A few weeks ago, around the start of Lockdown, it was reported that an expatriate woman was to be prosecuted for sharing a false report on Corona on a local Whatsapp group. Having not seen a follow-up, that may very well have also been ‘Fake news’! It is so hard to tell these days.
For example, this morning I woke up to a post on our work Whatsapp group announcing a change to the government order lifting certain lockdown restrictions, namely free movement within zones, potentially causing a flurry of problems, angst and cancelled plans. It looked legitimate enough and I guess feasible, but one member questioned its authenticity because she had not seen the same information verified in any other news feeds.
In this instance her suspicion was warranted because the information turned out to be false. This is where we are today – where the possibility of fake news and our awareness of it is so high that we have become suspicious of much of what we read and hear.
It all too common. Earlier this month a video of an elderly woman with coronavirus being put into a body bag whilst still alive went viral. The video showed her on top of plastic sheeting struggling to breathe with a caption claiming her family had been told she was dead. It originated in Brazil and spread on WhatsApp and Facebook where various versions were shared hundreds of thousands of times, including in large, English-language conspiracy groups.
The truth was not quite as dramatic. BBC News Brazil was told by director of the Abelardo Santos Hospital in northern Brazil that the protective sheeting she was lying on was indeed a body bag, but it was used as a makeshift stretcher to transfer her to another bed. “It’s a common practice in hospitals,” he said, “especially during a pandemic which forces us to adapt”. So, the picture was genuine, but the interpretation was not just misleading, it was malicious and even mendacious.
False reporting is not new although the term ‘Fake news’ has certainly been so popularised and promoted by Donald Trump it has moved into common usage in our everyday language. With Trump, of course, it appears to be that when he sees or hears something that does not fit his narrative, he immediately declares it ‘fake news’ and simply ignores it! But as I said, this is not a new phenomenon.
In the late 1930s when the now famous Orson Wells’ War of the World’ radio play was broadcast on American radio it was reported that it had resulted in mass hysteria with tens of thousands of people fleeing their home believing it to be news reportage of a genuine alien invasion. These reports turned out to be untrue, though the myth was disseminated for decades.
While there may have been a handful of people who thought that the airing of the drama was the real thing, the panic story was “almost entirely anecdotal and largely based on sketch wire service round-ups that emphasized breadth over in-depth detail” . Yet the myth that this really had happened was kept alive until as recently as 2010 when it was debunked in a study cleverly called ‘The War of the Words Panic’.
Today our media may be markedly different, but the issue remains the same. Last year on a CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust , a majority admitted to falling for fake news at least once – citing Facebook as the leading, offending source:
86% said they had fallen for fake news at least once, with 44% saying they sometimes or frequently did.
Only 14% said they had “never” been duped by fake news.
Facebook was the most commonly cited source of fake news, with 77% users saying they had personally seen fake news there, followed by 62% of Twitter users and 74% of social media users in general. Also, in the study social media companies emerged as the leading source of user distrust in the internet — surpassed only by cybercriminals — with 75% of those surveyed citing social media platforms as contributing to their lack of trust.
One thing which I have struggled with during this period is being regulated as to when I can exercise, shop, go to work, meet friends or not. While I am appreciative of governments’ need to protect its citizens and health care systems, it is at odds with my need to make personal determinations about my health, safety and how I go about my life. It the same feeling I get when I feel manipulated, duped or lied to in the media.
Surely it is time that governments and internet companies make more effort and take more responsibility to combat fake news from social media and video sharing platforms by deleting fake news posts, videos and offending accounts and adopting consensual automated approaches to content removal and censorship?
However, just as I am torn with being controlled during a lockdown and the obvious need for the measure, I am also sensitive to the idea of controlling news as the question arises ‘where does freedom of speech start and end?’
Independent and uncontrolled media and the independence of the Fifth Estate is the cornerstone of democracy and free choice. But here’s the rub. The untrammelled phenomenon of social media means that where once press accreditation was a privilege granted only to the few, no such entry requirement is required to sign up to social media; where once an astute editor would proof and censor written copy or broadcast news reports, no such supervision and second opinion is required to post in Cyberspace. In other words, any Twit can Tweet on Twitter! There are no checks and balances, no –one to put a metaphorical red pen through cant, crudeness, crassness, propaganda or prejudice. The likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zucherberg opened up Pandora’s box , removed the filter at the top and let the opinions of the masses loose.
There is an answer but you won’t like it and you’re holding it in your hands right now! Believe nothing and accept nothing not appearing in the mainstream press or in an old-fashioned, hard-copy book.
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.
It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.