Monday, 17 December 2012


Caroline Mutoko, Allow me to School You on Hate Speech through Social Media by Robert Alai

I am doing this post here because it is all about hate speech on social media.

First let me quote Maya Angelou;

“We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.”

On her column on The Star, radio presenter Caroline Mutoko bitterly attacks Kenyans on social networks regarding hate speech. Mutoko refers to most Kenyans using social media as “myopic and with little else”. He writings is full of all manner of negative adjectives she uses to describe Kenyans on social media. By the end of paragraph 3 of he column, you get the drift. Mutoko’s real beef is not with “hate speech on social media” but really she wish that someone contained the rise of social media because it makes her powerless unlike before when Kenyans had to rely on her to have the leaders address their issues.

Kenyans on social media are from the same mothers and fathers who begot Mutoko. Some of them are CEOs, radio presenters, ICT geeks or just enthusiasts whose actions online does not deserve such tirades from Mutoko or anyone else. You cannot generalise everyone online and then use words like “numbskulls” and “small-minded”, you get to wonder if this lady really knows what she is talking about. Mutoko is so yesteryear because the numbskulls and small-minded nincompoops online decided so. She will not determine to us when we need to hold Martha Karua, Raila, Uhuru, Ruto or Kibaki to task. She lost that power because Safaricom now serves up 95% of the 4.7 million internet users meaning that this is a key constituency of smart Kenyans who will not have to rely on Mutoko or whoever to get what they want.

These people had to depend on FM stations 95% of the times just few years ago. Now for every one hour this group spend to listen to radio stations, they spend a further 4.3 hours on social media to get the facts rights by comparing notes with their friends or getting news online. This constituency worries Mutoko because despite Kiss FM being one of the few stations to go online, they terminated their streaming services saying that they thought that internet would eat on their influence. Kiss FM and Radio Africa in general is still very cagey about the internet. That is why all news on The Star would not be available online until a day or two later. They believe that by breaking news online, they kill the paper copy. The same argument they apply over streaming their shows online. It is so arachaic and ignorant you wonder which century the editors at Radio Africa lives

Some lecture to Mutoko, being on radio does not equate you to being smarter than the average kenyan. You might just be as dumb and ignorant as you are now even if you have been exposed on radio that much. Sometimes exposure does not help because you are so thick and proud in your dumb self that you don’t want to listen to the innocent advise from a mama mboga participating in a call-in session.

Calling Kenyans on social media “lazy numbskulls” just because they “have not ignited a revolution equal to the Arab spring” is simply foolish and pedestrian. What revolution do you want in Kenya? Do the Kenyans on social media share your desire for a revolution. Kenyans on social media are a bit much more smarter than the poor slum and village dwellers whom the likes of Caroline Mutoko and Joshua Sang can incite to kill and maim anyone.

Just like most Kenyans are “small-minded” , Mutoko should not expect anything different from social media. The real beef Caroline Mutoko has with social media is its power. The internet has given very kawaida Kenyans the power to stop stupidity in the media and even force action. When Mutoko says that “the majority ……will remain anonymous because even they don’t wish to be openly associated with they trash they write”, she misses the whole point and shows that she understands nothing about social media, leave alone the internet. She should care to read about internet anonymity here. It is a well protected right that not even Facebook, Google or the US government will dare mess with.

Anonymous speech is older than even the US and is well protected by the first amendment. A much-cited 1995 US Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:

Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

What is hate speech online to Mutoko? The only case of hate speech online presented by Mutoko in the article happened in South Africa where a South African policeman, Juda Dagane, ranted against “whites” in South Africa and promised to teach them a lesson after the death of “black messiah” (Mandela). In the whole write-up, there is no single case mentioning hate speech by Kenyans online.

Mutoko goes even further to create her own definition of hate speech limiting it to hate because of ethnicity. Hate speech goes beyond ethnicity. It encompasses the disparage of a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, color, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic.

When Nancy Baraza was running roughshod over a poor security guard at Kenya’s premier shopping mall, Village Market, Caroline Mutoko saw Baraza’s actions as a reflection on the empowerment of the females. She even throw a childish tantrum once at the UNHCR parking lot at Lion Place when she double parked her car and when she was requested to remove it, she insulted the UNHCR and called them all manner of names. Just for requesting that she stop double-parking and consider others.

I don’t deny there is hate speech online. But people like Mutoko are fighting the power social media has given to the majority of Kenyans with the excuse of hate speech. If she dresses badly or her show is whack, Kenyans will say it easily to million others through Facebook and Twitter. That really makes Mutoko goes mad because just as politicians, the only other constituency which would never allow kawaida Kenyans to have so much power is the mainstream media.

Social media dilutes the influence of the likes of Mutoko and other adults-in-diapers running our media. The days when Caroline Mutoko would fake her kidnap and then Kenyans would be kept guessing are long gone. Now every move is monitored and even a Caroline Mutoko faked breast blunder would not escape the attention of kawaida Kenyans acting through social media.

Mutoko should be the last person to lecture Kenyans on good behaviour considering that she has insulted even an innocent politician like Martha Karua, having a good time just because she had access to a microphone. The craziier you are on TV and FM Radio stations, the higher the ratings you get. And if Bonoko is a presenter, does Mutoko think that she will ever convince anyone that it requires anything saner or normal to make it on radio. Success on Radio looks to be directly proportion to the degree of madness you display on air.

The fact that the government knows who runs or present on such-and-such a radio station has not stopped them from spreading porn to the living rooms of millions of Kenyans. The reach of radio and TV in Kenya is estimated to be around 65% according to this CCK sponsored study, internet reaches less than 10% with only around 45% of the around 3.8 million Kenyans regularly using internet active on social media.

Get some education Mutoko. The internet is like Gikomba, don’t condemn all traders in Gikomba just because you don’t agree with some. And also care to specifically mention those you believe does wrong. You cannot condemn all Kenyans on social media platforms while you rely on a case of a confused South African as evidence of such behavior by Kenyans

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