These Are Sen­sa­tional Times

Business Bhutan - - Opinion - JURMI CHHOWING

(Wikipedia: Fake news is a type of yel­low jour­nal­ism or pro­pa­ganda that con­sists of de­lib­er­ate mis­in­for­ma­tion or hoaxes spread via tra­di­tional print and broad­cast news me­dia or on­line so­cial me­dia. It’s mainly dis­trib­uted by so­cial me­dia but is pe­ri­od­i­cally cir­cu­lated through main­stream me­dia. Its in­tent is to mis­lead in or­der to dam­age an agency, en­tity, or per­son, and/or gain fi­nan­cially or po­lit­i­cally, of­ten us­ing sen­sa­tion­al­ist, dis­hon­est, or out­right fab­ri­cated head­lines to in­crease read­er­ship, and on­line shar­ing.)

I used to be a non-par­tic­i­pat­ing mem­ber of both Bhutan and Bhutanese News & Fo­rums’ Face­book Pages - that gram­mat­i­cally con­flicted so called cit­i­zens’ news­room where every voice speaks out in the most sick­en­ing of sen­tences from causes as vary­ing and as wormy as ‘Who Bribed the Con­sti­pat­ing Rec­tum?” to ones as ex­trav­a­gant as ‘Who Cor­rupted the Big Bang?’ - es­pous­ing their own rid­dled pro­pa­ganda the­o­ries as to the ‘Whys’ and ‘Where­fores’ on is­sues per­tain­ing to Bhutan.

Or so goes their du­bi­ous claim.

I logged out of their ‘Feed’ as soon as they mor­phed into vam­pires suck­ing the life out of every warm-blooded mam­mal of some rote and it didn’t even take a minute for them to do it. Or for me to log out.

This is crys­tal clear: there is no cre­dence to their as­ser­tions. Not as long as they op­er­ate from the shad­ows. Back in 2013, I was once ac­corded the honor of be­ing a prime sus­pect in run­ning the no­to­ri­ous web­site ‘Bhuta­nomics’ – at least their lan­guage was com­pre­hen­si­ble and on oc­ca­sion even en­ter­tain­ing so it was a com­pli­ment of sorts, back­handed ob­vi­ously. Even­tu­ally, that spec­u­la­tive al­le­ga­tion wore off when I was made a sub­ject of one of their satires– an earnest but mis­placed at­tempt at stick­ing me in as one of the sup­port­ers of the present gov­ern­ing party to­gether with the edi­tor of a weekly pa­per. They even took the trou­ble of draw­ing a car­toon. Their al­le­ga­tion re­gard­ing my ques­tion­able as­so­ci­a­tion with the op­po­si­tion party at the time was a mys­ti­fy­ing one as the charges were mostly of a per­sonal na­ture as in what I par­took of in re­gards to mind al­ter­ing ‘sub­stances’ and whom I ‘dated’ and how I ‘lived’. I read the piece think­ing ‘So What?’ and that was that.

There was no point in clar­i­fy­ing the mat­ter. How do you clear up a fact when the facts are hig­gledy-pig­gledy and the ones ac­cus­ing you are vic­tims of their own rot­ting con­spir­acy the­o­ries? You don’t. You keep quiet and let the bas­tards suf­fer.

But So­cial Me­dia is here to stay and there are a lot of chick­ens peck­ing the course grains. They form quite the vista: there are ed­u­cated mugs, il­lit­er­ate saps, am­bi­tious pushovers, hum­ble dupes and et al. The one thing they have in com­mon is lap­ping up the gossip – vo­ra­ciously – and then talk­ing about it with an ex­cited twin­kle in their heav­ing eyes. Un­for­tu­nately, these are the be­wail­ing signs of a de­ri­sive so­ci­ety where the ones with a lot to sug­gest can’t re­ally face up to the so called trans­gres­sors – not with their real names – hence they hide be­hind a plethora of in­sipid monikers shoot­ing their mouths full of di­ar­rhoeal fart sig­ni­fy­ing noth­ing but shit.

In these po­lit­i­cally charged times, I’m now care­ful to screen the ‘Friend­ship Re­quests’ I get on Face­book. I never used to bother as to the de­tails of the per­son as I pri­mar­ily use Face­book as a plat­form to show­case my van­ity and I do need an au­di­ence - no mat­ter how dis­rup­tive. But now I’m a lit­tle wary. If they can’t be both­ered to write un­der their le­gal iden­ti­ties nor can I be both­ered to ac­cept their re­quests. As a rule of thumb, I first look out for the pho­to­graphs. If the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pro­file has a pic­ture of an overly se­duc­tive ‘Won­der­woman’; an ob­vi­ous prankster as in an ‘At­sara’; a ubiq­ui­tous spir­i­tual hero as in a ‘Ma­hasid­dha’ or any­thing re­sem­bling a set- up then I’m out. If the pro­file ap­pears nor­mal then I check out the names. Any­thing re­sem­bling a clever but bland cou­pling of Chris­tian and Bud­dhist names as in ‘Jes­s­icca Om’, ‘Cin­drella Dorji’ and ‘Sa­man­tha Dem’ and I’m out. Bye-bye ge­nius.

And any­thing else re­sem­bling a coy but dull com­bi­na­tion of staid tra­di­tional mumbo-jumbo as in ‘Thangth­ong Gyalp’, ‘Karma Khorlo’, ‘Drukpa Jack­son’ and I’m out again. If the names ap­pear le­git enough then I hit the pro­file pages to in­spect the time­line. Mind you, I never used to bother but then again these are po­lit­i­cally charged times and I don’t wanna end up an ass. Not if I can help it.

If the pro­file page then opens up with images of spir­i­tual icons I’m al­ready sus­pi­cious. And then I scroll down the page some more. If - within three clicks of my mouse I see that the page was re­cently cre­ated and that the man or woman who cre­ated the page was born ‘Yes­ter­day’ - then I’m def­i­nitely out. Nice try dumbo. Re­quest Deleted. One of their re­cent tricks is to try and be­friend you with a blank pro­file. Good try again, don­key; but not hap­pen­ing Mr. Shrek.

Now Face­book, Mes­sen­ger, Wechat, What­sapp, Instagram and what­ever cash cow the next Sil­i­con Val­ley butthead dreams of milk­ing are all here to stay. There is lit­er­ally no way out of this monster’s belly. The only way ‘out’ is ‘in’. And once you are in, you are never gonna get out. Not un­less you be­come a monk or a ru­nun­ciant and then again there is no guar­an­tee you won’t mu­tate into of those pros­e­ly­tiz­ing spir­i­tual types posit­ing a very quotable Bud­dha every hour of every day.

So­cial me­dia out­lets and the rest of that cir­cus are spot­less mir­rors with which to gauge the vul­gar look and in­stant feel of our times. Over­all, the look is grim and the feel­ing is foul. So how do you take charge of it? Of the ru­mor-mon­ger­ing? The fake-news feed­ing? How do you sep­a­rate the fact from the fic­tion? I guess it’s per­sonal. In a way, you can­not. A lie is still a lie even if a thou­sand peo­ple be­lieve in it and a fact is still a fact even if no­body does. But there are al­ways mo­rons in our midst who out­num­ber and out­flank the nom­i­nally sane, ready to join the cru­sades. It is an im­pul­sive ma­jor­ity that will fol­low the blind prophet all the way up to the gorge and jump off at his com­mand in want of some imag­i­nary de­liv­er­ance. Such a herd de­serves such a fate. Think of all the cults that have be­gun so promis­ingly and ended up so ig­no­min­iously – out per­form­ing Shake­speare in its the­atrics.

The short an­swer is you can’t. Your so­cial me­dia al­ter egos are an ex­ten­sion of your idea of your­selves. There is no sep­a­rat­ing the two – not in the rel­a­tive world of cause, con­se­quence and ap­pear­ance. As for me, I’ve no sym­pa­thy for the lot that wants to fos­ter a dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion. Like all fac­tual and ac­tual rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, let them pay the price and bleed. Or let them fes­ter with the ru­mor and die a fake death.

Clearly, the choice is per­sonal.

Jurmi Chhowing is a writer. He’s the founder of Yal­lamma! The Writ­ing Com­pany. He can be emailed at iamdrukpa@gmail.com.

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