• Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru-Kamotho is one of the politicians overtly featured in King Kaka's Wajinga Nyinyi associating her with the widely publicised National Youth Service graft case.
• Subsequently, her lawyers have served King Kaka with a demand letter in which she has demanded inter alia an apology and permanent, immediate and unconditional pulling down of the song from all social media platforms within 48 hours.
Kenneth Adelman was a professional photographer working for the California Coastal Records Project. His responsibility was to provide pictures of the California coast for use by scientists and researchers to study coastal erosion.
On one fateful day in 2003 as he was going about his usual business, he was mistaken for being a paparazzi and was slapped with a $50 million lawsuit by a highly accomplished American singer, actress and filmmaker, who had achieved success in multiple fields of entertainment and won several Academy and Grammy Awards. The entertainer was Barbara Streisand.
Her lawsuit claimed Adelmanhad violated her privacy by taking pictures of her beachfront palatial mansion and uploading it on the internet. Hers was only one of the thousands of pictures Adelman took and uploaded that day. It was only through the lawsuit he found out that picture #3850 belonged to Streisand’s mansion. She was demanding that Adelman pulls down the image.
Prior to suing, the image had been downloaded only six times, with two of those downloads being from Streisand’s attorneys and one of them from herself. As a result of the lawsuit, public knowledge and curiosity of the picture increased greatly and shortly thereafter, there were more than a million visitors to the website to view the palatial house. Ultimately, the lawsuit was dismissed and Streisand was ordered to pay Adelman's legal fees, which amounted to $156,000.
This week, the nation has had its own rendition of a Streisand effect. Kennedy Ombima, aka King Kaka released a song that has trended widely on social media under the hashtag #wajinganyinyi. The song castigates Kenyans for voting in suspected corrupt politicians, then exhibiting buyer’s remorse for the rest of the elected official’s term. A buyer’s remorse is a sense of regret after having made a purchase or a choice. It stems from guilt and suspicion of having been overly influenced by the seller.
Anne Waiguru-Kamotho is one of the politicians overtly featured in the song associating her with the widely publicised National Youth Service graft case. Subsequently, Waiguru through her lawyers has served King Kaka with a demand letter in which she has demanded inter alia an apology and permanent, immediate and unconditional pulling down of the song from all social media platforms within 48 hours.
Similar to Streisand’s lawsuit that attracted more downloads, Waiguru’s demand letter to King Kaka has only served to put her in the public’s crosshairs. The song has since had nearly two million views and over 16,000 comments, with the majority in favour of the song. And these figures do not include everyone else that has received it on their WhatsApp platform, Facebook page and Twitter accounts.
If seeking publicity was not Waiguru’s original intention, then her attempt at gagging the song has only attracted more attention to it, including through hashtags such as #someonetellwaiguru and #waiguruashasema.
The internet never forgets. Even when you think something you uploaded is deleted, somewhere, there is a copy stored on some hard drive. When you issue a public demand and create a public spectacle and fuss that an item be deleted from social media, even people who had no prior interest in it inevitably ask why, and curiosity drives more of them to see it for themselves. This is what is called the Streisand effect.
And this is what Waiguru has done. When you attempt to muzzle information on the web, the Streisand effect takes hold and a backlash occurs. The ‘contraband’ doesn’t disappear as expected. Instead, it infects the online community and a social media epidemic of fueled defiance follows. It spreads faster gaining more traction than it would have had the complainant simply kept quiet.
In the demand letter, Waiguru has told us that what the song Wajinga Nyinyi has accused her of is not true. But what is the truth? A straight ruler appears bent when half-submerged in a glass of water. If you were to describe it, would you say the ruler is straight because you know it is straight or would you say it is bent because it appears bent? Can the two be true even though they are contradictory?
I submit that truth is interpersonal. We tell each other things, and when they work out as we want them to, we call them truths; when they don’t, we call them errors and when we are not feeling charitable, we call them lies. Today everyone grows up learning that the earth orbits the sun. But for many centuries, the idea of a heliocentric solar system was so controversial that the Catholic Church classified it as heresy, and warned the astronomer, Galileo, to abandon it. Heliocentric books were banned and Galileo was ordered to refrain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas.
Uncannily, two years ago, Waiguru filed a defamation suit against ODM leader Raila Odinga, accusing him of recklessly tarnishing her name. She demanded a public apology to which he declined to apologise or withdraw his statements; instead, he said he welcomed the opportunity to prove his accusations in court. She has since told us that in the spirit of the handshake, she has since forgiven Baba. Begs, the question, has the truth changed or is it simply fluid? You be the judge.
Things do not necessarily need to be true as long as they are believed, and believed by a significant number of people. For instance, when the advertisers of Carlsberg say ‘it is the best beer in the world’ many people believe it and this drives their sales up even though the drinkers of Tusker may disagree. But it is a foregone conclusion that in the world of politics, similar to the world of advertising, the truth becomes what the majority of the populace believes; because the value of any brand is built on selling imaginations.
This is why there is never a wrong or a right time or communication medium to question what we hold as the cardinal truth. But it is patently stupid to think that truth belongs to the one who shouts the loudest, is the richest, has the most powerful friends or the biggest political muscle.
Finally, my unsolicited advice to Waiguru is if one person calls you a horse, smile at them; if two people call you a horse, give it some thought; but if three people say that you are a horse, go out and buy a saddle.
The truth will set you free, but first, it will make you miserable - James A. Garfield