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Social media has become a weapon of war

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OPINION: We must be careful what we read and see on social media and in the media in general. For we know that in any war the first victim is always the truth, writes Silas Rataza.

Social media icons on a mobile phone
Social media icons on a mobile phone. File picture: Pixalkult/Pixabay

By Silas Rataza

SCROLLING down my Facebook timeline, one often comes across stories that are meant to convince you of something.

Diets, products, events, pandemics, cures, bitcoin and politics are all topics you can come across in a day’s scroll on social media.

For example; we have been inundated with tales and narratives during these days of Covid-19 and the introduction of fifth generation technology, often trying to convince one of some sort of theory or conspiracy or the other.

My grandparents’ generation used to call this propaganda. Yet today it is a bit more subtle. This promotion of certain information does not come through government spin-doctors, as propaganda would have traditionally, but through media and especially, social media.

At the same time, it would not be wrong to suggest that 21st century wars, in the traditional sense, will not be fought between the major international powers.

At most they would be fought through proxy wars, such as the one in Syria for example, but invariably. The wars we see today will be advanced through cyber, biological, trade and no doubt through the media.

Social media, in particular, has become a weapon of war.

However, we must be able to sift through the stories and find one that gives a true perspective on what is happening in our world.

One such piece of gem, to enlighten one, came recently in the sharing of a video of Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired US army colonel and the former chief of staff of the former US secretary of state Colin Powell. Wilkerson was addressing the Washington conference of the Ron Paul Institute, in 2018, when he explained the reasons why the US remained in Afghanistan.

He said: “So in the third reason we’re there is because there are 20 million Uygurs and if the CIA has to mount an operation using those Uygurs, as Erodogan has done in Turkey against Assad, well the CIA would want to destabilise China and that would be the way to do it, to form an unrest and to join with those Uygurs in pushing the Han Chinese and Beijing from internal.”

In other words, the US’s continued presence in Afghanistan, among other reasons, is to contain China.

While China and Afghanistan share a 76km border, Afghanistan has been used before as a battle field for a US proxy war, especially during the Soviet-Afghan war, and a place, according to Pakistan, from which attacks are launched against its neighbours.

The trade war unleashed by the Trump administration must therefore be seen in its proper context.

Already during the Bush Jnr administration, which Wilkerson would have served under, the US was planning this offensive against China – an offensive which would have included propaganda, through among others media and social media, and the situation of Xinjiang, an autonomous region in China, where the Uygurs are in the majority.

History has taught us that Wilkerson’s statements falls squarely in line with US foreign policy and offensives globally in the last six to seven decades.

The US supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan which eventually led to the establishment of the Taliban in that country and supported rebels in Syria which eventually led to the founding of ISIS.

We must, therefore, be careful what we read and see on social media and in the media in general. For we know that in any war, the first victim is always the truth.

* Silas Rataza is the provincial secretary of the ANCYL in the Western Cape. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the DFA.