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Hashtag antagonism

If there was a prize for best sarcasm — vitriol and yes, wit too — many Indians on Twitter wouldn’t have to play Kaun Banega Crorepati! The micro-blogging site witnessed hyperactivity in the week that was. Fuelled by the much-hyped business conclave speeches of two political leaders, an outrageous comment by a Deputy Chief Minister and the ‘edge of the seat’ IPL fever, Twitter has been bursting at the seams. We need to ask ourselves — what purpose do these frenetic tweets really serve, “beyond the 140 character gratification”, as a former business editor-turned-corporate head honcho put it? Is there a sense of balance? Frankly, the answer hinges on whose handles you access.

The social media ‘reviews’ of speeches of Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi, two possible Prime Ministerial candidates, were more polarised and intense than even an India-Pakistan cricket final! Playing out as the Congress-backed hashtag ‘Feku’ Vs the BJP-backed ‘Pappu’ troll war, television channels milked the online antagonism. Not just by running scrolls with tweets from both sides of the divide but also outsourcing perspective. Asking viewers to tweet questions anchors should ask studio panelists is an acknowledgment of the inherent value of social media discourse. A news channel has been conducting a quiz on Twitter, presumably to push traffic on its site and even solicits questions for its star guests in ‘on ground’ debates. Just that even posting a question will invite the wrath of either of the party trolls!

Clearly, there are users who seem incapable of making a distinction between asking a legitimate question and passing judgment. Isn’t this intimidation? Isn’t this worse than censorship? Hold on, this is only the trailer to the 2014 battle. Shabana Azmi was provoked enough to tweet that “Organised hate mongers have followers as low as 1 or 200 max.” That’s hardly surprising as empty vessels make the most noise. A journalist hit the nail on the head: “Hey trolls — there are people who are neither pro-Modi or pro-Rahul Gandhi. They are pro-India and waiting for good leadership talk.” But then arguing with some sections can be quite like wrestling with a pig in a marsh. After a while, you realise that you are getting dirty and the pig is enjoying it!

Ajit Pawar’s “biggest blunder” in his career — his “do you want me to urinate in the dam if it’s dry?” comment came in for hilarious to mean tweets. While a prominent Delhi socialite said the politician deserved the Moraji Desai ‘Piss’ Prize, another commentator nominated him as a Minister for ‘Drip Irrigation’! The neta’s apology doesn’t seem to have reduced the severity of the tweets. But it does expose the double standards in the political landscape — where a Shashi Tharoor lost his earlier job over his “cattle class” tweet, those who say much worse than even the Marie Antoinette barb “if there’s no bread, eat cakes”, can sit pretty. So are we expected to take it with a pinch of salt?

Whatever was left of the Twitter menu was gobbled up by the IPL. The ball-by-ball running commentary by several users makes me doff my hat to their multi-tasking skills — watching, cheering, tweeting!

Some handles have lashed out at new TV cricket show anchors who clearly know very little about the game, evident from the frivolous questions posed to players.

What the mainstream media sometimes fights shy of asking, the social media picks up. If only there were some boundaries set!

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Printable version | Oct 13, 2021 7:36:09 AM |

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