News in Media Outlets…Jokes on Social Media Platforms

AKEED, Shadha Shamayleh

News published in media outlets, though serious, has recently become the subject of jokes among Jordanians on social media sites, particularly Facebook. However, most of these jokes and funny comments did contain political criticism or embrace a position toward a social or economic phenomenon.

Smart phone applications, along with social media sites, have contributed to the spread of jokes, memes, cartoons, and videos, to the extent that citizens used them to criticize government decisions and community behaviors, instead of using a serious approach to explain their positions toward these decisions, particularly in relation to the government.

In recent days, media outlets have been rife with events that filled social media platforms with jokes and ridicule, key of which were the two bank robberies, raising prices and imposing new taxes, and the statement by Prime Minister Hani Mulki to a group of deputies to the effect that there are no destitute Jordanians. This is in addition to Jordanians deploring the fact that a Jordanian investor bought a unique vehicle license plate number for 450,000 dinars.

The hashtag #al urduniyin_musakhamin (Jordanians are destitutes) has dominated social media platforms over the past few days. This was meant to make fun of the statement made by Prime Minister Dr. Hani Mulki that there were no destitute Jordanians in a video published by a daily newspaper on its Facebook page while talking separately with Deputy Mohammed Faraheed about raising tax on medicine. The deputy said: "I swear three times that Jordanians are destitutes."

The word "musakham" is used by Jordanians to refer to someone who is down and out. The word has another meaning in Jordanian slang, which is a person who has been sexually abused, though this meaning is not widespread today.

Jordanians circulated the hashtag about Jordanian destitutes on social media sites to reflect clear rejection of what the prime minister told one of the deputies.

The two recent bank robberies had the lion"s share of jokes as well. Jordanians on social media sites and chat applications exchanged numerous posts, such as:

  • "Wow! Jordan is pretending to be Chicago."
  • "Mulki: Any armed robbery over 10,000 dinars to be charged 12% robbery tax."
  • "All robbery equipment available in limited amounts: Mask in different colors, running shoes, money-counting machines …"

Some people went as far as supporting the robberies and blaming the first robber because he was caught quickly. The Public Security Directorate decried this attitude and stressed that "a crime remains a crime. Publishing inciting messages to commit a crime is legally accountable, and the necessary measures will be taken."

The Cyber Crime Unit called for "not adopting and publishing rumors and incorrect news because there are stiff penalties in the Cyber Crime Law against those who commit such acts."

As for raising prices and taxes, the accounts of Jordanians were full of ridicule and criticism. The following are some examples:

  • "Hobbies of Jordanians after raising prices: Finding women on Facebook, smoking hubble-bubble at night…armed robbery during the day."
  • "Tax on cigarettes so that people may quit smoking, tax on alcohol so that people may repent, tax on bread so that people may lose weight, tax on fuel so that people may economize, and tax on medicine so that they may die."
  • "Please do not whistle when hearing about prices. Go and whistle near the prime minister."

Jordanians also poked fun at the purchase of a vehicle license plate number for 450,000 dinars at an auction held by the Drivers and Motor Vehicles Licensing Department. Some people objected to the purchase, while others thought that the money would support the state treasury. However, many opinions contained hate speech toward the person who paid this amount for the number by linking this event to the difficult living conditions experienced by Jordanian citizens. The following are examples of these posts:

  • "For 450,000 dinars, I can buy two JETT (Jordan Express Tourist Transportation) buses, along with the license of the designated routes. All of this money for an iron plate!"
  • "Each year, there is selling of numbers, which is considered a means of donating to the state. In some countries, they offer to the public and tourists a lunch with the head of state or a famous actor in return for a large sum of money. This is another type of donation. This attracts naïve people to donate."

Dr. Hassan Mahadin, professor of sociology at Mutah University, told AKEED that "humor and ridicule are intellectual arms that represent popular creativity and express citizens" emotions concerning their sufferings or ambitions. They come up with something to reduce inner tension, whether on the individual or the collective level by expressing opinions on social media."

He added that Jordanians "use laughter as a soft tool to express rejection, through words and pictures." He noted that "technology and social media have reinforced individual freedom of expression through jokes and humor. Jordanians have their own expressions. We attribute jokes to certain geographic regions or social segments."

Khaled Qudah, trainer and member of the Jordan Press Association Board, told AKEED that "using jokes in sensitive issues, such as robbing a bank, is a serious indication in view of the social and economic conditions Jordanians are experiencing. Crime and robbing a bank have become commendable. They likened the robber to Robin Hood. The state has to heed this."