It was a week of fake stories about Ahok, Anies, ghosts, and weird weather.
Photo illustration by Iyas Lawrence
Welcome to Can't Handle the Truth, VICE Indonesia's weekly column on the latest fake news and hoaxes to hit your WhatsApp groups.
Welcome to a new era in Indonesia, where we can no longer tell the difference between what's real and what's fake. Cheaper smartphones have put the flow of information right in our palms. The average Indonesian spends as long as 5.5 hours a day online, according to a survey by GFK Asia. But when our WhatsApp groups are full of sensational stories about political parties, motorbike thieving pocong, and inclement weather, who knows what to believe?
Well we're here, with your weekly guide to the fakest of the fake. Welcome to "Can't Handle the Truth."
Ahok wrote an open letter from prison
There's no shortage of famous works written behind bars. Henry David Thoreau penned his influential guide to resisting unjust governments "Civil Disobedience and Other Writings" after spending a single night in jail. Nelson Mandela wrote "Conversations with Myself" during his 27 years in prison. Is Basuki Tjahaja Purnama next?
The outgoing governor, a man widely known as Ahok, was locked up on May 9th after being found guilty of committing blasphemy. His supporters quickly gathered outside East Jakarta's Cipinang Penitentiary to demand is release. The next day, a letter, allegedly penned from inside the prison hit WhatsApp.
The letter, titled "Surat Pak Ahok untuk Kita Semua," or "Ahok's Letter For All of Us," quickly went viral. In it, Ahok reportedly urged his wife Veronica Tan to meet with protests and ask them to keep fighting for justice. "Keep the fire of resistance alive, regardless how strong the wind..." the letter read.
He also included a note to his wife, "her big love for me and Jakarta will enable her to carry all of this... (I love you Vero... )." It was an emotional and moving letter sure to keep the movement alive... only if it was true.
Ahok's spokesman Raja Juli Antoni said that letter was a hoax. "I checked with the staff who are with Ahok inside the prison," Antoni told local media.
Anies-Sandi threw a victory concert
It was the concert that never happened. When Gerindra's Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno won the Jakarta gubernatorial election, a flyer for a victory concert in Senayan, South Jakarta, suddenly appeared online.
The image was first shared by Melly Goeslaw, the vocalist of Potret, who was surprised to find her name on the bill. Others included Dewa 19, KLA Project, Superman is Dead, and Judika. It was a weird bill to say the least.
Indonesian netizens immediately believed the poster. Classic move. Then they started to argue. While a victory concert might not seem too controversial, it makes for pretty bad optics in the wake of one of Indonesia's ugliest elections in history. Celebrating with a bunch of celebrities might look more than a little insensitive to the losing side.
The Anies-Sandi organization quickly dismissed the whole thing as a hoax.
"We never planned, organized, or even announced the gue menang telak concert," spokesman Naufal Firman Yursak told local media. "This might worsen the image of Anies-Sandi's volunteers because it would look like we're celebrating too much."
Some ghosts are stealing motorbikes
The only thing better than a good crime story is a good ghost story. And this one has both. There was a message going around WhatsApp warning of some otherworldly thieves. These criminals were reportedly dressing like pocong in an attempt to surprise drivers and then steal their motorbikes in the confusion.
The message's advice? Just drive straight into the sleeping pocong.
It's all a bit strange. Pocong are tied up in a death shroud, an outfit that would make it pretty hard to be an effective robber. Plus the "evidence" included in the WhatsApp messages, which included photos of the suspects and details on a crime scene at a Chinese cemetery in the Margonda section of Depok, West Java, immediately raised some red flags.
"There is no Chinese cemetery in Margonda," police told local media.
So if you do see a pocong in the street, we have the following advice: Don't hit it. There are already too many pocong hit and run victims out there.
It was snowing on Jalan Sudirman
For 21 brief seconds, it looked like the impossible had happened. A video showing "snow" on Jakarta's Jalan Jenderal Sudirman was making the rounds on WhatsApp and YouTube. And people were pretty excited. A lot of Indonesians couldn't afford to see snow in real life, so this fake flurry was about as close as some could get.
Too bad it wasn't true (obviously). The Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) isn't a fan of this kind of weather whimsy.
"That foam spilled from a truck in the street," said Harry Tirto Djatmiko, of the BMKG. "Snow can only fall in subtropical and pole areas. So the news was not true."
Yeah. Thanks for the reality check dude.