt, then it should worry us much more if groups consciously aware of what is at stake have thrown caution to the winds.
I am persuaded that the literate middle class population has taken over from the illiterate masses this time round, and my fear is that they may have far-reaching negative effects, perhaps worse than 2007/8 post-election violence.
The current battlefield is the Internet, but like in the case of Tahrir Square, it will certainly be rolled-out if nothing is done to extinguish this dangerous fire. The violence being meted out on our social media surpassed catastrophic levels long ago.
Most Kenyans using Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media are presumably literate, with adequate income to acquire smart phones, iPads or laptops and Internet bundles.
Society would expect that this class of people is its mind; but when I read the kind of tribal poison they are spewing forth, my body shakes to its very core and squeezes out any iota of hope left in me.
This is what worries me. My social media friends are people I have met along my academic voyage. We have engaged in hearty intellectual debates on topical issues on several occasions out of the political seasons.
Most have diplomas, first degrees, Masters, and even PhDs. In their villages, they are opinion leaders whose word is taken as gospel truth.
These are people with whom I have agreed to be friends because I believed that together, we can make a better Kenya putting to practical use our varied intellectual capacities.
These are friends who politicians have temporary robbed me of and jailed in tribal cocoons, which is now their sole point of reference.
Take an example of a friend who posted on her Facebook page a few days to the March 4 election that she has warned her maid (who is from another tribe) of dire consequences (loss of job) should she dare vote for a given presidential candidate.
How would a sensible colleague do this and then wash her dirty linen in public?
It is mind-boggling that peace campaigns have yielded fruit among the “lowly” educated groups accused of post-election violence in 2007/8 but have terribly failed among the learned in society.
Perhaps, in future, such peace campaigners need to relook at their assumptions. Browsing through the social media paints a hellish picture for the Kenyan society. It is worrying when you read the kind of abuses “friends” on Facebook are exchanging courtesy of their political affiliations.
In my assessment, I would say that the groups that cause a rampage on the streets are conscious of what they are doing as they would not want to be identified in camera.
But my “friends” on Facebook carry out atrocities in broad daylight using their official names and facial images. Why are the authorities silent? Will it not be easy to arrest these people with such glaring written evidence?
The social media has, indeed, come in as a safety valve, offering people an arena where they can practise their freedom of expression and association.
Often, I get breaking news on Facebook faster than even my subscribed telephone news service does. But freedom comes with responsibility for another person’s right. Before you press the post button, take a minute to ponder over the effects of your actions. Are you a peace-maker or a war-monger?
Dr Othieno is a science communication expert (email@example.com)