“If your family is stranded due to a natural disaster and you can make just one phone call, whose number will you dial — Narendra Modi’s or Rahul Gandhi’s?”

This interesting but loaded tweet by a blogger, bang in the middle of the Uttarakhand rescue and relief operations, provoked mixed reactions. Anything that didn’t suggest a particular answer seemed programmed to trigger a fusillade of abusive and defamatory tweets. I’m aghast at this grand slam trolling that seems to target anyone with an innocently contrarian view, even if they are apolitical and neutral handles on twitter.

An analysis of the source reveals a right wing slant and a history of targeting prominent national journalists whose reportage or views don’t coincide with those of the blogger in question.

Just recently CNN IBN’s Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted that he had to block 50 handles on a single day. Last week, NDTV’s Sreenivasan Jain wrote an elaborate rebuttal on the NDTV website after he faced personal attacks over an episode on the Ishrat Encounter case on his award winning ‘Truth Vs Hype’ show.

Not long ago, Rajdeep’s wife Sargarika Ghose wondered how some tweeple claim to be proud followers of a particular religion but use filthy language to abuse others. I concede that all is not well with sections of the media.

But to launch sniper attacks on seasoned journalists with decades of experience just because they don’t subscribe to your views is disgusting. To hurl invectives at those from other professions who are not involved in mainstream public discourse or aligned one way or the other, is worse. What’s next, attack people whom you think didn’t vote for your leader?

At a time of national mourning over a tragedy, do we need this viciousness? So uncivilised was the exchange that even some political parties were constrained to call for a ceasefire on twitter.

These self-styled media critics, who seem hungry to usurp the role of the Press Council or the National Broadcasters Association, must ask themselves a few basic questions: When they tweet furiously about paid news, what about paid tweets? When they cavil at politicians for posturing and claiming credit, what about their online outbursts?

Coincidentally, the Supreme Court pulled up a political leader for not controlling followers, this of course, in the real world. What about the venom spewed in the virtual world by those who claim to be followers of political leaders? Do these leaders wink at or disown or approve of name calling and abuse?

Just like verified signs for public figures, now that the battle in 2014 is going to be fought parallely on the social media, how about parties approving their followers? Is that too difficult an algorithm for twitter to come up with?

The profile info on some handles is an indication of what to expect. One says “blocked by celebrity journos”; another claims to be the “official parody account” of a prominent TV anchor.

A lawyer colleague was wondering if “official parody” is an oxymoron or the work of some disgruntled moron!

As I was pondering over the reasons for this online vitriol, the findings of a study on trolling and cyber bullying were published in the Journal of Language, Aggression and Conflict. Dr. Claire Hardaker of the University of Lancaster concludes that boredom tops a list of seven reasons for abusive behaviour on the social media.

Now imagine being bored and getting paid for it!

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