I was invited to become a follower of ‘Mahinda Rajapakse’ on Twitter, but declined. For starters, this is a very different initiative to the likes of Pissu Poona on Facebook or my own Banyan News Service satire on Groundviews. As Global Citizen notes in Bridging comedy and conscience,
Violence does not make me laugh. Yet humour has not only survived nearly two and a half decades of exposure to violence, brutality, intolerance, discrimination, corruption and abuses of power, it has preserved my sensitivity and been a soft padding that shielded me from the hard blows of reality. It has been a key to our resilience as a nation and a safer platform for us to speak truth to power. Because we somehow feel that the death of a comedian is more tragic than the death of a philosopher, soldier, a politician or indeed a straight talking newspaper editor.
BNR has a cult following, yet it is different to Pissu Poona, which as a platform for debate on articles reposted to Facebook from elsewhere on the web, including from blogs, has been surprisingly effective and engaging. So much so that the Sunday Times covered it in an article this year.
Both however are different to Mahinda Rajapakse’s Twitter spoof. Where this fails for me is in its inability to engender critical reflection or engagement through laughter and ridicule. There is certainly ribald fun and irreverence here, but nothing that is fodder for enduring debate on key issues. It is perhaps the nature of the medium – Twitter does not afford real reflection. But it is more the timbre of expression, which is more biased towards frivolity than fidelity to satire, constructive critique or searing insight. Even juxtaposed with Pissu Poona (which is given to the occasional rant), this appears to be much more casual, and therefore aimed at a different audience.
That’s the downside. The upside is that a culture of critical commentary is emerging using social networking and new media. This is to be celebrated and supported. Given the vicious and violent clampdown on media in Sri Lanka, perhaps the web and the diversity of voices therein offers some degree of dissent in a country where there is really little to be found elsewhere.