(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 email@example.com.)