OK, let’s get this out of the way: Unspun believes that voilence in retaliation for words is almost always not justified.
Having said that, I cannot help but to think that Ade Armando and the society that has elevated him into a public icon of sorts has brought the violence upon themselves.
Armando is of course the lecturer and social media influencer who got beat up badly when he attended a demonstration on April 11. He literally lost his pants in the beating and he was hospitalised after students and police rescued him from the mob.
Many Indonesians took to Twitter to express their disagreement with his views but also condemned the violence as excessive. Others pointed to the excessiveness of the khadruns.
These are valid opinions but I think it misses the point of why the violence occurred – a point that implicates Indonesian society and the media because they have allowed public discourse to degenerated into a pissing match on Twitter, or whatever social platform platform is current for the day.
Consider Armando. What is his claim to fame? He’s a lecturer in communications but has he distinguished himself in scholarship? Has he published any noteworthy papers to qualify himself as an expert or authority in politics or society?
Armando is also often described as a social media influencer. What does that mean? That he tweets loudest and often on subjects? That he clickbait his content so they evoke emotions and increases their talkability? And since when does someone with a huge following on social media qualify to influence public discourse on important matters?
Yet there he was being quoted by the Press because of his provocative tweets, being asked to host or moderate talk shows, being invited as a commentator in politics and society.
By doing so the Press has failed in its duty to exercise judgement in the shaping of public discourse. Instead of giving a platform to only those who exercise common sense, moderation and clear articulation of values, and also skilled in the art of disagreement, they have, in building up Armando, unleaded on Indonesian society a troll in the guise of a thought leader.
With people like him on pedestals public discourse is now a shouting match over Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. It has also become an arena for gang warfare where might makes right. Armando and a few others like him, buzzers one and all, throttle measured public discourse in the name of free speech.
Confronted by the might of buzzers, rumoured to have government backing, you can begin to understand the pent up frustration and anger of those who position themselves on the other side of the fence. Add to that a very uneven enforcement of the law and you have a powder keg.
The April 11 beating up of Armando is one of the manifestations of this pressure building up.
Perhaps it is time for those in a position if real influence to reflect on the harmful path we are in and the need to bring public discourse back to where it can do most good for society?