5:21 pm - Thursday July 20, 1623

Let’s Help PM Abiy Ahmed Fight Fake News and Disinformation! [Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam]

Author’s Note:

A few days ago, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said, “’fake news is fueling the Somali regional crisis.”

Yesterday, he advised Ethiopians

not to buy and spread fake news. Let’s not spread fake news because a lot of people are hurt by it. We need to carefully consider the reliability of their sources of information. I ask everyone to be attentive to the spread of fake news.

In war, truth is the first casualty. Nowhere is this true than in the cyber information wars (infowars).

The Forces of Darkness have weaponized, polarized, desensitized, tribalized and  vulgarized social media in their infowars against PM Abiy Ahmed and our peaceful revolution in Ethiopia.

I am calling on all Ethiopian social media warriors to come to the aid of PM Abiy Ahmed and their country in fighting fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories.

The Forces of the Dark Side are using fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories as their weapons of choice in their psychological and information warfare aimed at attacking, delegitimizing and destabilizing the government of PM Abiy Ahmed.

The whole idea behind fake news is simple. It is based on the old saying, “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”. Or as Mao Zedong said, “A lie told a hundred times becomes the truth.”

In the 21st century cyber war language, fake news is called “computational propaganda”.

In Ethiopia and in the Diaspora, the Forces of Darkness push so much false information, through sheer volume they make things appear more believable even though minimal scrutiny would show their information is garbage.

I have previously written on the disinformation campaigns of the Forces of Darkness.

Disinformation is “intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately.”

The underlying aim in disinformation is to generate deceptive and false statements to convince others lies are truths. The goal is to create alarm, fear, anxiety in population.

Conspiracy theory is persistent hypothetical speculation that is commonly considered untrue or outlandish but keeps being propagated in the hope that it will be accepted by the public.

The targets and victims of this widespread, organized and intensive psychological and information warfare are ordinary Ethiopians of good will who are supporters of PM Abiy who, for the most part, are not technology savvy or have access to diverse sources of information.

They have used fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories to scare, shock and awe, terrorize and spread panic, alarm, anxiety, fear and stress among those who are not internet savvy, have little access to diverse sources of information and are unable to distinguish garbage that passes of as news on social media and online from fact-based critical reporting.

The trolls (internet hyenas) of the Forces of Darkness have been working in overdrive trying to change the peoples’ love for Abiy into a hysteria about his well-being and safety.

Over the past week, numerous people have contacted me asking about the “well-being”, “disappearance”, “health”, “safety”, “whereabouts”, etc., of PM Abiy Ahmed. They all say he has not been seen in public since his return from the U.S. and concluded “something bad must have happened to him.”

Some of them were crying their eyes out.

Of course, I could only tell them the truth.

PM Abiy is doing perfectly well. He is getting the rest he deserves from his whirlwind trip to America. He is doing his routine official duties and working to resolve the crisis in the Ethiopian Somali region. He is just fine. Thank you!

** This post will be translated into Amharic and widely and repeatedly disseminated on social media and online. I ask all of my cyber friends, web editors and all others to join me in spreading this message of fighting fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories against PM Abiy and Ethiopia every day.**

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Abiy mania and Abiy withdrawal: Understanding the peoples’ love for Abiy Ahmed

Why are so many Ethiopians so concerned and anxious about PM Abiy if they don’t see him in public every day and so easily fall prey to fake news and disinformation?

The answer is simple.

Abiy Mania! Abiy addiction!

No one can accuse me of exaggeration for saying all Ethiopians of good will and good faith are crazy about Abiy Ahmed. There is no other way to describe it. They love him as their son, brother, uncle, cousin, best friend and so on.

If PM Abiy’s supporters do not see him on television every day, they go into shock and withdrawal symptoms. Then they swallow hook, line and sinker any garbage information thrown their way and work themselves up into a frenzy about the bad things that could have happened to him.

Abiy Ahmed is genuinely loved by the vast majority of his people.

But this love as not gone unnoticed by the Forces of Darkness.

They too love Abiy Ahmed.

They just love to hate him!

But we must remember three things about Abiy Ahmed whenever we have withdrawal symptoms:

1) Abiy Ahmed is a human being just like the rest of us. He is not made of steel but flesh and bones. He gets tired just like all of us. He needs rest. Between the time he left Ethiopia to visit the U.S. and returned home, he did not get more than two hours of sleep. That is the eyewitness testimony of Deacon Daniel Kibret. When I spent time with him during his visit in Los Angeles, he did not have enough time even to sit down and eat a simple meal.

2) Abiy Ahmed is a political leader. He is not a Hollywood actor or CNN anchorman. He does not need to make public appearances every day. He has important work to do in his office.

3) Abiy Ahmed, like everyone, needs privacy, private space. He needs time to be with his family.

4) We must not assume something bad happened to him if we don’t see him in public for a few days.

The dogs of information wars are crying and causing much havoc in their fake news/disinformation war against our peaceful revolution 

In “Julius Caesar”, Shakespeare speaking in the character of Mark Antony warned of  Caesar’s ghost searching for revenge and vengeance, and from hell “crying ‘Havoc,’ and letting slip the dogs of war.”

Today, the ghosts of the dethroned kings of Ethiopia are hellbent on seeking revenge against our peaceful revolution.

But they are not only crying “havoc” and letting loose their dogs of cyber war, they are in fact creating, orchestrating and implementing  havoc in the country by fomenting conflict, strife, death and destruction.

Let there be no mistake!

Ethiopia’s peaceful revolution is under open and secret attack by the Forces of Darkness who are using the billions they stole from the people of Ethiopia in order to make a comeback.

Their philosophy is the same as the proverbial donkey who proclaimed not to be concerned if grass grows after he passes away.

If Ethiopia’s dethroned kings can’t have Ethiopia as their playground and plaything, she can go to hell!

That is, of course, easy to say for those who have made Ethiopia hell for the past 27 years.

The dogs of cyberwars attacking PM Abiy Ahmed

The dogs of cyberwars of the Forces of Darkness were having a picnic this past week unleashing a fear and smear campaign against PM Abiy Ahmed. They were having a field day peddling panic, alarm and anxiety among PM Abiy’s supporters as they watched laughing their rear ends off.

Here is the parade of fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories propagated by the trolls of the Forces of Darkness that has caused much pain, confusion and anxiety among PM Abiy’s supporters:

PM Abiy was not seen in public last week because he fell seriously ill after returning from the U.S. and had to be airlifted to Saudi Arabia (United Arab Emirates) for medical care.

A member of PM Abiy’s security detail tried to attack/poison him.

PM Abiy did not make a public statement about the conflict in Jijiga because he was ill.

The federal government is instigating ethnic conflict in Jijiga to take advantage of the oil found there.

The Federal government’s intervention in Jijiga proves PM Abiy is becoming a dictator.

Because the federal government is not providing protection, people are being stoned to death.

The federal government is responsible for the burning of churches in Jijiga.

Abdi Mohamed Omar (Abdi Iley), the former president of the Ethiopian Somali region cannot be arrested and brought to justice because he has immunity.

Ethiopia is a failed state because PM Abiy is prime minister.

Ethiopia can only be saved by a national unity government (in which the Forces  of Darkness will be  the singular rulers).

Fact checking the news fakers and disinformation propagators

The dogs of cyberwars, offer no evidence, not a shred to support their claims. Yet they  have managed to wreak havoc in the minds and emotion of many unsuspecting Ethiopians.

They think they can weaken the resolve of the Ethiopian people by waging a sustained psychological warfare using fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories.

I know for a fact no attempt to harm PM Abiy was made during his trip to and from the U.S. by any member of his security detail.

I know for a fact that PM Abiy was not ill nor did he go to Saudi Arabia after his return from the U.S. for any reason.

It is all fake news, or more accurately a bunch of bull crap!

The disinformation campaign about Jijiga deserves more factual attention.

First, the aim of the Jijiga disinformation campaign is to cover up the footprints, handprints and fingerprints of the Forces of Darkness who are fomenting the conflict and crises in Jijiga behind the scenes. This is a well-established fact openly spoken about by the man and woman in the streets of Jijiga.

Abdi Illey, the recently arrested president of the Somali region, whom the Forces of Darkness claim is immune from arrest, is a self-admitted criminal against humanity. He has directly implicated the monstrous security chief of the pre-PM Abiy regime in his criminal activities in the Ethiopian Somali region.

Human Rights Watch in its recent report stated, “The Ethiopian government [TPLF regime] established the Liyu police who have committed a range of serious abuses in Somali Region since 2008. The Liyu police report to the Somali Region president, Abdi Mohamoud Omar, known as Abdi Illey.”

UN study earlier this year concluded that, “Tensions between Somali and Oromo communities and conflict along the border separating the two regions has displaced around 1.070 million IDPs ([internally displaced persons] representing more than 87% of the total number of conflict-IDPs)”. Thousands have been killed in clashes between Somali and Oromo communities.

Who is responsible for the displacement of over a million people and the deaths and injuries of thousands more?

Who is fueling, orchestrating and financing the conflict and strife in the Ethiopian Somali region, including Jijiga?

The definitive answer to that question comes from Abdi Illey himself who recently  confessed:

I was a tool for TPLF. They [TPLF] did have a gun on my head all this time. I was also giving every penny of the Region’s budget as a ransom payment… I will tell you everything today. Every order to kill or cause a crisis was coming from them [TPLF]”. They [TPLF] are the ones who were ordering the killings, I was just doing it to save myself. Every massacre in the Region was also ordered by Getachew Assefa [he said that with a curse word]. He [Getachew Assefa, the notorious and blood-thirsty security chief of the TPLF] is also behind the Oromo-Somali conflict. Do you think that Oromos and Somalis would just go into war without someone being behind it, he asked?” (Emphasis added.)

Now, the dogs of cyber war of the Forces of Darkness are trying to saddle PM Abiy with the long train of crimes committed by themselves and continue to be committed by their hirelings in the Somali region.

How the Forces of Darkness play on our ignorance, naivete and treat us like Chicken Littles 

Ethiopians duped on social media feeding on the garbage of fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories could learn from the American folk tale of Chicken Little.

One day as Chicken Little was walking in the woods, an acorn fell from a tree and hit her little head. “My, oh, my, the sky is falling. I must run and tell the lion about it” said a panicked Chicken Little as she ran off.

Along the way, Chicken Little met Henny Penny and told her the sky is falling. Henny Penny asked Chicken Little, ““How do you know it?”. Chicken Little answered, “It hit me on the head, so I know it must be so”.

As they both ran to tell the lion about it, they met Ducky Lucky. “The sky is falling” said Henny Penny. “We are going to the lion to tell him about it.”

Ducky Lucky asked, “How do you know that?” Henny Penny replied, “It hit Chicken Little on the head.”

Ducky Lucky joined the run until they met Foxey Loxey who asked, “Where are you all going?”

Ducky Lucky said, “The sky is falling and we are going to tell the lion all about it.” Foxey Loxey asked, “Do you know where the lion lives?” None of them knew. “I do. Come with me and I can show you the way”, said Foxey Loxey and walked them right into his den. They all went in but they never, never come out again.

The scaremongering trolls of the Forces of Darkness have made Chicken Littles out of supporters of PM Abiy and a mockery of  the peaceful change that is taking place in Ethiopia today.

The trolls put a piece of fake news on Facebook, and the gullible Chicken Littles run around clucking, “My, oh, my! The sky has fallen on Abiy Ahmed. He is ill. He is in Saudi Arabia. We must tell the world about it. The world is coming to an end.”

What is amazing is that the trolls of the Forces of Darkness are able to get away with their fake news, disinformation tricks and mind games every single day.

They make suckers out of us every day.

My typical conversation with the Ethiopian Chicken Littles

The truth of the matter is that many Ethiopians fall for the dirty fake news and disinformation tricks of the Forces of Darkness because they think with their emotions instead of their intellect.

So many have called me crying and wrenching their hearts and guts.

After I calm them down, I ask a few questions:

Q. Where did you find the information that a member of PM Abiy’s security detail attempted to poison him?”

A. “They are talking about it on Facebook. I saw something on it on YouTube.”

Q. “Who was talking about it on Facebook? Who produced the video?”

A. “I don’t know. Just people. Actually, I personally did not see it on Facebook but I heard it on video.”

Q. “Did you check any other source to determine if the story is true or false?”

A. “I called you because I think you will tell me if it is true.”

Q. “Why should you believe anything I say?”

A. “Silence.”

Q. “Do you believe everything you hear or read on social media?”

A. “Well, no. But because everybody was talking about it, I thought it must be true.”

Q. “Does the story make sense to you?”

A. “No, but everybody is talking about. So, it is not true?”

Our problem: Herd mentality and group think

Herd mentality can best be described as sheep blindly following the flock no matter where they go just because that’s what the herd is doing.  People act on the basis of emotion instead of logical and rational thinking. They don’t ask questions, they just follow the crowd.

Group think can best be described as a process in which individuals hold an opinion in a group believing the group is right.  They agree on an opinion without much questioning, critical reasoning or scrutiny of the evidence.

Ignorant people are the easiest to control and manipulate not only because they lack substantive knowledge, but most importantly, because they lack critical thinking skills and do not know how to ask the right questions to get the right answers.

The Forces of Darkness that have launched a coordinated and sustained fake news and disinformation attack on PM Abiy and our peaceful change not only because they think we are ignorant, but much worse.

I have said this many times before and I will say it again.

The Forces of Darkness think they are the smartest and the brightest, the chosen ones to rule.

They believe they are strategic thinkers. We are a bunch of dummies.

They believe they are strong and we are weak.

They believe they are the only courageous ones and we are all sniveling cowards.

They think we are “donkeys”,  “retards”, “lowlifes” and “fools and idiots”.

In the cyber age, Ethiopians need critical thinking to maintain their sanity facing a constant  deluge of information.

Ethiopians as thinking rational human beings need to ask simple questions about the things they read and hear.

Minimally, they must ask if what they read and hear passes the “smell test”.

They must always sniff around for the smell a troll rat, or more appropriately a hyena, in what they read and hear?

They must step back and evaluate the information they have received and try to determine if it is reasonable, if there is evidence to support it and if it makes common sense.

They must live by a principle of skepticism. Never believe anything they hear or read without convincing evidence and compelling logic.

Most importantly, they must take everything they hear and read on social media with a grain of salt.

How to fight the trolls (internet hyenas) of the Forces of Darkness

In September 2016, I called for a “campaign of truth against the campaign of lies and disinformation.”

PM Abiy’s recent statements warning of the real danger of fake news in destabilizing the country should be a clarion call to all Ethiopian social media users to educate and empower their compatriots to fight fake news and disinformation.

PM Abiy did not indicate how we should fight the infowars of fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories.

But I have “battle plans” for the social media and internet infowars.

First, our choice of weapon in the social media infowars against fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories must be the TRUTH. The Forces of Darkness cannot handle the TRUTH. For 13 years, every single week, without missing a single week, I have been preaching truth to them. Not once were they able to handle the truth I dished out to them!

So, we must fight them by telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about their lies, bare-faced lies and damned lies about PM Abiy and our peaceful revolution.

Second, the old saying is, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” We must fight the Forces of Darkness by exposing their lies, their whole lies and nothing but their lies to the whole world.

Third, we must educate our people of good will and good faith. Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Doggone it, let’s educate our people not only on the good things PM Abiy is doing and the outcome of our peaceful revolution, but most importantly the crimes against humanity committed by the Forces of Darkness.

We must use social media to teach and to empower. Let’s pause to think what a waste of time, a waste of life it is, hanging on  social media exchanging insults with the Forces of Darkness. Use social media to teach, to learn and to collaborate.

Fourth, we must overwhelm the negative messages of the Forces of Darkness with positive messages of our own. Someone once said, “In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. That means we have 1,440 daily opportunities to make a positive impact.” When we are on Facebook, Twitter and the rest for 10 minutes or one hour, let’s make a positive impact on those who read us. Let’s not waste so much negative energy feeding the trolls. For every negative fake news and disinformation the Forces of the Dark Side put out about PM Abiy and our peaceful revolution, we should post at least three positive and uplifting news.

Fifth, don’t feed the trolls  (internet hyenas) of the Forces of the Dark Side. The trolls of the Dark Side feed on our anger, sorrow, fear and anxiety. Show them only our sunny side. Let’s hammer them with the fact that we are happy as a clam with PM Abiy and our peaceful revolution.

Sixth, we must develop emotional intelligence. We must develop the ability to identify and manage our own emotions and the emotions of those around us. We must not be Chicken Littles who get all hysterical simply because someone said something that is silly or stupid, and get everyone around us to become hysterical too.

We must develop heightened awareness that we are constant targets of emotional manipulation by the Forces of Darkness. Let’s not be gullible and suckers. Let’s not be  distracted by hocus pocus of the trolls of the Forces of the Dark Side.

Seventh, let’s learn to think for ourselves. We should never allow the internet trolls of the Dark Side to control our minds or hearts. They may make us fools once or twice but we should live by the old saying. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.”

Eight, evil never sleeps. The price of defeating the evil Forces of the Dark Side is eternal  vigilance. That means we must be relentless, ferocious, implacable, unflinching and single-minded in our struggle against the Forces of the Dark Side. I have proven that over the last 13 years!

Nine, PM Abiy says we must forgive. He is right. It has been said, “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

We must therefore be charitable to the Forces of the Dark Side. I say we must try and understand them too. We must try and imagine what it means to be the masters of the universe one day and the despicable and pitiful wretches of the earth the next.

Ten, we must be prepared to make the Forces of Darkness an offer they can’t refuse: If they stop telling lies about us, we will stop telling the truth about them. Fair deal, I say.

Eleven, never wrestle with the trolls of the Forces of the Dark Side in the internet sewer.

It is akin to what George Bernard Shaw said about pigs. “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

Never engage in mudslinging and pissing contests with the trolls of the Forces of the Dark Side because you will lose.

Twelve, never fall victim to click-bait YouTube channels. There are a bunch of trashy YouTube channels that try to make money by putting provocative titles on their videos. They would title their videos, “PM Abiy Ahmed narrowly escaped a poisoning attempt”. Their aim is to get you to click on their garbage YouTube channels. They make money every time you click on their garbage channels. I urge everyone to never click on these garbage YouTube channels!

A call to Social media warriors

For the last 13 years, I have fought the Forces of Darkness in my weekly commentaries. I fought their lies, fake news, disinformation, conspiracy theories every week (sometimes several times a week) without missing a single week.

Today, the Forces of Darkness are rearing their ugly heads on social media and online to propagate their message of hate, division, chaos and confusion.

I am calling on all Ethiopian social media warriors to join me in fighting the Forces of Darkness on Facebook, on Twitter, on YouTube, online. .

We are now facing a new war from the Forces of Darkness.

It is a different war.

It is a psychological war. It is a war of psychological attrition in which they are trying to wear us down. It is a war to manipulate minds, crush hearts, unnerve and break our spirit .

It is a war to create doubt in our leaders. It is a war to create uncertainty in our peaceful revolution.

We must fight  the Forces of Darkness on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,  in cyberspace, in the schools, in the colleges and universities, in the streets, in the urban and rural areas, in places of worship and public gatherings, and in every hamlet, village, town and city.

I am putting out a call to all Ethiopian social media warriors who support Abiy Ahmed and the peaceful change he has brought to Ethiopia over the past several months to engage the Force of Darkness not by getting down into the sewers of cyber space with them or imitating the cyber thugs, but by educating and informing Ethiopians and raising the standards of civility, cordiality, respectability and responsibility in public discourse and social media.

Let’s join forces against the Forces of Darkness in fighting fake news, disinformation and conspiracy theories against our peaceful revolution in Ethiopia.

Ad Victoriam!

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