Stooping to slander

Dear Trolls,

George Bernard Shaw once advised us: “Never wrestle with a pig. You will get dirty. And the pig loves it” This often comes to the mind of most tweeple whenever they are hounded by trolls like you. Your guerilla style cyber warfare and sniper attacks, one realises, stem from Dutch courage. Just like fungus needs moisture, you need anonymity to survive. Most of you wear your cowardice on your handles with weird user names like crooks, scarecrows, vampires, devils and so on. You follow and attack a large number of public figures. You have just a handful of followers, probably fake. And your arsenal comprises the choicest invectives, most of them unprintable and vocabulary as sparse as your followers. Now that your generic introduction is complete, let me make a ‘doomed to fail’ attempt to open your eyes.

A psychologist friend recently told me about a disturbing spurt in the incidence of depression and suicidal tendencies linked to cyber bullying and trolling. Cyber Crime Cells are also flooded with complaints at regular intervals. Your victims are ordinary middle class folks, most of them absolutely apolitical and who thought they had a platform to express their views without fear. They don’t need to belong to a party or owe allegiance to a political ideology to tweet on political questions. Quite understandably, the views on political or contentious issues come under your microscope. Your inherent hatred obviously clouds the fact that in the real world, there are shades of grey. Any contrarian view is a trigger for you to hunt in packs, call people names, attribute motives and let your vituperative juices flow.

Have you trolls ever thought of the agony you are causing others? Do you realise that the crusade to decriminalise defamation and the challenge to Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act is weakened by your presence as your actions almost justify the retention of such laws? Would you dare to reveal your real identity and say a fraction of what you now do? Do you know to what extent you have sullied the hard earned reputation of people with your nasty comments, insinuations and innuendoes? Are you aware of how many well meaning public figures you have pushed out of twitter? Are you taking advantage of scores of ordinary folk whom you attack but who don’t complain as they are either helpless or believe in the saying ‘the dogs bark but the caravan moves on’? Are you exploiting Twitter’s Terms of Use that are not of much help to the average victim of abuse? Do you know what many top politicians I have checked with, have to say about your trolling? They view your ‘contribution’ as “unsolicited, misplaced loyalty”. One of them even reasoned that abuse is not the best campaign anthem and can be counter productive. So what’s your locus standi?

By all means criticise others. That's your fundamental right. But that's not absolute right as it comes with reasonable restrictions - a strict ‘No’ to defamation, incitement to violence or anything opposed to decency, public order and morality. What you trolls don’t get is that dissent and abuse are not the same. Remember that press conference in the film American President in which Michael Douglas thunders: “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” Not agreeing with someone is no justification to get abusive. Counter their views. With facts. With logic. With reasonable arguments. With humour, if you can manage that. But please spare us foul language and slander. If you still insist on letting loose, at least have the guts to reveal your real identity. Own your tweets. Be accountable for what you write. Hiding and pelting stones at others is the highest form of cowardice.

Your notion of free speech as a birth right for a ‘free for all’ is skewed. Free Speech must also be Responsible Speech.

Do you want to retweet this link and pounce on me? Bring it on. It will only prove what I’ve just written!

Optimistically,

Sanjay Pinto

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