Hate speech on Social Media: A Case of Misplaced Locus of Responsibility

Written by | Features

Social media only features on our daily plate of bad places to hate on each other because it is sexy.

It is sexy for the government to be seen as working to inculcate (not restore, we have never been united) true national cohesion and the warm fuzzy feeling of hating each other beyond ?tribe and gender. Social media offers the older bureaucrats a chance to show the younger online generation whose boss. The sad thing is that in our peace lobotomy, we have validated it. We feel that the limits of the Bill of Rights apply to situations where we have a responsibility to be responsible. Incitement does not shift the locus of responsibility from the actor unless he or she is a young child or has a mental disability. The end decision of whether to hate your fellow man lies with you and your environment (and if you are religious, your respective deity).

African governments are scared of social media. Social media brought down Hosni Mubarak in less than three weeks despite his desperate attempts to block its use. So now African governments, beginning in Malawi, Zambia, and now?Kenya, are now seeking to follow the China model, with less glamour and innovation (The Chinese have the decency to provide Baidu and other alternatives? to control ‘subversion’).

You don't say?

You don’t say?

Hate speech assumes that the reader does not have a responsibility to decide whether to pick up a machete and slaughter his neighbor and burn a church full of people. It assumes that you, as the reader, do not have a choice to decide to stop reading this and close the tab. I owe you a responsibility to be politically correct and to be sensitive to what might read like revolutionary material. You owe me as much responsibility for understanding this, for example, as I owe you for choosing these words. They would be ineffective if you could not understand them, contextually.

In the ‘Mau Mau’ War, hate speech took the form of propaganda pamphlets that were distributed by both sides, and included many forms of expression, including the content of oaths and war songs, this evolved into the implied hate speeches that drove the intrigues of the first government under Kenyatta the Elder, and was perfected under Moi. We lost the script when society kept quiet as Ngugi?wa?Thiong’o, Koigi?wa?Wamwere,?Wahome?Mutahi?and others were detained for ‘sedition’ and other such ridiculous crimes. To the people, the state was not to be questioned, peace and sustainability (read self-preservation) were king, the same thing we are going through right now. Until the Second Liberation took place and we all temporarily realized that the ones who say bad things need protection. Our view is largely libertarian and communitarian. Libertarians believe that the right to free speech may be limited only for compelling reasons such as fighting words. Communitarians believe in the communitys well-being.

We all know what happens when we let the government, or anyone in a position of power, infringe on the rights of a few people. At first, it is all bliss and calls of?’JAIL THE TRAITORS OF OUR COSMETIC PEACE AND NATIONAL COHESION! JAIL THOSE MYOPIC BACKWARD PEOPLE WHO ARE ONLY TELLING US WHAT WE THINK OF IN THE COMFORT OF OUR OWN HOMES AND MINDS.’ Before long, all is lost, and now a typographic error that accidentally connects someone’s name with the word ‘stupid or incompetent’ qualifies as a capital offence. Is this it? This cannot happen? It already is at an advanced stage. The press is now too tainted by corporate influence to matter, the civil societies are no longer civil or focused on society, the government is just being well, the government (the garb has changed, the body is still the same despite going on mandatory ‘cabinet lift and devolution’ cosmetics).?We have so much coffee we should be waking up to but we are busy uprooting it to build gated communities. Voltaire said that if you want to know who controls you, just check whom you are not allowed to criticize.

Are we saying that it is okay to think this things at home and probably kill your neighbor while at it, but never ever post it online? It is the same misguided logic that has validated misogyny in rap culture; the idea that the representation owes more to the source than the source does the idea. We have a personal responsibility in how we relate to the rest of society. However, numerous studies in cognitive influence have shown that we all tend to move towards what the environment offers. We need to move from what is the influence of social media on Kenyan culture to what is the role of Kenyan culture in influencing and shaping social media. We are so afraid of ourselves that we are willing to risk making hardcore criminals of everyday Kenyans who need therapy in diversity and forgiveness.

When?a blogger’??was hauled in the courts for allegedly mentioning ‘specific names with specific?allegations’, we all kept quiet and validated it despite the subliminal warning.?The King’s courtiers know?how powerful a tool it can be??and will?now use it to gain mileage?and traffic

In the letter alluded to in the link above, the NCIC supposedly wrote?You have been posting threatening messages on your face book account which are intended to cause hatred/violence among communities in Kenya. ?A lethargic?NCIC??is?now?considering going after those using ‘sign language and symbols’ to “..spread offensive remarks that could lead to violence..” The operational word there is ‘could’,? because that is what our peace lobotomy has come to. It also means that before long, someone will be standing on the dock answering to charges of showing another the middle finger. Who knows, maybe someday we will jail the dead victim too.hate-speech

Being responsible is two-way. It does not only mean reporting those you do not agree with-however myopic, backward, stupid, and wrong it might be-it also means controlling what you read online. The mark of the free mind is whether yone can read without being influenced. You do know that no one is coercing you to Read More or hit Share or RT? Better still, no one is holding a gun to your head to prevent you from blocking anyone who posts things you do not agree with. Actually, that is precisely the reason those buttons exist. Ours is partly due to the fact that we are all Moi Orphans, education-wise, and we feel like we now have too much freedom. Social media offers us all an outlet, but it is just that, an outlet. The real hate speech is in our minds, in our homes, in how we secretly think of each other.

We need not look further than the people whose government structure and social habits we have so blatantly aped. The US Supreme Court in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992) ruled in favor of the youth who had burned the cross-sign of the KKK on a front lawn of a black family. It ruled that by prosecuting him on a law that limited free speech rights, the state of Minnesota had violated his rights. The implication? The court did not rule on the act, which was criminal and should have fallen on the class of willful destruction of property but ruled that the law cannot focus on motivation, the thinking that results in criminal behavior.

The truth about hate speech

The truth about ‘hate speech’ on social media

While we have hurled about 10 people in court for hate speech on social media, whatever that is, we have prosecuted one person for the (modest estimate) of 1, 100 deaths in 2007/8? …and I really want to point out our validation in the recent elections, but I know you are already thinking it. Had we already punished any of the people who committed the 2007/8 genocide, because that is what it was, perhaps we could have asked them if they were driven to kill by hate speech or they are just downright brutal and senseless murderers who are still walking free. In no time, we will not breathe online on any social policies that are poorly implemented for fear of being on the wrong side of political correctness. Make no mistake, if this were the 1980s, we are on the government side, cheering on while it starts by plucking out, with our help, people whose only crime is perceived stupidity, as it rubs its hands and prepares to tell us how much we dont need these freedoms we enjoy.

The joke is that most of the people spewing hate speech on social media are actually Kenyans in the Diaspora . What are we going to do, wait for them to disembark from JKIA and haul them before our lethargic justice system? Are we going to block them? We should, but are we helping anyone? Won’t they just adopt other pseudonyms and call us names? Most of these people live in countries where ‘hate speech’ is not what we think it is, expression is everything. The governments of most of those countries have followed a different model, choosing instead to be efficient in how they deliver services to the people, focusing less on cosmetic surgeries, and investing into efficient propaganda machinery.

Keep calm.

Keep calm.

Free thought/speech is not love, it is not about feeling the warm fuzzy feeling inside for your neighbor or brother. Free thought is not about supporting the government or the opposition, or simply opening your mouth to avoid halitosis. It includes these, but it is not all about them. Hate is as much a part of free expression as love is. Hate cannot be washed away by shocking the hater into silence by jailing a few like-minded individuals. Hate is taught, it is acquired from our environment, our educational process, our social and political history and structures.

So, go ahead dear reader, think about killing someone, and hating them, and hating the politicians they support and the way they conduct their everyday lives, hate on their cultures and the way they breath but do not post it. That is the new Kenya for you, think it, but do not say it (you can do it though, we do not care much about that).


Last modified: October 9, 2015