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Complete text of JigsNews interview with Kuensel on social media and anonymity

JigsNews interview with Gyalsten K Dorji of Kuensel

1. You must have noticed that the number of individuals choosing anonymity on Twitter has spiked recently. In fact, it would be right after the time JigsNews was established. It seemed that anonymity may have been on the decline, with Bhutantimes.com closing shop, and going by the discussions on the Amend the Tobacco Control Act Facebook page, where the majority of opinions could be connected to an identity. Of course, the KuenselOnline forum still allowed anonymity in the meantime, but that’s a moderated forum. But it seems that this spike in anonymous Twitter activity could be the beginnings of a revival of the unfiltered, unmoderated, anonymous trend.   Would you, as the anonymous creator and operator of JigsNews, agree with this assessment? And if so, or not, why? 

Social Media forums, including Twitter have helped record and document the trend of anonymous, unfiltered, moderated conversations. JigsNews sees this trend in a socio-anthropological perspective, where a society’s loud thinking, which is easily forgotten in our oral tradition, is documented for posterity. 

  Amend the Tobacco Control Page had a purpose and after it purpose was served it died down. We cannot really say that there is a revival of anonymous posting. Consider the ‘Social Democracy’ Facebook page. It is very active. At the same timewww.kuzuzangpo.com  though it has been online for a long time, permitting anonymous posting, is not that active. 

 

2.    Why have you chosen to operate anonymously? For instance, JigsNews is similar to the American newspaper, the Onion, but the writers there are not anonymous, or at least there’s a contact address. What is lacking in our context that prevents freedom of expression without concern?  

JigsNews believes that satire and parody is essential for a healthy, functioning democracy. But in our society, it can be easily be mistaken for mudslinging. Infact, JigsNews has not fully explored the potential of satire, the way Onion has been doing. It is because of this caution that JigsNews could be branded as partisan. You must have noticed the undying interest to know the identity of JigsNews. This yearning to know the identity behind the mask, also enables to searcher to formulate his or her ideas on ‘who JigsNews is with’ or ‘what our agenda is’.  

Satire or parody, like facts, are sacred. The moment is it branded as partisan, then its punch is lost. Our society does not lack the freedom for mimicry and parody.See our atsaras, they fulfill their social, religious purposes. But when it is represented through a new social medium - when satire reflects our social and cultural life - then it could offend certain people. JigsNews will wait for this social maturity to deconstruct ourselves -  till then enjoy the masked atsara.

 

3.    Do you feel that anonymity is a right for a democracy? 

The anonymous space is also a public space. If scientific research can be based on surveys where people do not have to reveal their identities, an anonymous opinion is as valid as any other opinion. The very question that assumes that anonymity is bad, JigsNews feels is wrongly placed. It assumes that open opinions are ‘true’ and ‘ethical’ and anonymous ones are bad and unethical. 

JigsNews would like to quote satirist Jonathan Swift here, from his “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift” 

Yet, Malice never was his Aim; 
He lash’d the Vice but spar’d the Name. 
No Individual could resent, 
Where Thousands equally were meant. 
His Satyr points at no Defect, 
But what all Mortals may correct.

  

4.    What is the value to anonymity for a society, for Bhutanese society? 

An ethical, compassionate but sharp practice of anonymity, infact would help open up a society where anonymity is not needed. 

 

4. To what extent should anonymity be respected and privacy protected?  

As journalists, you would be aware that public interest takes precedence. 

5.    In your satire, parody, and at times, real news, is there a limit that you might be following, lines that you might not cross? 

If you have noticed, all our tweets and blogs have always kept public interest in mind. Our parody is based on information that is already in the public sphere. JigsNews is not a source of gossip.

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