The internet, cancel culture and Yomi Adegoke’s “The List” — Olukorede S Yishau 

The internet has changed a lot of things.

In the past, for instance, one needed special equipment to make a live broadcast.

These days, with an internet-ready phone, anyone can make a live broadcast to the whole world.

The internet has also checkmated gatekeeping in the media. Now, people are free to bare their minds without control or moderation. While the democratization of access has enabled free speech, it has also been prone to abuse.

In situations where abuse has occured,  victims are usually unable to get redress mostly because of the anonymity the Internet confers on trolls and bullies.

And sometimes where justice is served, the ubiquitous spread of information often means that the damage done is lasting and irreparable

These complications of the social media age is the thematic concern of  Yomi Adegoke’s debut novel, The List, which  brings to mind a proverb: “there’s no smoke without fire.”

Some aspects of this book which is propelled by elegant prose and a relatable premise also show that fire can sometimes arise out of contrived or alternative smoke.

The novel follows lovebirds; Ola, who is of Nigerian descent, and Michael, a Ghanaian.

The UK-based lovebirds are digitally savvy and  have benefited from the internet and social media has been a boon to their careers.

A few days to their wedding, however, the internet’s other side rears its head.

A list of sexual abusers surfaces online and Michael is on the list. Though his first name is misspelt and his last name is not included, the description points directly at him.

It creates a dilemma for Ola— a journalist and feminist who is known for championing women’s causes and to make matters worse, her employers want her to do a story on the list.

While Michael is battling to prove his innocence, his employers, afraid of a backlash, ask him to go on leave. Home alone and unsure of Ola’s final decision on the wedding, Michael is a nervous wreck.

The development puts the duo in reflecting moods. In Ola’s case, she keeps wondering if there are signs she  missed that somehow justify Michael’s inclusion on the list; in Michael’s case, it is more of self-examination.

The novel is on that score a perspicacious dissection and  interrogation of the social media era and its impacts on our lives.

It lays bare cancel culture, that phenomenon where individuals or groups are publicly criticised, shamed, or boycotted, often on social media, for perceived offenses or controversial statements/actions.

Through Ola and Michael, we see how desperate people can become when they are in search of ways out of a cul-de-sac.

We also see how past lies can haunt us in moments when we are telling the truth.

In raising questions about the merits and demerits of the internet, the book  explores the ignorance of the older generation regarding the harmful effects of the internet and it makes us wonder what our world would be without the internet.

The book also shows how trolls and bullies who have cause damage on cyberspace easily move on and expect the same of their victims—forgetting that, a lot of times, the damage caused cannot be undone.

The novel, on another level, x-rays parenthood and the marriage institution. Through Ola’s father, who led a double life, and Michael’s father, who is nonchalant about his child and his wife, we glimpse life’s complexity and how those involved deal with it.

The novel references the Bill Cosby and  R. Kelly sagas while showing that nothing is ever as simple as it looks. There are always deeper and darker angles than we can decipher.

Without being judgmental, The List casts a harsh light into the lives of the current generation of young adults and the role of drugs, alcohol and sex in shaping them. It also dwells on friendship and how different friends bring different things to the table.

The last bit of the book is intense. It comes with some heart-pumping moments where every assumption about the source of the trouble comes crashing down and you are like: What just happened?

Adegoke has delivered an important book for these fraught times.


***Olukorede S Yishau is the author of In The Name of Our Father, Vaults of Secrets and the United Countries of America and Other Travel Tales. His sophomore novel,  After The End, is forthcoming in July from Masobe Books. 


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