Thinking as a Nation in the Time of YouTubers

by Nillanthan Maha, March 16, 2024

Published by Uthayan, Jaffna, March 17, 2024

[Translated from the original Tamil, with some improvement by the Editor.]

On the 9th, the police raided the Shiva shrine on Vedukunari hill. Eight people were arrested. The day after they were imprisoned, on the 10th, on the last day of the air force exhibition outside the Jaffna courtyard, thousands of people gathered there.

Although the crowd there is said to be close to that of Santhosh Narayanan’s music event, that is considered to be an overestimate. However, it is true that thousands of people gathered.

This crowd is from among the same people who are fighting against the encroachment of their inherited property and to maintain their right to worship, and the same people who are fighting on Vedukunari Hill. How to explain this contradiction?

Speaking at a demonstration in Nallur against the arrests at Vedukunari Malai, the secretary of the Tamil National People’s Front strongly criticized the people who went to the exhibition. He is angry with the people who forgot what happened 15 years ago in 2009. That anger is justified. But there is a deeper, more valid question; that is, which party has an agenda to sensitize the Tamil people to their own politics and to their direct and indirect oppression?

The common sense of a crowd seeks every opportunity to celebrate life. People want to have fun. That’s why they come out to the farm on Sundays. They go to other entertainment places in Jaffna. The poor go to the farm and other small parks. The well-to-do go to the star guest houses of Jaffna. Diaspora Tamils used to stay in their own homes when they came, now a considerable number stay in guest houses and spend lakhs for it.

It means that people from different levels of society want to celebrate life according to their financial suitability. For many who want to celebrate life, especially for Eelam Tamils, the diaspora Tamils are a role model. It is the main reason for the third migration wave.

How can a crowd so eager to celebrate life be made sensitive to their own politics? Who does that?

A Norwegian Tamil who came to the air force exhibition says “I want to see it, but there is a worry in my mind”. Desire means desire to celebrate life. Worry is what happens when Tamils think of the tragedies of death.

But it is not the time of death, that was before the present time. That is why we have to fight on the hill of Vedukunari; in Mailathamadu, Matanai we have to fight; the mothers of the disappeared must continue to fight. War is only a consequence, not the root cause. The root cause is oppression. It still exists.

Thousands of people from a community where eight people have been arrested have taken to the square to cheer as soldiers parachute into the air. They jostle to board the flying plane. Most YouTubers sell it as a charm.

This is the age of YouTubers. Patience for reading is waning. It is a media environment with a growing thirst for listening. How many YouTubers are acting responsibly in nation-building? How many YouTubers know if what they are spreading is rumor or news? How many YouTubers go out and study Tamil? How many YouTubers confirm the veracity of the information they post? To put it more bluntly, what qualities should a YouTuber possess? Is a good camera and fast internet enough? How many YouTubers have the sense to verify the truth of what they say?

Last January 4, Ranil Wickramasinghe visited Jaffna. Parties and activists protested on Old Park Road against his visit. Police parked a bus across the street to stop them. A person who came in a car through that road is in conflict with the police against the closure of Old Park Road without advamce warning. A YouTuber posted a message about it and captioned it as “Indian in a car, Sri Lankan police shocked”. The video has been viewed by more than six lakh people. But the person questioning the police is not an Indian, but the pastor of an independent church. The Indian national flag can be seen on the “dashboard” area of his car. By that he is an Indian, says the YouTuber. So, has that lie reached more than six lakh people?

When there was an economic crisis in Sri Lanka, an Indian YouTuber said that the local people ran away with the pot bought by the white people. It was a lie.

Most of the YouTubers are thinking mainly about how to increase the number of viewers of their videos. The number of viewers will increase their income, so most people are thinking about how to increase their viewership. This is a dangerous development. What is true in the time of the YouTubers? What is a lie? What is media virtue? Is work only yuriup dharma? Don’t you people have the responsibility to build the society, to build the nation? It is the job of the nation-building journalist to make the reader or viewer a critically-thinking, conscious citizen.

So most of the YouTubes that came out about the Air Force show proved once again how challenging nation-building can be in the age of YouTubers. This shows that the work of political parties and activists is being made more difficult.

In such a media environment, it is not possible to build a nation by cursing the people gathered in the square. Parties should think how to sensitize those people on their own politics. We have to find ways to do that. Nationalist politics is about uniting people into a nation. The art of nation building; culture; science; nation-building YouTubers; We need to build a nation-building media culture.

Even writing like this may be annoying to a section of society. This irritation could be seen in the comments made by some of the readers regarding the Air Force exhibition. All problems are over; we are happy now; Don’t confuse what you see by writing it down; People want to be happy; There is a growing tendency to say, ‘Don’t make them victims again.’

Instead, a media culture that thirsts for illusions, materialistic pleasures, lies, and fabrications has begun to emerge. Haters are critical of everything.

Tamil politicians, activists, civil society, intellectuals, artists and media should learn from the events that took place in that Jaffna square within a few months. The new media legacy is producing a sea of people who read less deeply, think less deeply, and gravitate toward the superficial. In the background of new developments in artificial intelligence, a deep fake is created. It is cultivated as a reward culture. In the midst of deep lies, in the midst of a multitude of forgetfulness, we have to build the nation.

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