The recent declaration from KNPB has successfully gained considerable public attention. The declaration was a result of a congress held in this month, and it contains several concrete call for actions. Besides requesting the West Papuans to support their military organization, KNPB issued a call to mobilize people for a national civil strike, which is intended to paralyze the whole economy in West Papua. The ultimate goal of the strike is to garner momentum and support in order to push the Indonesian government to a referendum. While we are here, let us discuss what is inside the strategic, and tactical minds of a West Papuan separatist.
1. Mass Mobilization
With the promise that independence will bring wealth and joy to all the West Papuans, KNPB starts by targeting people, especially the youth, who are interested in being a hero or die as a martyr. They start inflicting fear by publishing photos of the Indonesian cruelty towards Papuans, and create frustration by asking everyone to join the strike and abandoning their jobs. In such situation, every member of the society will be forced to feel that they are a part of the fight. Eventually, KNPB will claim that the majority of West Papuans give their support for KNPB.
2. Sparking a Clash
In a workers strike where members of KNPB’s military wing will be present, and a lot of separatist public figures are going to deliver emotional speeches, it will be inevitable that a lot of personnel from the police is going to be deployed, and the mobilized mass will only need a little push to poke an officer and cause a riot. The more concerning point is that, there is actually no real incentive for the separatist movement to prevent casualties from their own side. The publicity of every human casualty is way too valuable.
It is good if someone gets hurt. It is better if someone gets heavily wounded. It is best if someone dies.
3. Glorifying the Victims
Remember, unlike the victims from the police and military side, every dying ‘activist’ is a hero. In every Facebook post, every video, every article, human casualty is always the key. The more, the better. Explicit photos containing graphic disturbance, or a video showing physical contact between the police, military and the ‘activists’ are the things that make social media engagement goes through the roof. The publicity becomes more powerful with the addition of human rights arguments in the ingredient. Every number of civilian deaths claimed as human rights violations by Indonesian government is a step closer towards the ultimate goal of KNPB, the separation of West Papua.
4. Spinning the Stories
The next step is creating a narrative. It is not difficult to create a premise that the police and military opened fire towards unarmed activists and freedom fighters. From the perspective of average viewers, activists will always be given the benefit of the doubt. That means, demanding a credible evidence from activists will be considered insensitive and uncaring. Buzzers use one of the most classical modus operandi between political hecklers. First, they use strong words in rhetorical sentences. Second, they avoid engaging in debates that involve data and logical analysis, and use personal attacks instead. Third, they always repeat the lies and deny the truth. By the moment people finally debunk their myths and hoaxes, they already came up with the new hoaxes to be dealt with.
(Image:, using repetitive rhetorics on Twitter)
Hiding behind the wall of human rights jargons has been proven effective in gaining attention, especially from the international audience who see Papua as an underdeveloped place with an irresponsible national government, which is far from the case.In the newly digitized era of social media, places such as Facebook pages or political websites alongside with various social media, are examples of near-perfect echo chambers, where we can only hear similar opinions, and not dissenting ones. People regularly leave comments which do not contain matters to be discussed, but only provocative chants and emotional releases.
An outright lie, when repeated long enough, has the power to freeze our ability to think and criticize. To make things worse, there is usually no social punishment whatsoever for both those who created fake news, and those who spreaded it. The accounts are rarely banned. The West Papuan are the ones who have to stay alert in consuming informations from these separatist echo chambers.