) Blog Believers/ Email Forwarders/ Gossip Mongers Beware          - 14/7/2008      <--Prev : Next-->

Blog Believers/ Email Forwarders/ Gossip Mongers Beware

We all know it's not easy to be a Zimbabwean at the moment: whether you live far away; just across the border; or still in the country.

It's depressing having the rest of the world feeling sorry for you, especially when you know what life used to be like.

No one is excused from being responsible for what is going on there. We all played a part in enjoying the country at its best, and we should all be playing a part trying to get the country out of its worst.

That is why our course and cause must not be swayed or diverted by malicious gossip/ rumors/ hearsay. We are all in this together. We are all in this together. We are all in this together. I can't say it enough.

We need to remember that and back each other up, because once cracks are revealed, the opportunists will jump at the chance to make them wider and deeper.

Propaganda is Everywhere

It has long been a well-known fact that the people in charge in Zimbabwe have professional, full-time "spin-doctors" or "propaganda distributors, " whose only purpose is to manipulate the population.

Now, it is not only those in rural areas who find themselves influenced in some way.

These spin doctors pour over contents on the web, on news sites, garnering any information they can to use against the general population of the country who don't know any better.

The majority of the population doesn't have google to source-check and fact-check whatever information is handed to them. Heck, often times google lies. It just picks up key words, it doesn't discriminate the truth from the lies.

Our folk in the rural areas don't have access to the New York Times, BBC, Sky, the Mail and Guardian etc. Independent news organizations whose job it is to report the truth and nothing but.

Experts Make Mistakes

Even the most prestigious newspapers and news networks mentioned above make mistakes. Usually they are held accountable, if not by themselves, then by the other network or newspapers in competition to them.

A friend of mine who works in the news in South Africa was recently invited to a human rights organization's "report" on Zimbabwe.

It's a legitimate, well-respected organization, who has been involved in Zimbabwe and other African regions in conflict for many years.

Turns out the writers of this report, well respected sociologists with doctorate degrees in crisis management and the like, had been taken for a ride by the propaganda machine that is the Zimbabwean state-controlled media.

These experts had inadvertently become mouth pieces for the ruling party, and they didn't even know it. They had taken what an official linked to the upper echelons said to be true, as the truth, and used nothing other than a state-controlled Sunday paper to fact-check their source.

Perhaps in South Africa that would work fine, but here in Zimbabwe, we know better than to believe what is in the local news.

What they were saying was dangerous. It could have caused a lot of harm to a lot of innocent people if taken to be true. The experts had no idea.

Luckily, the journalists at the event knew better. After questioning the sociologists, they quickly established that there were no hard facts or evidence to back up what they were saying.

But imagine if they didn't do that, if they ran with the story? It was a sensational story, would have been an absolute scoop if it was true, but it wasn't, and if used irresponsibly it could have cost lives.

It looks like News...

Not everything you read on the internet is true.

Many of us, and I admit that I have been fooled many times, accept whatever is in front of us as the truth because it is in print. That's no longer the case today. Just because it looks like news: with sources; quotation marks and bylines; doesn't necessarily make it news and certainly it does not make it the truth...

Just because an email was forwarded to you by a friend of yours that you respect and admire doesn't make it true.

Guess what - for U.S $50 a month, someone can start a web site, and publish absolutely anything they want? It is called freedom of speech, something we as Zimbabweans know little about. You can say just about anything. It is useful, because now anyone, anywhere, can put their ideas in the public domain.

It is also dangerous. Now any crazy whacko can write anything they want, starting damaging rumors.

Next thing you know it's being quoted as true by experts, then it's on the legitimate news. Suddenly we have a full-blown crisis on our hands and some mischievous, skinny 16- year-old in Nasville, Tennesee, is clapping his hands in glee at the havoc he has created.

In Zimbabwe, there are people whose job it is to lie. To write lies and publish them in the public domain for someone respected to copy and paste into an email and forward to all of his friends. Suddenly-it might be true, because my friend so and so knows what he is talking about.

Unless a person can be held responsible through a libel or malicious intent law-suit, the writings of that person should be regarded as hearsay or opinion and nothing more.

Fact-check. Ask questions. Don't allow yourselves to fall into the trap. Believe in your fellow man. If you don't have time to do it yourself, forward it to Sky News and see if they run with it. They have professionals whose full-time job it is to figure out if this is real or made-up lies.

We are all in this together. We have to remember that. Because right now it is all we have.

A little Bird told me .....