23 April 2018
As I read the Quartz Heading “1984 - In Sri Lanka, Facebook is like the ministry of truth.” - I burst out laughing.
Following is an excerpt of what happened :
[Rumors of a Muslim plot to sterilize Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority led to real-life violence in February that resulted in the beating of a Muslim restaurant worker. He was falsely accused of spiking the shop’s food with sterilization pills in the small town of Ampara.
Because of rumors on Facebook, a lump of flour found in the food was transformed in the mind of the patron into a sterilization pill. Language barriers between the Muslim operators and the Sinhalese patron made it impossible to correct the falsity and a mob at the restaurant formed beat the worker, destroyed the shop, and set fire to a local mosque.
A mobile-phone video of the incident got posted on a Facebook group called the Buddhist Information Center. It spread, stoking violence toward Muslims across the country that resulted in more than one death. Mobs in several towns burned mosques, shops and homes owned by Muslims, the Times reported.
In March, the government of Sri Lanka shut down Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Viber in an attempt to quell ethnic strife in the country. But the issue of Facebook’s role remains.]
Shutting down Facebook is an example of shooting the messenger. Below is a report of what happened in this issue between myself and Asian Tribune who to my mind are not much more regulated than Facebook users but are / were not banned by the Government:
‘Australian Human Rights Commission dismisses complaint lodged against Asian Tribune
Thu, 2007-01-18 02:30 — admin
The credibility of my sharing could easily have been checked with the sources that my husband referred Caritas to – starting with the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. That Commission limited its services to the level of lower courts – requiring complainants to produce direct evidence that there was racial bias. When the Police listed me as Sri Lankan despite my protests that I was ‘Australian’ by law – they exceeded their jurisdiction and that was a social opinion and not a lawful derivation. Yet there was ‘no evidence’ verdict by the Commission. I was sent to prison by the Vice Chancellor of the University of NSW – strongly infected by Americanism, who used his position as a social medium and not as part of the boundary within which the University upheld the order of law. Eventually Mother Truth took the dismissal baton in Her hand to send the Vice Chancellor out of the University.
The Quartz confirms:
‘The social-media company isn’t quite like the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which works to change, correct, and falsify news and information to keep Big Brother in power. Facebook does not manipulate and edit the content on its site. It just provides a platform for distribution.
But that vast power has governments throughout the world questioning how social media is shaping opinions and behavior, raising questions of censorship, free speech, and technology’s ability to shape and form modern society.’
Good governments whose relationships with citizens are regulated by law, based on common belief, would not fear Facebook. If the official mainstream media, likewise had regulated themselves and operated within their institutional boundaries, they would not have lost their audience to Facebook users. Recently I participated in a relevant conversation with a fellow Sri Lankan professional who responded to my article ‘Is Terrorism a thing of the Past?’
[Where Ignorance is Bliss It is Folly to be wise
Don't caption your article with the word Terrorism
In this country and perhaps in others as well, writers have liberally used the word Terrorism. Applied it to all manner of violations of discipline, social discipline and get away saying it is Terrorism
Quite frankly if the definition were to be applied loosely Terrorism begins with the parents who at times Terrorise the children in order to discipline them or for other reasons
What about teachers in schools and then in civil society the Law enforcing authority Terrorises you as if they were the authorities of Terror. There is no greater Terrorist than the country’s Police Force. Don't they terrorise the general public.
Take it easy
Terrorism has many faces]
I responded as follows:
[Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me also.
I treasure the experiences of continuing with engagements where the other side took refuge in ‘blissful ignorance’ and used ‘freedom of expression’ to display that ignorance. My belief in myself – helped me complete both side positions and strengthened the common structure. One of the first Sri Lankan high officials I so engaged with is the immediate past Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia – Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe. He is a good man but badly brought up by his government parents. I informed him that if his intention was to win over the Tamil community of Lankan origin then to not refer to the Tigers as Terrorists. In fact one could be sued for defamation over such statements because LTTE is not listed as a Terrorist organization here in Australia. I think that is how we Australians get insider information from communities.You say ‘Quite frankly if the definition were to be applied loosely Terrorism begins with the parents who at times Terrorise the children in order to discipline them or for other reasons’
My two girls said as teenagers when I asked them to stir the gravy – that it looked like the witch’s brew. That meant that I was the witch to them. They said they would not be strict with their children. One did not get married which I think because to her ‘freedom’ was bliss. The other one has two daughters whom she is soft with except when they are really disobedient. But when they are in my care – I discipline them. I said to one when she was about 2 years old – and I referred to her skirt as ‘dress’ that when ‘Patti’ says it’s a dress it’s a dress. She needed me to allow her to play with the rotti dough – and hence she said ‘yes patti it’s a dress’
I learnt early to reverse terrorism charges. When the little one was about a year old and I insisted she had to have shampoo – she moved to the other end of the bathtub and said ‘I love grampsie and nana’ – her Dad’s parents. I said that’s ok – you still have to have the shampoo. Then when I was towelling her dry, she said ‘Patti – you don’t speak English’. Puzzled I asked her whether her Mum spoke English and she said yes. Then I asked ‘what about Thaatha? (my husband whose Lankan accent is stronger than mine) . Kali said ‘he speaks English’. Then I knew it was her way of taking revenge. When the parents came home to pick her up – I shared the experience with them and David asked her ‘what language does Patti speak?’ Kali said ‘mandarin’ . She had a Mandarin speaking carer on some days and she used it to say I was not ‘Australian’. If she were not my granddaughter I would say that racism was budding in her. It’s belief that absorbs such ignorance and prevents reverse terrorism. To the extent of our own belief in the other – we could never be terrorised by the other.You say ‘What about teachers in schools and then in civil society the Law enforcing authority Terrorises you as they were the authorities of Terror. There is no greater Terrorist than the countries Police Force. Don't they terrorise the general public.’
The armed forces in North were seen as terrorists by the few who were neither here nor there. But the rest is political hype which can only be negated by opposite political hype. In this instance a leader in media resorted to it and I became her/his opposition. Otherwise it is bad for Sri Lanka where it was said and would have been open to be abused by those looking for shortcuts. If it is good for Sri Lanka – it is healthy.
The above sharing was strongly based on common belief at that level. It would not go out of the boundaries of our relationship through email. When there is lack of belief – one has to look within and not to the other to blame or for cure.
The Facebook ban was the other side of the Truth known to the Government about itself – that it banned global media from the battlefields in 2009. So long as Tamils and other minorities remain within their respective community boundaries and do not react – it’s a war between the Buddhists in Government and the Buddhists in society.
The 1972 Constitution empowered Buddhist leaders – due to lack of belief in Buddhist monks – one of whom murdered the Prime Minister who expressed his political desire in the form of ‘Sinhala only’ Act. Like Soorapathman – who changes form as per his desires that ‘Sinhala Only’ desire is now sitting as ‘Buddhism foremost’ Article in the Constitution. For the Constitution to be politically balanced – the desire of leader must become the fear of the citizen. When this is regulated by law – the relationship is confirmed.
But when the citizen takes over the Government – the citizen’s pleasure becomes the Government’s pain. In democracy reverse hierarchy happens when there is confusion between skin (majority vote) and substance (belief based Administration). The mind obese from majority power is unhealthy. A party that looks outside the boundaries of relationship based on Belief, becomes distracted by hearsay. Non-Buddhists are ‘outside’ the boundaries of Buddhist relationships. If they stay within the Sovereign borders of their own communities – one can observe the manifestations of Buddhism foremost karma. Minorities are entitled to protect themselves but not attack. That is the non-violent, non-cooperation pathway shown by Mahatma Gandhi.