The uproar over the anti-Islam ‘film’ (if it can really be called a film) has finally become a fad for Pakistan’s youth. It’s hip. Its trendy now, and I can say this with surety, because its finally all over my Facebook wall.
If ever there was proof that social media is simply a tool reflecting the community that wields it, and not some glorious tool towards progressive change, that time for Pakistanis is now.
First I got the seemingly harmless (although the stat cited is obviously just cooked up) viral image demanding the removal of the video from YouTube:
I decided to follow the image to the actual page that my friend shared it from.
Catchy title: Enemies of Pakistan. Here are some more images they have created, with hundreds of shares to each:
At this point, I am starting to get a trifle worried about the campaign that seems to be emanating from here. Fascinated, I keep exploring…
India? What does India have to do with this?
Someone has obviously gone to a lot of effort putting these together. I know because my team works on such viral images as well, and it requires someone dedicated for anywhere from 20-45 minutes to make one of these. I’m starting to wonder about the agenda here, and about the language being used with some of the posts. For example:
These are the pigs of the anti Islamic movie “INNOCENCE OF MUSLIM” who are also involved in insulting our beloved Prophet Muhammed peace be upon him. Share as much as you can.
CAN WE GET 100000 + SLAPS FOR THE PIGS
1 LIKE = 10 SLAP
1 COMMENT = 100 SLAPS
1 SHARE= 1000 SLAPS
Extreme attracts extreme. I’m now more interested in some of the people responding to these images in the comments section. I follow a few of them through to their profile pages to see what other content they are consuming and liking. I see this image being passed around the community, calling for the murder of the film maker for a large bounty:
It is a trifle chilling to see how quickly, and how far I’ve come from my Facebook wall. It is also terrifying to think that my cousins, nephews and nieces, all on Facebook and in their teens, could very easily get here too. I keep browsing community members of Enemies of Pakistan, and inevitably it leads me to increasingly violent demands – all through viral imagery:
Emotive, unethical (using the images of random children) and extremely successful, the above image calling for burning US and Israeli embassies/consulates is making the rounds on Facebook. I could stop now, but there is a lot more going on in this community. One of the images above was shared from Jaan qurban sipah e sahaba dera ismail khan (Life sacrifice Sipah-e-Sahaba Dera Ismail Khan). I’m intrigued to find such a localised online community for a banned outfit. Yes they have the basic curses for the film maker:
But they also have a very unsavory group of friends sharing some very unsavory things. I have crossed over to yet another group of the SSP and I find an image with by far the greatest number of shares and likes yet (almost 5,000 shares):
Its hard to keep in mind I am on Facebook. I have written before about the fact that social media may be isolating people so they only see and experience things according to their preferences, thus polarizing society and perpetuating/creating greater divides. At this point, I am really scared, but I keep going – thinking less now, just absorbing the images one after another in silence… some are impossible to share here. I explore for another 20 minutes and then go back to my news feed. There I find this image waiting for me:
I don’t know how to react.