I always do a recap of the best reads of the week in the Kenyan blogosphere using my self-initiated trend, #BlogRoll. Well, I love reading what other bloggers have to say on various happenings in our country and also on what emerges online and to an extent globally. Last Friday I was seemingly reading the same story only from different angles and points of view. This is good for a nation that 20 years ago one would have been detained without trial for expressing their opinions loudly.
The entire hullabaloo was centered on an article written by Radio Africa Group and Kiss 100 breakfast show presenter Caroline Mutoko in her weekly column on The Star newspaper, Mutoko on Monday. The new constitution emphasizes on respecting everyone’s freedom of expression and opinion. I respect Mutoko’s opinion as I do those of fellow bloggers who took offence in the way #KOT reacted and those who were on the side of #KOT. Well there are no winners and losers in this debate but there’s just one thing: No one should ever expect social media users, not only in Kenya but anywhere in the world to be cowed and intimidated by self-righteous journalists, radio presenters, “senior bloggers” et al.
While I don’t dispute the fact that Mutoko actually had valid points in her outburst on particularly Facebook commentators on the pages of national news outlets, she erred by calling social media users “numbskulls” and “small minded” who “go there to talk trash and find cheap hook-ups”. I found this very offending on reading the article that Monday mid-morning. As a journalist, well she hates being labeled a journalist but we know she is, it was right of her to come out and condemn hate speech. Remember another journalist (a breakfast show host like herself) is facing charges at the International Criminal Court on issues touching on incitement and using radio to spread hate speech blah blah blah. So she did her job, the only issue is you don’t become right by stepping on other people’s toes to express your concerns.
I, like many others, am a heavy social media consumer or user if you put it that way. I’ve never used any of my social media profiles on the various platforms I have a presence to “find cheap hook-ups” as Mutoko wants Kenyans to believe. From my simple knowledge of English, a numbskull is a fool or a very stupid person.
Let me remind Caro, the fools she’s talking about are not on social media nor are they likely to be there soon. Kenya is a third-world nation lest you forget. If almost every youth in Nairobi is on Facebook and another good percentage is on Twitter who tells you that that is the case in Kilifi town at the Coast or Mogotio in the Rift Valley? The people who actually fall prey to reckless utterances by our short-sighted and egoistic politicians are the idlers in every village and town of this nation, those who have strong allegiance to their cultural and tribal inclinations who when told that so and so is out to finish our tribe will pick a machete and kill the nearest perceived enemy. If anything, Kenyans on social media have been at the forefront of frowning at tribalism. Facebook users may be notorious for the comments they make on news updates from the Daily Nation and other news outlets but that is not the case everywhere. Be careful how you use the word “social media”. This also includes the likes of YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, Tumblr and many others. While YouTube is widely popular in Kenya, how many tribal videos and hate inducing flicks have been uploaded by Kenyans there? How many microblogs on Tumblr carry tribal vitriol? How many trending topics on Twitter have been leaning towards the spread of hate speech?
Let her not be self-righteous, I’ve been listening to her show since I was in class six and I actually find most of her morning callers and contributors to her varied discussion topics very offending. Though she had a point, she put it out casually and in total disregard of the broader definition of social media and its users. Being young on social media does not necessarily mean we are after “cheap hook-ups”. Look at the speck in your eye Madam Mutoko before daring to perform an unwarranted surgical operation to remove the logs in our eyes.
“Social media,” as Sunny Bindra puts it “is a conversation, not a brochure… like life in general, is what you make of it. It can be noisy and meaningless and trivial. It can also be a powerful tool for leadership engagement, personal awareness and keeping tabs on the world.”
For a differing opinion on the same, here are a couple of good reads from other bloggers.