By Henry Olufemi Macauley
A rolling wave of madness has gripped our beloved land, and threatens to tear brother from brother, sister from sister, threatens to sever relationships, destroy innocent lives, kill and maim reputations and futures, render irrelevant principles and dignity, and all other ills and misfortunes that such new weapons of mass destruction can inflict on our hapless unsuspecting society.
This spreading cancer of scribbled diarrhea that spews out with venom the senseless attacks of slander and hate, using slivers of unchecked information and not facts, not even the readily available “google” info , not to dare mention the obviously too strenuous job of investigating and seeking the other side, or of using common sense to evaluate rumors before spreading, is the latest weapon of mass destruction, our own very “penocide”
Penocide is the result of a rabid massacre of hard earned reputation and respect, a gory slautering of dignity and character, a mass burial of potential and futures, unchecked and lawless, the new rebel without restraint, constraints and rules. The curious thing is that not only the human victims , who are selected for maybe their brazen stance against corruption, or their unappreciated alignment to one political Group or another, is currently in danger of extinction. The very noble profession we all loved and felt very safe with and protected by., admired from near and far, and which enjoyed the researched information, mature wit and hours of entertainment is moving inexorably closer to obliteration. Journalism, as we knew it, is simply and sadly taking its last gasps of laboured and feverish breath before its inevitable demise if nothing serious and heavy is not done to save all of us.
The Social Media has made it possible for rodents to climb into quick click prominence and have their day in the sun, and scurry back into the safety of darkness after delivering their IED whilst the owners of the house look helplessly on, sometimes with mild concern, but most times nowadays with resigned acceptance that nothing can be done. These were actually the words of one of our finest, name withheld for his own security lest he becomes the next casualty in this mad onslaught. “What can we do?”, he was wont to say. The topic under discussion then was a total fabrication by an individual parading himself as a journalist when one wonders if he even attempted any formal examination in his life. The grammar and spelling struggling with each other for notoriety , the structure scattered like a smashed raw egg, and the flow much like the spillway of a large hydro dam. The pain on my friend’s face belied his ready acceptance of his fate, as a Bona Fide practitioner and a Doyen of a such a noble profession, being alive to witness a desecration of the same, on the altar of the selfish and interests of mostly hired pens. That no one took time to check anything anymore, that investigative journalism was limited to the slipped information purloined albeit illegally, that no attempt to respect ethics or standards and that no consideration of the impact on the individual or the Society, and that mostly were propelled by nothing more than a slipped Le50,000, were to my view, clearly causing my friend unrelenting and deep pain, but more so that he was impotent in doing anything about it. I must confess that I was not kind, I went at him that Society expects to be protected by rules and regulations governing professions, and monitoring by the organizations of these professions, such as the Institution of Engineers, the Medical and Dental Association, the Bar Association, etc, and that anything less is suicide. I pressed on that we expect protection from those we expect to be the sentinels of the published word and information that shape public opinion. I wondered if I am the only one who sees the deadly potential of an unchecked continuation of this malaise as we enter the political season. Is anyone paying attention?
My friend looked at me with slumped shoulders and a really tired look and said “these are not journalists, they are people who write anything and are not bound by any rules”
I felt a chill down my spine, a deep sadness swept over me, as I realized Society has to fend for itself against this new clear and present danger, the danger of being fed with lies, the danger of being deceived, the danger of having our eyes, ears and minds abused, the danger of pitting us against each other, the danger of hate and disaffection spreading, the danger of reputations and image being slaughtered at will, the danger of our Society not only stagnating but retrogressing, the danger of us bequeathing a jungle of strife and discord for our children to get lost or mauled in, all sorts of danger that would ensure our gains are reversed as our heroes are defiled.
The Sierra Leonean reading public is facing nothing less than a penocide and the public has to rise to protect itself. We must insist on facts before publication and must not suffer fools gladly, we must insist on proper conduct of all who want to come into the public space, standards and ethics must be enforced by print and electronic media houses who must be held responsible for material they offer a platform to and even Admins of Social Media Groups must take responsibility for what is meted out on their Groups, the Public deserves no less.
Maybe, just maybe, we can staunch the bloodletting which is sadly ebbing our lives away, and turning us all into victims of penocide.
Edward Burke reminds us that evil thrives when good men keep silent. I would make bold to add that evil further spreads when bad men make noise.
May God help us.