Cacophony of divergent voices good for democracy

Monday, June 10th, 2024 09:17 | By
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua in Kipkok, Sigowet-Soin Constituency, Kericho County, during a church fundraising function.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua in Kipkok, Sigowet-Soin Constituency, Kericho County, during a church fundraising function. PHOTO/@rigathi/X.

In most societies, what gains public attention almost always creates a bandwagon effect.

Once an issue becomes prominent in the public sphere and is dominant in the media, everyone joins in and aligns with what is perceived to be the dominant position taken by the majority.

In such cases, even those who don’t agree with the perceived popular and dominant position as projected by the media end up taking that dominant position or remain silent. This was conceptualised by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann as the spiral of silence.

The perceived dominant issue might create a silent majority who are overawed by the media’s agenda-setting role. Further, the less informed get into a bandwagon and follow blindly the perceived dominant position. Such an eventuality happens in most democracies and has driven voting masses to take populist positions in Kenya.

However, our politicians seem to be changing the narrative, and to good effect. No one narrative is dominating our public sphere. Today, we have the 2024 finance bill. Mt Kenya leaders are attacking and defending opposing positions on resource allocation and top leaders in the regime appears to be talking at each other.

This is unfortunate because one expects the power given to the regime to be used less at political rallies for leaders to attack each other and more in the corridors of solutions, addressing the plight of Kenyans.

There is also the kingpin issue and who deceived Mt Kenya and why President Uhuru Kenyatta’s words and his position in the run-up to the 2022 elections is now vindicated. Add the mantra one man, one vote, one shilling and its antithesis one man, one vote, one kilometre and you have a nice cocktail that makes it impossible to have a perceived dominant position in the public sphere.

Simply put, there is a plethora of contestations and even the laziest of us citizens is pushed to instability and a public interest disruption that shakes us away from remaining silent or joining a bandwagon of an opinion perceived to be dominant. There is none.

The many antagonistic positions taken by leaders from across the political divide means the public is jolted to engage and seek understanding and in so doing get to a more informed position to discharge their civil duties as citizens. Indeed, the noise of the many top leaders in advancing many antagonistic and confusing positions is jolting the silent masses to interrogate the maze of issues advanced in search of understanding.

The shifting political alliances and cries some Mt Kenya leaders close to the DP, including the DP himself, seem to be setting the stage for the dialectics of sectarian and ethnic politics on the one hand against a narrative of a united Kenya as advanced by those in the ruling regime out to annihilate the DP.

Well, while there is more to this, with critics opining that the falling-out is driven by commercial politics and access to control of public coffers or lack thereof, it does elicit engagement. No one would join the new-age UDA stalwarts out to clip the DP in his newfound political rhetoric and neither would the mourning Mt Kenya easily identify with the tribulations of the DP.

 In fact, Wanjiku is pushed into this space where she must interrogate all these positions against the backdrop of her plight.  Interestingly, the fact that the DP has invoked the name of President Uhuru Kenyatta with sentiments of having been deceived makes for an interesting reflection back to the campaign period. This is the kind of engagement needed in a democracy.

The masses are more engaged and as more politicians take different positions on issues and make noise, the silent majority are jolted to make sense of the issues. That is where Kenya is and that is where Mt Kenya is and it is good space for the country.

- The writer is a PhD candidate in political communication

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