The Vicious Political Fervour promoted by Social Media Today

Michael Roberts

My past studies of ethnic pogroms in Sri Lanka and India alerted me to the power of oral communication and emotional voices in sparking retaliation against an ethnic other in neighbourhood or region.[1] In May-June 1915 oral tales of Muslim atrocity (mostly concocted one can assume) were carried along the railway tracks and thus converted a clash at Castle Street Kandy on the night of the 28th May night into a series of violent attacks on Muslims residing in such towns as Kegalle, Rambukkana, Colombo, Panadura on the 29th and 30th May and thence to Galle and Matara and their outlying road networks between the 1st and 4th June.

 

Witness the scene at Godapitiya in the interior near Akuressa when the British GA from Matara reached the spot on the 4th June 1915:

On arrival I found a terrible scene of ruin, but no sign of the rioters. . . The village was in flames. The mosque, one of the finest in the district, had evidently been blown up with dynamite, while the surrounding coconut trees had been felled so as to fall on the roof. Parts of it were on fire. There was one dead Moorman in the compound, while 8 others (two of whom died on the way to Hospital) were seriously injured. It was most pitiful and one’s sense of helplessness was overwhelming.”[2]

The point that I am underlining here is that emotional Sinhala voices carrying vehement tales along the rail network, and thence along the roads branching off from the railway-station towns, promoted the attacks at a moment in the island history where the two communities were face-to-face in a symbolic political struggle.[3] The time-chart of attacks therefore marks the channels of gossip and denunciation in histrionic voice that sparked violence.

In recent times my articles on the Eelam War and Sinhala-Tamil relations in Colombo Telegraph have invariably resulted in verbal denigration from readers — a few Tamil by name and others masked by pseudonyms. I have usually avoided engagement because that ‘battle terrain’ presents an unwinnable contest.

In recent years I have advertised some of the Thuppahi items — mine as well as essays by others — in Facebook. A few have occasionally drawn adverse remarks from those I deem to be Sinhala chauvinists. But just yesterday/today, a temperate political essay fashioned by a small group of Sinhalese appealing to their “Tamil brethren” [and thus to my Tamil brethren] promoted fire and brimstone from one Suku Navaratnam, AFTER Rizvi Hasan, a FB reader, placed my FB entry within his own site.

Navaratnam, apparently, is a Tamil medical man domiciled in Scarborough in UK. Rather to my surprise, he turns out to be a product of Trinity College, Kandy. This indicates that political fervour among the well-educated is no less feverish than the zealotry of those in the lower strata of society.

The bile and abuse directed by Navaratnam at Rizvi Hasan and Michael Roberts are not, of course, edifying, The abuse is marked by inanity and imbecility … and have been immediately challenged by others ………….

Those challenges notwithstanding, this set of comments is presented here in order to promote thoughts about the incendiary capacity vested in modern social media. Can it not be said that vituperation in these channels deepens and sharpens extremist thought and hinders compromise?

The seeds of sharpening conflict among Sri Lankans abroad and within the island, in my reading, do not rest only within the hearts and minds of Wahhabi zealots, Sinhala or Tamils chauvinists, or those within extremist groups on the right and left of politics. Numerically small collectives in pursuit of “righteous causes” (in their own estimation) sometimes mount campaigns that are edged with intimidation, abuse and border on violence. Their “truths,” moreover, are sometimes founded upon fallacy and false ‘facts.’.

It is in order to generate reflections about the reverberations generated within social media that I place Suku Navaratnam’s verbal abuse before the public. That he is a medical man and one who was educated at Trinity College, Kandy will no doubt cause surprise – the more so when he turns out to be photogenic and genial in visage. All of us, surely, must be more temperate in our public pronouncements, whether on Twitter, FB, Google, print media, bar, club or roadside.

RESPONSE to FACEBOOK Version of https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2019/12/19/dear-tamil-brethren/?fbclid=IwAR1ckV3-rPaOzB-lJZ8QC5xPIjPUt13WLn-FVY0AoCevQLJw1bdojHLN_fU

Suku Navaratnam: Another clown posing as an academic …… birds of a feather flock together! On what basis does this so-called academic assume that all Tamils want a separate state? On what basis do you assume that all Tamils are LTTE supporters?
Your higher IQ that somehow could not get you into the Colombo and Peradeniya medical schools, only for your father to buy your medical degree from NCMC?

Rizvi Hasan in response: Suku Navaratnam at least my father bought me a honourable degree with his own savings (rather than borrowing from friends & packing off his son for higher studies to UK) on which I built up repute & patriotism in return. What did your parent (with monies borrowed) buy you from UK in return? Was it a rotten ill-gotten mind aligned to the diaspora scums inclined to destroying their country of birth while bum sucking their adopted home land natives for survival. What for talking on patriotism? To be honest, you are an absolute disgrace to your late honourable parents, not forgetting your dad who also practised alongside my respected father in a common chamber while your mom was a v much adored teacher at trinity. Who knows whether they adopted a swine for some reason? Learn to respect your native land you dementic mentally insane scoundrel sulking in frustration. At least now hope for a decent rebirth!

He would have never thought that you would grow up to being a bloody disgrace to Sri Lanka for he was one who nurtured patriotism into my mind. You on your part are an absolute disgrace to the tamil community. I have plenty of friends born to tamil homes of repute & leading v dignified lives in unity with all as proud sri lankans. As a matter of fact we all behaves as brothers from a common parenthood. You would not even get close to being their sewage cleaner or scavenger. I could not find better words to describe you. As regards my academic achievements or how I won them is none of your business. Now go & wash your neighbours toilets as a retired elderly.

Suku Navaratnam: …… “Scumbag, don’t disgrace yourself further. Too bad that your frustration has damaged your character to the point at which greed dominates. Cavorting around with crooks and murderers and making unfounded race based allegations only brings disgrace disrepute and to your honourable family.
Remember, an academic, and a scientific one at that, must cite evidence making assertions. What can you cite to support your allegations? One begins to wonder if the “professorship” is just a cheap reward for your political campaigning! Is it?

Rizvi Hasan: Suku Navaratnam my father must be turning in his grave that he took over & nurtured a swine in you after the hopeless situation you all were in. He would have never thought that you would grow up to being a bloody disgrace to Sri Lanka for he was one who nurtured patriotism into my mind. You on your part are an absolute disgrace to the tamil community. I have plenty of friends born to tamil homes of repute & leading v dignified lives in unity with all as proud sri lankans. As a matter of fact we all behaves as brothers from a common parenthood. You would not even get close to being their sewage cleaner or scavenger. I could not find better words to describe you. As regards my academic achievements or how I won them is none of your business. Now go & wash your neighbours toilets as a retired elderly.

Rashantha De Alwis Seneviratne; …… Rizvi Hasan looks like the man is jealous like hell! Pau.

Rizvi Hasan:  ……… Rashantha De Alwis Seneviratne he is a discard even by his own relatives.

Lakmin Abeygoonesekera: ……….Rashantha De Alwis Seneviratne This Suku Navaratnam, idiot is equally deplorable as a racist economic refugee in Scarborough. The pathetic clown is jealous, that he doesnt have a country.

Rashantha De Alwis Seneviratne: ………. Lakmin Abeygoonesekera probably

Suku Navaratnam: ……… Michael Roberts hides his African slave ancestry by covering himself in the Sinhala Buddhist nationalistic narrative. Another fake academic who writes opinion pieces under the cover of academic research. A true scumbag who has sold his soul to the devil.

Rashantha De Alwis Seneviratne: ……….. Suku Navaratnam what a demented human! Michael Roberts is an Academic. End of story. You need treatment for hatred.

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

[Kathiravan] 2012 “An Angry Tamil: Kathiravan confronts Roberts,” 27 February 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/an-angry-tamil-kathiravan-confronts-roberts/

Roberts, Michael 1990 “Noise as cultural struggle: tom-tom beating, the British and communal disturbances in Sri Lanka, 1880s-1930s,” in Veena Das (ed.) Mirrors of violence, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 240-85.

Roberts, Michael 1994a Exploring confrontation. Sri Lanka: politics, culture and history, Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Roberts, Michael 1994b “The imperialism of silence under the British raj: arresting the drum,” in Roberts, Exploring confrontation. Sri Lanka: politics, culture and history, Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers, pp.149-81.

Roberts, Michael 1994c “Mentalities, ideologues, assailants, historians and the pogrom against the Moors in 1915,” in Roberts, Exploring confrontation. Sri Lanka: politics, culture and history, Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers, pp.149-81.

Roberts, Michael 1994d “The agony and ecstasy of a pogrom: southern Lanka, July 1983,” in Roberts, Exploring confrontation. Sri Lanka: politics, culture and history, Reading:Harwood Academic Publishers, pp. 317-25. …. Reprinted in Nethra, 2003 vol. 6: 199-213.

Roberts, Michael 1996 “Teaching lessons, removing evil: strands of moral puritanism in Sinhala nationalist practice,” South Asia, Special Issue, XIX: 205-20.

Roberts, Michael 2009 Marakkala Kolahaalaya: Mentalities directing the pogrom of 1915,” in Roberts, confrontations I Sri Lanka, Vijitha Yapa Piblications, 2009, chap 5, pp113-53.

Roberts, Michael 2017  “Kill Any Sikh: The Anti-Sikh Pogrom of 1984 in Delhi in Bhawan Singh’s IMAGES,” 26 March 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/kill-any-sikh-the-anti-sikh-pogrom-of-1984-in-delhi-in-bhawan-singhs-images/

Roberts, Michael 2017 Anguish as Empowerment …and A Path to Retribution,” 22 March 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/?p=24595&preview=trueWalia

END NOTES

[1] Apart from my two articles on the 1915 anti-Moor pogrom, see the other articles on the power of histrionic voice in fermenting ethnic violence.

[2] Diary entry by Browning (AGA, Matara), 4 June 1915, DNA 26/173.

[3] This aspect was (and is) the more central issue and can be gleaned if readers visit the two articles in Exploring Confrontation 1994 and the reproduction of one of these essays in Roberts, Confrontations,2009.

 

5 Comments

Filed under accountability, atrocities, chauvinism, communal relations, cultural transmission, disparagement, ethnicity, heritage, historical interpretation, life stories, Muslims in Lanka, politIcal discourse, power politics, psychological urges, racist thinking, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, Tamil migration, tolerance, trauma, vengeance, world events & processes

5 responses to “The Vicious Political Fervour promoted by Social Media Today

  1. Pingback: An Act of Consciousness Raising: The Concept ‘Pogrom’ and its Extension to Sri Lanka: | Thuppahi's Blog

  2. Rohan Moonemalle

    Mistaken identity. This so called “Trinitian” is not a medical man. Instead he is a well known Skype Accountant who covers up financial frauds via Skype. Last I heard the fellow lives in Unionville, Ontario.

  3. Arjuna Perera

    Michael,

    The real question that arises is “what is the origin of racism?”

    Is it indoctrinated by external forces and experiences, or do these forces merely act as a catalyst for something that’s already within?

    The answer I dare say may be genetic. And part of our internal software.

    Herds, packs, troups, prides, flocks, swams…
    Every part of the animal kingdom displays it, born not by sentient intent, but pure basal animal instinct.

    Human tribalism may stem from that natural design.

  4. Anthony de Silva

    Mr. Roberts, The 1st time in my life when I came to know that Sri Lankans are Sinhalese, Tamils,Muslims,Burger, etc was in 1983. I was 15 then and my 1st A-Levels Year at St. Peter’s (CMB4). Long story short, I have an analytical mind and it became my life’s mission to get to the truth. Here is the truth: The 1983 riots was organized by Prabahakran (who was living in Alwis Town, Hendala, Wattala) byt paying millions to 7 Sinhalese trhugs to kill and or intimidate Tamilis who did not want to pay him ‘Kappam’ for his war. Fast forward to 2009 and these Tamils living aborad have now lost their souce of income of being able to collect ‘kappam'(which is about CA$15 per person, per month plus other ‘fund raisers’) from non LTTE Tamils. Everybody in high-offices knows of what I write to you – maybe you do too. I believe the ‘diapora’ is now DESPERATE because the winning of Donald Trump. Brexit, etc AND the recent victory of Gotabaya – the successful averting of ‘riots’ after Easter Sunday, etc is making them realize that their quest to recommence their ‘cash cow’ is fading fast… you may not wish to publish my coomment… but if you read this you will know ‘the why’ these ‘LTTE-tamils’ are behaving in a particular manner… Thank you.

  5. DEAR PAL DE SILVA …. I am permitting this “ethnographic Note” of yours in order to question it and encourage others to challenge it.
    ONE: I urge you to provide concrete ethnographic data and if possible documentation in support of your claim that PRABHAKARAN was living in Hendala and could prime Sinhala thugs to instigate violence.
    TWO: The Sinhala thugs certainly cd not have organised the ambush in Thirunelvely on Saturday 23rd July that killed 13 army soldiers or known that their funeral wd be at Kanatte.
    THREE: You have not taken note of two immediate instances of REPRISAL by govt forces viz (A) Troops went bersek in Jaffna in the hours that followed and shot dead 51 innocent civilians in the Jaffna Peninsula including 7 passengers in a minivan at Manipay.(B) Some hours later on the Sunday that followed members of the Sri Lankan Navy ran riot in Trincomalee burning down Tamil houses and also forcibly relocating Tamil refugees” = http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/1545

    FOUR: in the south the attacks on Tamils began at Borella Junction on the 24/25th night and included many elements including young lad conjectured to be from Ananda college down the road … I do have two pix and an account from Chandragupta Amarasinghe who was watching ‘proceedings ….
    FIVE: It is widelty known that the severity of the pogrom in July 1983 was enhanced by the participation of element sof the trad union s controlled and primed by Cyril Mathew and others in the UNP and also by what was said –and not said — by President JRJ that week in his presidential speech.
    SIX: It can also be noted that quite a few ‘ordinary people’ particpated in the assaults by (a) spreading stories; (b) deliberate incitement and (cc0 direct participation in looting and/or violence. WHILE at the same time many ordinary Sinhalese, Burghers, Malays, Moors etc assisted their Tamil neighbours/friends/strangers to survive. (the latter dimension is perhaps not stressed enough in the literature).
    SEVEN: I believe Prabha was in Jaffna then (that is probably VVT) or he may even have been in southern India. That needs to be checked.
    EIGHT: Your comment here is a SUPREME EXAMPLE of the dangerous reverberations wrought by social media today –when ordinary people coin and/or peddle outrageous concoctions and stir others into acts of revenge.
    Modern technology speeds the process and enables larger assemblies of protest or killing gang…but in fact the pogroms of May-June 1915, 1958 and 1983 in Lanka and a number of Hindu backlashes against Muslims in India in the 20th century have indicated that such horrors couldd occur prior to this development.

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