IN a way, some of us are working for the terrorists but we don’t realise it.
Terror is generally defined as “extreme fear”; terrorism “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”; and terrorists are “people who use terrorism in the pursuit of political aims”.
We ordinary people generally hate terrorists, because of how despicable their actions are, and the fact that they target innocent, unarmed and mostly harmless civilians.
Ironically, however, we endorse them and their works without a second thought every time they pop up.
As opposed to the usual social media practice of blanking out or ignoring content from people or groups we don’t like, terrorists are getting re-tweeted and are going viral every single day across the globe.
On Easter Monday afternoon we saw thousands of repeats of a WhatsApp message about the arrest of some Al-Shabaab chaps at the Akamwesi Hostel in Nakawa, reports of heavy security deployments in the neighbourhood, and a call that we avoid the area.
Where I was at the time, it would have been impossible for me to get to where I was going without going past Akamwesi, so I had to make phone calls to verify the reports. And when I eventually drove past I found no excitement taking place there whatsoever.
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Last week, on Good Friday, a press conference addressed by the police mentioned the possibility of a terrorist attack on an unidentified school along Jinja Road. The mayhem that ensued in the lives of ordinary people was immense and highly disruptive.
Of course, the official security warnings and alerts are necessary by default, and regardless of how they sound when issued by the authorities, they are useful.
But where WE ordinary people do work for terrorists (albeit inadvertently), is when we perpetrate terror, that extreme fear, by spreading stories and ideas without verification, thought or reason. And, even though it is cliche, we do work for them when we allow ourselves to be gripped by fear and then spread it onwards.
Of course, I don’t expect ordinary people on social media to stop and call the police or terrorism hotline when they get that WhatsApp message or tweet notifying them of suspected terrorist activities. It is natural for us to quickly want to warn everybody we know simply because we would never live down the guilt of seeing photos of their dead bodies piled up in a room if we had the chance to make sure they were NOT in that room when the terrorists showed up.
And that’s where the terrorists get to benefit from this technology more than we do.
Technology and platforms such as social media ones, are better at spreading fear and anxiety than preventing it. The bloody terrorists don’t even have to interrupt their killing to take photos and get them going viral – WE do it ourselves.
After something like #GarissaAttacks, the terrorists can have us running amok with a new rumour every week of where they will attack next, while we push the messaging far and wide without any help or further encouragement whatsoever.
Even as I type this on Monday evening a WhatsApp message has just come in stating that, “One chap was arrested by MUBS students at Akamwesi hostel. He was selling perfumes but did not know the area. He had a smart fone and had taken pictures of the hostel. He also had photos of alshabab and of himself holding a severed head.”
Of course there was no photograph of the said suspect and no reproduction of his photograph holding a severed head; but right now the amount of studying that is going on in universities across the region is at an all-time low.
What are they going to do next? Hit a secondary school? A primary school? Won’t we all start home schooling, and then from there stop leaving the house altogether?
If we do, then they will have won, and they will have done so using our treasured social media and technological platforms.
That’s why I say we should turn these against them, and use them as weapons fighting terrorism rather than aids to the terrorists.
When we share the photos of the carnage they inflict, for instance, let’s add a call to action and state our defiance, rather than allow fear to build up and domino through the populace.
Also, where possible, let’s identify all places and instances where security is lax or loopholes might exist, and get the authorities to act quicker and more decisively by sharing this info quickly and possibly incognito.
If we took a video and shared it with the police every time we were being checked through a shopping mall by a lousy askari, a few of them would lose their jobs and the rest would pay more attention to their work. Likewise if we found government security people doing a shoddy job.
Of course, though, we would need to devise ways of doing so without aiding and abetting the terrorists by pointing them to the weak spots!
We should never forget that simple point – social Media works for terrorists, and they know it. What we should do is make it work better for us than it does for them – and everybody should put ideas forward rather than wait for somebody else to do so!