IN these days of political rallies without campaigns and posters bereft of messages, a new form of danger is creeping upon us. Slowly, like malignant cells, it is growing surreptitiously and many Nigerians do not seem to bother. I speak of a brand of terrorism, which a Facebook friend last week dubbed ‘media terrorism’.
A dictionary defines terrorism as “the unofficial or unauthorised use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims” and so we can juxtapose what media terrorism is. It is always a painful experience asking myself regularly, how did we become so intolerant as a group of people? At what point did we lose our ability that multiple views engender growth in any society, not least in one as diverse as ours? Partisanship remains an evil in Nigeria driving so much bile in the media without most citizens recognizing the evil we are bringing on ourselves.
On Sunday, January 25, news broke that Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church, otherwise known as Winners Chapel, hosted President Goodluck Jonathan at his church headquarters in Ota, Ogun State. Oyedepo, according to a report of the encounter later traced to a blogger and so-called activist, said, “We will open the gate of hell on those who opposed you,” thereby forcing the Twitter and Facebook communities on overdrive. Spreading like rapid bush fire after being picked by another blogger known for plagiarism, hell was let loose on Jonathan, Oyedepo, and Peoples Democratic Party.
Surprisingly or unsurprisingly as one has discovered, some professional journalists latched on this and pronto it became the news item of the day. They reported it on their Facebook walls with some actually forgetting basic news reporting rule we were taught as cub reporters – if in doubt, leave out or find out.
While one may excuse bloggers who have never identified themselves as journalists, it bothered me and still does that some folks who have practised journalism for decades would go to town with the blogger’s account as actual reportage of what transpired at the worship service. First, many confused the church location, reporting it as being situated in Lagos when Ota, though a contiguous community, is located in Ogun state. But that error paled into insignificance when the report turned out to be a hoax.
A journalist felt so ashamed after discovering that Oyedepo never said what was attributed to him that he pulled down his scathing comments and called for regulation of online media. One defended his action by saying that he merely asked if it was true that Oyedepo uttered such words. A friend and colleague whose hatred for organised religion is legendary called me on Monday morning asking if the reportage was true.
I directed him to a senior colleague’s Facebook wall; he was actually at the third service that day and tweeted the encounter as it happened. He was livid and subsequently provided a full transcript on his organisation news website adding that while he is not an Oyedepo aficionado, truth is a burden that all journalists must bear. Painfully I watched some journalists still refusing to accept that Oyedepo never said so, even after both audio and video links were supplied. This newspaper on Tuesday, January 27, provided a detailed account just to establish what happened. One of the most ridiculous defence of those who continued to perpetuate the falsehood was that ‘he has said something like that before’.
When you remember the words of William James, the father of American psychology, that “There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it,” you will know we have a huge problem with media terrorists. Increasingly, we are getting intolerant of contrary views and it becomes more worrisome when journalists who ought to be purveyor of diverse opinions are now cheerleaders of those who are uncomfortable with dissent. Maybe we all need to read Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent again so that we can see the inherent danger in this. Joyfully, my informal survey revealed that while both APC and PDP can boast of fanatical supporters, they are not in large proportion that they can overwhelm others who are more tolerant. But we should not leave the battle to the rational minds in the two parties as Nigeria belongs to all of us. Plurality of views is a major kernel of democracy and ours cannot be different.
To the media terrorists, have you ever wondered what kind of country you will wake up to after the March presidential election if your candidate lost?

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