Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Do Gambians hate one another? Do tongues divide Gambians? Experts say that the Gambia is too far gone to be integrated. Contributors to the various forums, especially on Facebook, ceaselessly spit deadly venom at each other. Every ethnic group believes it is superior to the other.
A tribe is being pitted against a tribe, religion against religion, neighbor against neighbor, a friend against friend. Exploiting and exacerbating ethnic tensions has become a new “normal” for politicians of all stripes. It has made it even worse when you add religious tensions.
No one is born with hate in their hearts – to paraphrase Nelson Mandela if we can learn to hate, we can learn to love because love comes more naturally. Furthermore, that is what the Gambia is screaming out for right now! A new way of thinking. A new way of looking at your neighbor. A new way of participating in politics. A new tolerance of ethnic and religious differences. More important than anything else, we need to respect the sanctity of human life. No one’s life is worthless or worthless because of what part of the country they come from, what religion they profess, or what political party they belong to.
The adage says, “Rome was not built in a day” – that is true. What they do not say is that Rome also did not collapse in a day. Its collapse resulted from systematic chipping away at the foundations of what made it a functional society – the principle of “little drops make an ocean, which sinks a ship.”
Fatoumatta: Gambians on social media engage in name-calling and abuse, and hate messaging as authorities watch helplessly. A foreigner, who sees the Gambia through the oral stones hurled in the form of comments as plashed on the internet, would think there is deep-rooted hatred of members of one tribe by members of another.
The monikers under which the culprits spread hate messages are equally revealing. While moderate comments often come under genuine names, the most vociferous posts are sent by people hiding behind fake accounts. These are the most real devils that cloak their authentic selves behind silhouettes to attack others instead of using their authentic images.
Mesmerizingly, when you operate from a fake account with a phony name and hide their true identity, you disqualify yourself as a man or woman whose work can be of reckon. By so doing, you deliberately shield yourself from public scrutiny. Writing or posting under a pen name or a fake account speaks volumes. It means you cannot be trusted even in real life because you have no image to protect. The public cannot hold you to account. You are the crackpots who take pleasure in hiding to damage.
If you do not respect yourselves, therefore, do not expect others to respect you. Remember, Anger is an acid that can harm the vessel in which it is stored than anything on which it is poured. You might think you are doing some things on the internet to hurt others, but you are harming yourself instead.
If you are worth your onions, sign in your account with your real name and photo so that people can judge you from your posts. Do not be a villain hiding to pillory your subjects even if you are paid for. Trained media people know that freedom of the press comes with responsibility. Unfortunately, untrained “citizen journalists” are careless with their posts in this internet and social media age because they court no decree under our laws.
As an emeritus journalist, I always voice my opinions freely. I grant that every individual has an absolute inalienable right to freedom of speech and expression. Nonetheless, remember there is no freedom after speech. So, before you venture to post anything, it will do you more good to strive your facts right. Karma is a bitch nonetheless.
Closer home, I will be hypocritical if I leave without taking exception to online publishers who fan the embers of hatred by failing in their duty to block comments considered rude and abusive. Funnily, each media house puts their contributors on notice against these or have their comments not published. Some of our leading newspapers are guilty of negligence in the management of their sites. Under one publication, for instance, there could be 300 published comments, a third of them containing abusive messages.
Fatoumatta: The media was once considered capable of causing wars. We must not forget too soon. Subsequently, in the internet age, it seems to have become even more dangerous. Maybe as the proverb says, “A watched pot never boils” A decree should be set in place to guide internet usage. Perhaps, it will make media managers more responsible.
The euphoria of fake news should not be allowed to becloud our sense of judgment and dislodge our cultural setup. Although the internet offers anonymity, security agents should have a way of tracking those breaching web securities. A tribal hate monger can be traced and arrested instantly.
Fatoumatta: Violators from in the Gambia might be having a field day today. However, the web policemen could start looking in their direction anytime soon. As the wise say, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” We must do something to save the generation of tomorrow. Authorities have become a false hope raiser. They promise but do not deliver. It is time irresponsible internet users are forced to turn over a new leaf to blog cogently. Criminals should not be allowed to capitalize on this window of opportunity to amass selfish gains by humiliating others.
Fatoumatta: In school curriculums, internet education should be encompassed to save this wicked generation. Through education, these kids will be taught the responsibilities that come with the Democracy of free speech, whether verbal or online. As former the United States Of America President Franklin D. Roosevelt once advised, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of Democracy, therefore, is education.
Alagi Yorro Jallow