When Babo Became Ivan
Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia compete in the Ice Dance Free Dance during the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating on Nov. 3, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. (Joosep Martinson - International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images)

When Babo Became Ivan

Al Qabas, Kuwait, June 23

A video depicting a duo dancing on ice recently spread on social media, accompanied by a touching story about the male dancer that supposedly brought tears to thousands of spectators. According to the post, the dancer, an Indian by the name of Babo, lost his eyesight as a kid when a fire broke out in the apartment he had lived in with his mother. Fearing for their lives, the mother held onto Babo and jumped out of the seventh-floor window. She died, but Babo survived. The doctors were able to save his life but not his vision. Shortly after healing, Babo began taking figure skating classes. Although he was blind, he was able to follow movements through voice and became a professional ice dancer. He competed in several dance competitions and won an award together with his ice-skating partner more than once. Because the story became so viral and contained a lot of jarring facts, I decided to look into it. After a quick internet search, it became immediately clear to me that it contains a lot of blatant errors and omissions. It turns out that the dancer’s name isn’t Babo but rather Ivan. He’s a Russian who has never visited India before. In fact, he has perfect vision and has never had a single bone fractured in his body. And, yes, his mother is still alive. So the inevitable question that we must ask ourselves is: Who is in charge of this blatant misinformation? Who spends so much time and energy compiling videos of this kind, fabricating stories, distorting reality, and packaging it up for people to consume? Undoubtedly, this can only be done by intelligence agencies or state actors. But what is their ultimate goal? Is it intended to waste our time reading, criticizing, and discussing the contents of such posts? Is it intended to mislead us? This specific video is just an example but there are millions of other similar cases out there. Frankly, I’m really tired of these misinformation campaigns even if they seem benign. We have become so gullible, consuming and believing everything we read online as if it is the gospel. Therefore, it is our duty to consume online content with caution, stop promoting such stories, and refrain from sharing them with others. Believe me: There will be no harm done to anyone by not forwarding yet another video to an entire WhatsApp group we’re members of. –Ahmed Al-Sarraf (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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