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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Using rumours as a weapon

How many times have you been part of spreading rumours? Oh, dear, that was a tough question that might make your cheeks warm of embarrassment. Spreading gossip is a kind of glue that holds a society together, but there is a huge difference between gossip and rumours. Gossiping about your neighbours or some silly thing you overheard or the latest fashion in clothing can be an innocent way of communicating. It glues a group together, makes us feel that we share the same values or lifestyle or fashion ideal.

Gossipping is normal and something that people do all over the world. What we need to be aware of is when the innocent gossipping crosses the line and transforms to spreading rumours. As long as we use our common sense, or our gut feeling, there is no risk in participating in some gossipping. Sometimes we feel that something sounds wrong, we get some strange signals from someone who often is unable to let go of the subject. It is not always easy to end the conversation, but it is necessary. Depending on how well we know the person who has crossed the line, and who begins to spread rumours instead, we have to find a strategy for ending this bad behaviour because it can be very easy to join along in the choir.

We all know that gossip is a common ”hobby” in The Gambia. People talk about everyone and everything, it is hard to get away with something because there are eyes and ears everywhere. Perhaps you are so used to it, that it doesn’t bother you until you are the aim for other’s interest. Suddenly you feel that people look at you in a different way, the conversation stops when you enter the room and you get an awkward and uneasy feeling. You begin to ask yourself if you have done something wrong, or said something bad or even looked at someone in a way that could have been misinterpreted. It is hard to ask someone about it when you have no clue what to ask about.

We have all been in that situation and we also know that it will pass, sooner or later as long as it is a matter of gossip. What becomes worse is when the gossip is intentional and rumours suddenly begin to spread. Rumours are a mighty weapon, there is nothing that can protect you when you are shot with those bullets. You can’t hide anywhere because you don’t know where your enemies are. They can even be in your home, among your family members, and that makes it even worse. Wise people don’t listen to rumours, they listen to facts and make up their minds after that. Unfortunately not all are wise, some believe just about anything they hear and they spread the word in a haste.

It is bad enough when we spread rumours about our neighbours or someone we envy, but rumours can also be used to spread misinformation. We have seen on the news that WHO (World Health Organization) has begun with the vaccinations against Covid-19 in The Gambia.

Here is a cut from a website called Africanews.

”Conspiracy theories, mistrust and patchy communication have contributed to a flourishing of scepticism about Covid-19 vaccines in African countries, experts say, posing potential dangers to future immunisation campaigns.

Anti-vaccine sentiment, often fed by rumours spread on social media, is already thriving in the West but also in a similar way across Africa. This according to public health experts on the continent, with people warier of Covid-19 jabs than they would be of other vaccines.

Explanations for the wariness vary, suspicion of government elites and vaccine misinformation play a role.

One prevalent conspiracy theory, for example, holds that the Covid-19 vaccines are designed to restrain Africa’s population growth.”

There are reports from for example Nigeria and Ethiopia where people say that they don’t want the Covid injection because they don’t trust the government or even that women get infertile because of it. Some people believe that only people from the West get infected and that Covid-19 doesn’t infect black people. This misinformation must stop, it is only rumours and has nothing to do with the reality. There is no cruel master-plan behind the vaccination. The only plan that might exist is the plan of so-called ”trolls” that have as their only mission to spread misinformation. They do it because there are big financial interests behind it.

States have ”trolls” that spread misinformation to harm other states, companies do the same both nationally and internationally. If they succeed with their intentions there are huge financial gains for the state, or company, who started the rumours. Covid has struck us all hard, but we can’t blame all Asians for that. On the news there are now daily reports about Asians living all over the world who are forced to bear the blame for Covid. Their companies are shut down because of riots and hate campaigns. Asian people get spat at on the street, they get attacked and some days ago several Asian women were shot dead in Atlanta, USA. They worked at a massage institute, and no matter what you think about that kind of business these women didn’t deserve to get killed by a maniac.

Let us move back to The Gambia and look at our own situation. Last week I wrote about the riots in Sanyang where both the police station and the fishmeal factory were burnt down. People living there have been frustrated for a long time, and rightfully so, but this? This is not democracy, it is anarchy! The government hasn’t helped the people of Sanyang a bit, I know that, but this kind of destructive behaviour is outrageous. A Gambian man was killed by a Senegalese man and now all the Senegalese who have been working at the fishmeal factory are forced to flee for their lives.

This is shameful! As little as we can’t blame all Jolas for what Jammeh did, we can’t blame all Senegalese for what one maniac did. What is the purpose behind the rumours that now are destroying so many lives? Are we Muslims, are we even acting like humans? Soon Ramadan begins, let us pray and repent. Let us learn from our mistakes and not repeat them without a thought.

Don’t we say that we Gambians and the Senegalese are the same people? Is this the way you yourself wish to be treated if the situation was the opposite? How did this riot help anyone? Has anything good come out of it? You have a lot of young men in custody, suspects of criminal actions. We have mothers who are crying and fathers who can’t sleep at night because they know that their sons are taken by the police.

How did it help to burn down the police station? Too many dislike or even hate the police, but we must understand that there are good as well as bad representatives of the police force as well as in every other category of work. At the end of the day the police are following orders and trying to apply the laws. You can’t change the fact that a riot is illegal, even if it is understandable.

Base your opinions on facts instead of gossip and rumours. Act with dignity, act as a Muslim and not an anarchist.

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