Food For Thought: Thought Dictatorship And Opinion Colonization
The digital revolution in general, and social media in particular, has made it easier and in most cases cheaper to give and receive information from a large group of people. Indeed there is a large segment of our population today who receive news via the internet and social media rather than the conventional mediums of television, radio and newspaper. However like every revolution, it has come with the good, the bad and the ugly.
We all know the good; fast and easy mode of communication which has broken the information monopoly which was once a privilege of the few. And we all know the bad: unverified and unsubstantiated information which spreads faster than wildfire. But for today I would like to point out the ugly: the thought dictatorship and the colonization of thoughts.
So what exactly do I mean when I say thought dictatorship and opinion colonization? It’s a very simple concept. It is people who otherwise advocate for freedom of speech but otherwise react negatively and sometimes abusively to people with different thoughts from their own. The “You have the right to express your views and opinions as long as they align with mine.” I call it freedom of speech versus freedom to speak.
Now thought dictatorship cuts across various topics (politics, sports, social issues, technology, economy, finance, relationships, etc) and across various segments of the population. It is not particular to one set of people or one set of topic(s). In short, debates have become tribalistic whereby those who agree on one topic tend to be vicious towards those on the opposing side. Even those who tend to agree on most things throw away decorum once they find something they can disagree on.
Now even though I said it cuts across multiple topics, but it is more vitriol when it comes to social and political matters. Tanzanians, at least on social media, are divided more than ever when it comes to politics and social matters, with each side having an eager crew of crusaders ready to spit venom at a moments notice. It is a result of a polarized world we currently live in where middle ground is almost always impossible to reach.
It is not easy to resist the urge to put across your opinions as forcefully as possible, especially if it is something you are passionate about or something that affects you directly. However success of any agenda involves bringing in together as many people as possible, mostly people who might not be as passionate about something as you are. Thus fighting words might be a strong rallying cry for those who feel as deeply as you do (preaching to the choir) but might not be as effective in bringing on board the larger public.
Through it all, it is national leaders and thought leaders who set the tone for everyone else. Hence it is imperative now more than ever that leaders use their tongues to guide those they influence towards bipartisanship, respect and unity. But if all that fails, I leave you with some words of advice from President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Thomas J. Kibwana