It’s so easy to absorb negativity and be the focal point of everything nasty, obnoxious and hateful. That’s something that happens so often online there is even a word coined for such people. Internet Trolls.
“In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog), either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”- Wikipedia.
I have to admit; when it comes to trolls Kenya has more than its fair share. In its broadest definition, I think every single person I know is a troll on some forum. I know that we each will, from time to time, digress in conversation on a topic or forum and say something that is anecdotal or that is emotionally inflammatory. But when it comes to sowing discord, spreading hate and fear, Kenya has hordes of trolls.
It’s a horrendous thing to face but there are simply hordes of people, who identify as Kenyan, who go onto social media and online communities and spread their bigotry and hatred and harass and intimidate any and everyone who disagrees with them.
You have to wonder at the psychology of these trolls. Do they really live in an urban setting as do most internet users? Because the racist, tribal junk that is spewed by these people is indicative of a closed minded person who most likely is socially isolated by choice away from the ethnic communities they hate on.
Kenyan trolls tend to be rather vile by the way; there is no depth to which they will not descend. These trolls lack any sort of self identifying marker, rather they identify with politicians. So, should you have the misfortune of having a political opinion on any number of political leaders you will surely come across a group of trolls who will immediately insult, harass, threaten and intimidate you.
Take the 2013 elections for example. We know how the Kenyan media kept preaching peace on the airwaves as though hypnotizing the masses. Meanwhile on social media a vicious political battle was ongoing, spreading so much hatred that the only way people could have possibly been peaceful is because one cannot actually reach across the screen of their phones and hack his opponent to death.
By the way, we need to define what exactly we mean by peace. An absence of physical violence is not peace. Kenya at the moment is at psychological war within itself, and there may be even greater causalities than the sum total of every violent conflict within our borders.
I am talking about the fact that because every single election is always rooted in ethnic politics and supported by vile and divisive propaganda, this country is forever fragmented into enclaves where the very morass of politically instigated psychosis festers and rots.
We have a majority population that is psychologically incapable of living in harmony with the person next to them because that person is from a different ethnic community. These sociopaths may not actually kill their neighbor, but the potential for such violence simply simmers under the surface and online.
If you find yourself in a forum on social media online, and you are bombarded or are bombarding people with your ethnic bigotry and hatred you are a sociopath of sorts and are potentially violent.
We know this to be true because of the furor the ICC trials are generating. Regardless of one’s views on the ICC, a trial at court has to come to its full and logical conclusion. As far as we all know, there are 3 suspects, two of whom are now principles and heads of state. The three have their own legal teams.
It is acceptable and expected that much discussion will go on during the process of these trials, and it is expected that “supporters” and “detractors” will have disagreements on various issues surrounding these trials.
What is totally unacceptable is the hatred being spewed in the name of support or detraction. We don’t seem to remember that the head of state is the head of state of Kenya and not just whatever ethnic group you belong to. He is also the president of witnesses, victims and those affected by violence.
If a bunch of trolls are creating utter discord online and fragmenting a fragile society even further is that criminal? I think so. I think that if you are the sort of person who is so cowardly as to go online and threaten and harass people for their ethnic background and abuse and insult people for their opinions on the ICC trials then you are acting like a criminal. In the spreading of your hatred you also place the lives of people in direct harm by revealing the identity of potential witnesses or just giving out the names and images of people and claiming that they are witnesses or enemies of those you support. When you do such things, you need to remember, that even though you think you are many trolls, there are more Kenyans who want to live in peace and harmony.
Simply because 50% of this country’s caste votes went to the President doesn’t mean that YOU as a troll have the support of those millions. You stand alone, in your diseased mind. The rest of Kenya is determined to see justice reach its full and final conclusion and those charged given the chance to exonerate themselves of any wrong doing.
If the intention this week was to instill fear in the masses so that a healthy debate on the trials cannot occur then the trolls and their backers failed miserably. We have come too far as a nation to turn back now, and we must go further so that we can heal as a nation.