Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: In politics, like in love and war, everything is fair. However, the day you decide to jump into the murky and uncharted waters of politics, you have invited ridicule, filth, cut and slash comments, rumors, innuendos, lies, and character assassination. You will be told about your history. It is in politics that you will be told your parents are not your parents. You will be told your father’s fathers were slaves found in the farms and brought home to serve the community for added effect. They will make stories that your parents were a social leper, ” buwa, domma, witch and wichard, baadola, jaam, meskin, fuwaroo,” and untouchable, belonging to the lowest caste.
This is the nature of politics that germinate everywhere, not only in the Gambia. Birtherism conspiracy theory poses a threat to American democracy and African democracy. Birtherism propelled Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, so it is not surprising that he is returned to it when seeking reelection. With the announcement that Vice President Kamala Harris has been chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate, Donald Trump started raising questions about her eligibility to run for the presidency. Some of president Adama Barrow’s critics and political opponents want to use Donald Trump’s playbook of politics of birtherism.
In the Gambia, some people are paid handsomely to sit behind a keyboard with itchy fingers and create alternative realities against the better judgment of what we know and feel. However, they have a mandate to beat these improvised realities into our brains consistently. Therefore, it would be best to believe this is called ‘conspiracy theory’ gaslighting from politicians.
Fatoumatta: Gaslighting and conspiracy theory is a narcissistic personality. Only their facts are true. They insist on repeating and drilling you until you begin to doubt yourself or your truths. It can be a type of brainwashing. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It is the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what is happening to it. The more you are aware of these techniques, the quicker you can identify them and avoid falling into the gas lighter’s trap.
The conspiracy theory and gaslighting on social media originating from the political class on the ethnolinguistic group president Adama Barrow belongs to. In real-time trying to mislead and fabricate mind management tactic called gaslighting whose “goal is to defamiliarize reality and the truth through intentional, in-your-face obfuscation of the facts—or through the popularization of what Trump’s former counselor Kellyanne Conway once called ‘alternative facts,”
Given president Adama Barrow’s critics and political opponents an outsized reverence explosive and undeniably evidentiary report that Adama Barrow’s father is not a Mandinka instead, Adama Barrow belonged to the Fulani ethnic group. The latter’s surname is “Barry” instead of “Barrow,” also, by referencing two of his wives, First Lady Fatoumatta Bah and Second Lady Sarjo Mballow, “marrying from his own tribe,” is pathologically mendacious propaganda.
Fatoumatta: Conspiracy theories denote perspectives located on the furthest margins of the official and semi-official narratives about issues and events. They also describe fringe, unscientific, uncorroborated explanations that attribute historical or contemporary events to grand, scheming, almost superhuman, and perpetually conniving conspiracists.
Although the invocation of the term is sometimes no more than an idle, off-handed rhetorical strategy to marginalize and delegitimize alternative narratives that are at variance with officially sanctioned perspectives on an issue, there are indeed some wacky and fringe narratives out there that are so bizarre in their illogic and paranoia they make you cringe in stupefied astonishment.
Take, for example, the wacky, out-of-this-world conspiracy theories about former U.S. president Barack Obama that luxuriated—and still do— on American right-wing circles, one which suggested that Obama had been primed from his very birth to become president of America. Many so-called birthers (people who believe Obama was not born in America) say it was in furtherance of the grand conspiracy to make Obama president of America (to undermine it from within) that when he was born in Kenya in August 1961, Freemasons or some other villainously shadowy group caused his birth to be fraudulently published in a Honolulu newspaper on the day he was born!
As Gambians, we must also expend inordinate energies hatching conspiracies about their national shame and tragedy instead of confronting and understanding the etiology of the scandal. Instead, we obsess with deploying the resources of our imagination to impose order on what is otherwise anarchy of occurrences.
Fatoumatta: When and why would Gambians spin all kinds of wild conspiracy theories to delegitimize the facticity of President Adama Barrow’s ethnicity. Why are some of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) senior officials and loyal supporters bringing Adama Barrow’s ethnicity into the presidential elections? The theory’s proponents are a mix of hucksters and earnest conspiracy theorists, including the leadership of the UDP. It is believers, and supporters Adama Barrow being a Fula primarily predisposes to dislike Adama Barrow. The willingness to believe the worst about his true identity, not being a Mandinka, is a common feature of critics and haters rumormongering. While there is no grain of truth to either fantasy, there is something else when it comes to president Barrow. a visceral reaction against him, a deep sense that he does not deserve to be president with a Fula mother and Fula wives. This is a smear campaign against president Barrow. The conspiracy emerged in 2019 after he removed his estranged godfather Abubacarr Ousainou Darboe and other senior members of the UDP from his government. This makes us look weird. It makes us look crazy. It makes us look demented, and It makes us look sick, troubled, and not suitable for civilized society. This is a massive conspiracy and gaslighting, and they should be ashamed of themselves.
Fatoumatta: How come between September and October 2016, when Adama Barrow’s political family then the UDP unveiled him to the Gambian people as a Mandinka? Who reported in 2016 between 2019 that Adama Barrow is Fula? What has changed? The conspiracists concluded that it was all made up to make president Barrow look weak and provide further fodder to the rhetorical staple of his famed cluelessness. Thus, the conversation shifted from conspiratorial incredulity about ethnicity to propane for tribal bigotry and ethnic supremacy that conspiracists initially intensified.
Conspiracy theories have become more audacious and more mainstream in the last few years thanks to the legitimacy they have enjoyed from Donald Trump, by far the worst president America has had in its nearly three centuries of existence but who had the most symbolic power in the world for four years. Coronavirus conspiracies have proliferated and sickened or caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people thanks to Trump and his enablers. They used to be consigned to the lunatic fringe of polite society.
Fatoumatta: Where has all the political decency gone? Decency is conforming to be recognized standards of decent or proper behavior. Decency is defined as an action that is moral, modesty, or socially acceptable is what basics are required for a good standard of living. Hoping that decency returns have not worked in history unless you are willing to wait for a violent revolution with too many demagogues peddling conspiracy theories, spreading falsehood, and gaslighting in this political season.
You know social media is the one thing that has come to expose the hitherto concealed deficiencies in our educational system and moral grandstanding in our collective narcissism on destructive prejudices. The scandalous slovenliness in politics, law, and public policy, the abysmally low quality of reasoning, the lack of focus in addressing any issue, total lack of persuasive or even communication skills, the illogicality of our thought process, absolute lack of integrity in the pursuit of any cause or course.
However, the truth is that life is too complex always to be amenable to conspiracies and deliberate, predetermined designs. So instead, coincidences, happenstances, misfortunes, serendipities, flukes, etc., that do not require planning, that is not, and need not be, the consequences of machinations. Conspiracists, particularly Gambian conspiracists of Adama Barrow’s ethnicity, ignore three things: that our opposition is dreadfully incompetent; are more organized and more determined into conspiracies when they strike, who are responsible for acts of savagery; and that human lives.
To fixate on conspiratorial whispers where the lives of little children are involved does not strike me as particularly helpful or compassionate’; habitual lies, deceit, and ineptitude fertilize and give credence to conspiracies; not everything is a conspiracy.
Moreover, any time you are inspired to form conspiratorial, often evidence-free, thoughts about events, people, issues, etc. remember that the human mind is notoriously supple and, when it has allowed wandering into uncharted cognitive territory unaided, it has the capacity to invent patterns and make connections where they do not exist. Psychologists call this apophenia.
Our minds were predisposed to “see” a coherent, predetermined optical pattern in the chaos of illusory visual stimuli. Many popular conspiracy theories are similar: they sprout from seeing patterns in random occurrences. Moreover, they are often fertilized by confirmation bias, which is also called a conclusion in search of evidence. That is why everything is amenable to conspiracy theories if we do not discipline our minds. People who compulsively churn out or believe in wild conspiracy theories, for instance, have been psychologized as suffering from such mental disorders as paranoia, denial, schizophrenia, and what is called the “mean world syndrome.” However, many conspiracy theorists are ordinary people.
As a communication scholar, I know that specific conspiracy theories sprout and flourish in an atmosphere of insufficient or non-existent official information or widespread, often well-founded, incredulity over the authenticity of official versions of events. However, the lies of governments should not make victims of every wild conspiratorial whisper out there. Even in Africa, “Birtherism” has been perpetuated for years only for political exclusion. Birtherism conspiracy theory about former President Barack Obama and Senator Kamala Harris has been germinating in African body politics. For example, President Yahya Jammeh’s political opponents, the former Gambian dictator, reportedly pushed his “birther” to be born from Mundai in Southern Senegal.
Fatoumatta: President Alassane Ouattara of Cote Ivoire was the Prime minister of the country under the late president Houphet Boigny. When the president died, there was a power tussle between Quatarra and Konan Bedie, the Speaker of the Parliament. Bedie, in line with the Constitution, became the president. He called for a new presidential election in which he was also a candidate. Mr. Ouattara also-ran, but he was disqualified because he was born in Malawi. Therefore, he was not a citizen of Cote Ivoire. Bedie won the election and was overthrown by a coup led by Gen. Robert Guei.
Fatoumatta: Apart from Yaha Jammeh, two former editors of the banned Independent newspaper, 2000 in the Gambia, were victims of the “Birther” conspiracy. Their citizenship has been questioned, and President Yahya Jammeh threatens to expel them out of their country of birth. Because of their editorial line of reporting. There is nothing to suggest Adama Barrow has changed his ethnicity from being a Mandinka from his father and Fula mother adopted by Sarahule uncles !’Birtherism’ conspiracy theory poses a threat to Gambian and African Democracy.