Lewis Prai Wellip, who used to identify himself as an accountant at Bank Pembangunan Daerah Papua (Papua Development Bank), is only one of the typical separatist “buzzers”. Having as few as 169 followers on Twitter (at the moment this article was being written), he is notorious for spreading less than believable hoaxes since 2017. His latest masterpiece was the hoax that the Indonesian intelligence agency purposefully poisoned the circulating food supply in West Papua, causing deaths of many innocent lives.
Hoax buzzers like Lewis 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: Lewis Prai Wellip, using repetitive rhetorics on Twitter)
The Gullibility of Innocent West Papuans
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. Echo chambers are places where we can only hear similar opinions, and not dissenting ones. A great example is a facebook fanpage of a separatist movement, where people regularly leave comments which do not contain matters to be discussed, but only provocative chants and emotional releases.
In a box of constant, consistent, and repeated lies, it is easy to see that people who jumped into the box will be expected to feel the social pressure to try and swallow parts of those lies as an alternative truth. An outright lie, when repeated long enough, has the power to freeze our ability to think and criticize. This is exactly where hoaxes get in.
To make things worse, there is usually no social punishment whatsoever for both those who created the hoax, and those who spreaded the hoax. Lewis Prai’s name is not going to be banned from social media anytime soon, and we should expect the same with other hoax creators. The West Papuan are the ones who have to stay alert in consuming informations from these separatist echo chambers.