Facebook Political Debates Deserve X-Rating

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BAMIDELE JOHNSON

On Sunday, a tweet had me scratching my head. It said Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church (alias Winners Chapel) proudly announced that he’d open the gates of hell get to anyone opposed to President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election into afterlife’s mega-furnace.

In no time, it was frenziedly tweeted and retweeted, getting everywhere (including news websites) and Buhari’s supporters into an almighty fit of rage. Cue X-Rated curses.

The alleged threat was issued with the President in attendance as a worshipper in the church.  On Facebook, which allows you deliver considerably more venom and malice than Twitter’s 140 characters do, curses were delivered in commercial quantities. Manufactures of the curses had no evidence (video or audio) that the preacher said what was attributed to him.

They did not want any. Belief that he said it was more important that the fact that they were not in church, where he purportedly said it, and were not in possession of any electronic proof. They cursed him to their hearts’ desire. His presumed offence was his support for Jonathan.

This is typical of political discussions on Facebook which, because the elections are already upon us, delivers Boko Haram-scale violence, though in words.

A recent Facebook post by a friend appeared to capture the lunacy. “It is good, he posted, “that the political discussions on Facebook are not done physically, otherwise some guys would have resorted to blows.”

By physically, he meant face-to-face, obviously. My friend isn’t the type that goes fight-hunting on Facebook or one that would pick a fight with himself even if he was the only one commenting on his Facebook post.

As much as I agree with him,  he understated the menace accruable from political debates on Facebook. If  political debates on Facebook were held with debaters within reach of one another, blows, I am certain, would be the least harmful tools that’d be used in the combat.

Bayonets, cutlasses, knives,  and most likely, military-scale firearms, will be generously deployed. Debates on Facebook are getting more poisonous, as debaters get increasingly estranged from reason and restraint.

These days in my Facebook orbit, politics is the new religion, with Jonathan’s zealots taking on Buhari’s fundamentalists. Nothing else is responsible for this descent other than our inability to understand that what we believe is not necessarily what is true. A belief remains a belief, not a fact. A fact does not depend on belief to make it a fact. It is only in religion or superstition that beliefs are taken as facts.

Supporters of the two major presidential candidates appear to see the two men as deities. Each side holds a faith position, which leaves no room in between.

What it delivers is zealotry, the type we have driving debates on social media and elsewhere. Supporters of Buhari are godless, have short memories, are infantile and unpatriotic, allege Jonathan’s supporters. Buhari supporters react the same way, treating members of the other camp like members of a rival religious sect.

The belief that Buhari cannot be a good president is nothing more than a belief. It is not fact. Buhari’s supporters claim that Jonathan will be worse in his second term, is similarly, not fact however hard we try to make it so.

A point of view isn’t necessarily valid or invalid because we agree or disagree with it. It doesn’t become idiotic or godless because it goes against what we believe. On Facebook, I have seen friends swap the vilest of insults on Facebook, with one alleging that the person with whom he disagreed had threatened him with physical harm. Why? Because they sit on opposite political benches.

The men over whom we fight are not as foolish as we are. Segun Oni and Kayode Fayemi spent years spitting at each other. Today, they are broom wielders in the same party. Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Rauf Aregbesola acted like men who’d happily kill each other. For some seven years. Today, they are associates. Femi Fani-Kayode spent some time on the side of the APC, where he was a fountain of anti-Jonathan venom. We all know who he is currently crusading for.

Restraint, please.

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