The Taif girl and social media speculations


Al-Jazirah newspaper

SOME silly events that take place around us become great as a result of reactions, interpretations and speculations that follow them, especially on social networking websites. Decision-makers should learn lessons from such reactions and understand the direction of society and its way of thinking in order to develop strategies to mobilize public opinion in the right direction.

The cries on the Twitter and other social media platforms denouncing the Taif girl’s controversial hugging of a singer publicly during a concert have contributed to exaggerating the incident, which took place at Souk Okaz festival. A viral video showed the reckless young woman running up to the stage and hugging the singer.

The incident revealed the depth of contradictions in our society. When we go through the reaction of people on Twitter and other social networking sites we can understand that we have a significant number of public opinion influencers who are capable of transmitting negative messages that will not serve their community. The angry responses on the incident have given us an important message on the need to reorganize cultural and media programs to address such issues.

The woman and the singer were the heroes of that Taif drama, which will continue to remain a hot issue in the Kingdom’s media and cultural circles for several days to come. We have seen activists on social media making quick judgments on that crazy girl. Such comments will certainly create wrong and confused concepts and perceptions in the minds of their social media followers.

Interpretations on that incident have contributed to the spread of wrong notions that would not serve society in any way. Social media activists spoke about exclusive Saudi culture and stressed that the Saudi girl should not have committed that disgraceful act of harassing a famous singer. Some social media activists charged the girl with sexual harassment. Here we see these activists assuming the role of judges and rulers.

The activists also said it was impossible for a Saudi girl to do such a disgraceful act. We make such racist comments without understanding its destructive effect on national unity and solidarity. Quoting a leaked investigation report, they pointed out the girl was a naturalized Saudi. We don’t know the truthfulness of that report but it again emphasizes our racist behavior.

If we study the whole incident we can understand that it was quite "normal" and there was nothing unusual. Such incidents occur anywhere in the world, especially when organizers do not take precautions to stop intruders onto the stage, be that an impassionate fan who wanted to hug and kiss an artist or a terrorist who wanted to trigger a bomb to kill innocent people.

It’s quite evident that the organizers did not take precautions to prevent such incidents. We should have expected such crazy acts from teenagers as well as well as from the grown-up people as there are different kinds of people in our society including good and bad, careful and reckless. What we have learned from the Taif incident is that we should not allow speculations and interpretations to harm and destroy our national fabric and we should not allow social media activists to dominate the scene to do whatever they want inspired by their foolishness.

The responsible source of the government who revealed the outcome of the investigations came at the right time, explaining the circumstances that led to the incident. He spoke in a professional manner and his statement received wide media coverage. It was essential to end unwanted speculations and wrong interpretations of any incident and guide public opinion in the right direction. The spokesman said the incident occurred as a result of the security failure on the stage.

We should deal with such incidents in a professional manner, providing correct information to the public, in order to prevent the spread of rumors and speculations.