Jumping at Shadows: the Purpose and Effects of Rumours

jumping at shadowsRumours will continue to flow as long as Government maintains PER and restrictions on the flow of information, and to this extent they have only themselves to blame when false and misleading rumours— that are invariably anti-government—spread doubt and uncertainty among the public,  as  is their intention.  

Two rumours have been circulated by anti-government bloggers over the past few days.  One was that police Chief Operations Officer, Henry Brown, was taken to the Barracks for questioning, possibly about corruption, but was subsequently released.  This rumour was refuted by Police Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri  who said Brown was not only still the Chief Operations Officer, “He is on the ground as we speak. ” 

This was followed by the rumour that  the PM’s brother-in-law Francis Kean had been replaced as Navy Commander.  The PM denied this, saying “He is still the Navy Commander but has got an extra job.”

Fiji Today helped circulate this rumour under the heading: “ More jumping at shadows as Frank reacts to rumors that his son-in-law has been replaced.   They got two things wrong here: first, the rumour; second, the relationship.  Kean is Bainimarama’s brother-in-law, not his son-in-law.  

Never mind.  It was a good story as long as it lasted. But not as good as the one last year that had Bainimarama off to China for a heart operation or the other one that had Bainimarama and  Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum both under arrest when, in fact,  Bainimarama was overseas and the A-G was still in his office.

So what purpose do the rumours serve and what are their effects?  Some incorrect rumours are genuine mistakes, spurred on perhaps by a touch of wishful thinking, but there can be little doubt that others are deliberate fabrications (or lies), created or passed on by blog informants, that are intended to undermine public confidence in government, boost the ebbing confidence of government’s opponents at home and abroad, and keep government off-balance, not knowing how strong its opposition is.  

This latter effect is particularly serious because it lends support to those in government who wish to retain PER and delay dialogue, and  makes it that much more difficult for more moderate members of government to argue for the lifting of  PER and the start of more extensive dialogue with civil society.  The uncertainty generated by rumours also leads to further detentions which, in turn, create further uncertainty — and possibly less support for government.  And the wheel keeps turning.  

Will rumours of this type help produce a good outcome in 2014?  That, of course, depends on how you define "good" but whatever your definition, continuous rumour-mongering is likely to limit and delay the inclusive dialogue that is needed over the next  two to three years.  Rumour perpetuates distrust that will not help reconciliation. And rumour will not help a peaceful transfer of power to a civilian government. 

But the more ardent anti-government bloggers and their informants probably don't want this, anyway. Life was better for them under the racist regime of Laisenia Qarase.


Sheriff of Nottingham said…
Yes, we need to think of those for whom "Life was better under the racist regime of Laisenia Qarase". Do we not? Those who ran around stealing water while bribing whomsoever they could with sums as much as an entire week's wages in the rural areas. Or, worse, demanding that they be fed "Chicken curry, rice and roti for eleven PWD workers" ....."or NO water meter will be installed" -two years after a deposit of F$20 was paid. Meanwhile, at Denarau Island the wealthy and unthinking paid up to $450 for the same water meter and had water provided within two weeks. There is absolute evidence of this. Where are you now, the callous and corrupt people who colluded in these gross acts of obvious injustice? Nine years is quite a wait for a settling of the accounts. But the accounts will be settled and we know who you all are.

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