By Sushil Kutty
India’s electoral democracy is a spectacle. A political circus. What goes on under the big-top is quite literally a display worth the presentation: A visually striking performance, decibel-rich. Parade. Pageant, Extravaganza! Amidst all this, a five-year-long display of barely concealed hate spewed on Social Media. It’s not just bots and trolls in the hire of political parties who vomit virtual bile, but also fast and Facebook ‘friends’; divorced and deserted ‘handles’.
They are in the thousands and thousands. Millions! These ‘friends’ and ‘handles’. Most of them who never met face-to-face, never spoke to each other. But are arrayed in opposite political and ideological camps. And for that ‘sin’ are enemies, sparring rivals and debating detractors! Armed with words, pictures and memes to humiliate and put down the other. The one who gets the last word, the last picture, the last meme in is winner!
Political and ideological battles are no longer fought between political parties and their cadre. No more clashes in the open. Or violence in the streets. Or, last stop hospital, where ‘brought dead’ is often the epitaph. That was then, before the YK2 phobia, the Internet, Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and what have you.
The barbs and acid tongues are now virtual –– Android and Apple iOS! Smartphone revolutionized ideological and political wars. Hate these days is on the move. In buses, cars, trains and the Metro. The very road on foot. In the cul de sac and the public square. If it wasn’t for captain and cabin crew, it would go 30,000 feet up in the sky. Even otherwise satellites, which facilitate the emotion and the medium, are in outer space.
The name-calling, the innuendo-hurling, insult-trading and the body-shaming. Everything goes. Doesn’t matter who you are and where you are. The left and right don’t know boundaries. The endless battle to outsmart left-right happens 24/7/365. The main contestants are the BJP and the Congress. Right of centre and left of centre. With General Elections 2019 approaching, the war on Social Media is bound to intensify.
If grapevine is to believed, troll-hiring and bot-employment are at its height these days to choke (shape is the wrong word) voter preference, change perception as the country heads to elect the next Lok Sabha. Cyber cells of both Congress and BJP are overworked, but not overpopulated. There’s always a workstation for one more bot, a million trolls. Shortage of jobs is not a bot and troll problem.
July 2018, trolls went berserk. Of the right-wing variety. They did not leave even their own – Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh – alone. The Home Minister for coming to the rescue of the External Affairs Minister. And the Congress, not spared by ‘Sanghi-trolls’, snapped at the chance to get out of the ‘Spandana-groove’. Congress national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala took to Twitter and read the riot act to the BJP.
This, after he found himself the target of the right-wing trolls. The month also saw a professional comedian speaking for Congress president Rahul Gandhi, a favourite of BJP trolls. A favour he would rather not have. Surjewala weighed in on behalf of Sushma Swaraj and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “unfollow” some of the most vicious right-wing trolls who follow him, show that he doesn’t endorse them or their views, especially their trolling.
But, of course, the Congress was expecting the moon. It set an “Unfollow Day” for Modi to “unfollow” lowlife who “followed” him . But “Unfollow Day” did not project on Modi’s calendar. Sushma Swaraj did not get any support from the PM, forget Surjewala. On that score, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is impartial. He doesn’t differentiate between Congress-trolled and BJP-trolled. His sense of cutting-edge impartiality comes in the way.
And Congress media cell head Divya ‘Ramya’ Spandana hasn’t helped. In fact, Rahul Gandhi’s makeover from “timid” to “terrific” started with Spandana assuming charge and taking head-on BJP’s Twitter trolls. Right when they thought they had upper-handle, Spandana caught them by the handle and knocked them silly. For the first time Congress trolls had upper-hand. No mean feat!
Last word is for the collateral, those who don’t take sides. Those who get trolled for sitting on the fence. Pressure on them to convert/join gets so intense, it borders on intolerance. They are like they’re atheists. Some even apostates. Blind followers of Satan. Charged with being indifferent to “crimes” around them. They are lone wolves trolled for not being bots! Get off the fence, morons! Spew hate. Like any good troll or bot. (IPA Service)