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20/09/2017

Lessons from Rwanda genocide tell us to worry about hatred on WhatsApp

  • Indian Express
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The fake messages, hate videos and mean jibes that we get on WhatsApp and other digital forums cannot be simply dismissed as irrelevant.   Massacre during Rwanda's genocideMassacre during Rwanda's genocide

March 28.─ “The graves are not yet full.” This was the slogan broadcast on the privately-owned Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC) during the worst modern-era genocide: In 1994, about 800,000 Tutsis were killed in 12 weeks by the Hutus in Rwanda. The genesis of the genocide lay in Rwandan colonial history but the trigger and direction was provided by the media, particularly the radio. It became a powerful weapon to incite and direct the Rwandan genocide.

Twenty three years have passed hence, and India is miles away from Rwanda, but the lessons offered then hold great relevance today. The fake messages, hate videos and mean jibes that we get on WhatsApp and other digital forums cannot be simply dismissed as irrelevant. Put together, this narrative of animosity portends dangerous times as part of a larger project of “Hatriotism”.

From early 1990, anti-Tutsi articles and graphic cartoons had begun appearing in the Kangura newspaper. In June 1993, the RTLMC began broadcasting in Rwanda. The radio station was rowdy and used language of the street — like any other popular radio station, there were disc jockeys, pop music and phone-ins. It was designed to appeal to the unemployed, the delinquents and the gangs of thugs in the militia. As Linda Melvern, a British journalist, noted, “In a largely illiterate population, the radio station soon had a very large audience who found it immensely entertaining.”

The transcripts of RTLMC’s broadcasts are available in Duke University’s International Monitor Institute. A lot of attention has since been focused on the radio station’s efforts to direct the extermination — broadcasts told people to “go to work” and everyone knew that meant get your machete and kill Tutsis. But what has escaped greater scrutiny is the manner — by demonising the Tutsis and encouraging hate and violence — in which the radio station prepared the ground among the people of Rwanda for genocide ...

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