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For whom the bell trolls

January 06, 2019 11:09 IST

'Some semi-literate lunkhead tweeting at Rs 2 per tweet from a dingy basement in Chennai or San Diego accomplishes nothing, but give hundreds of thousands of them a time, date, and talking points, and they can create a wall of sound -- a nonsensical wall, perhaps, but one that is heard, and that can occasionally prevail just because it's there,' says Mitali Saran.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

 

The biggest development the Bharatiya Janata Party has brought to India has been the online right-wing troll mob.

Skip this whole column if you know all about it; it's for those who don't get what the fuss is about.

The right-wing troll army is tasked with fanning Hindutva, and discrediting those parts of the news media and those individuals that haven't already discredited themselves by rolling over before the Narendra Damodardas Modi government.

It does so through insult, misinformation, a spurious insistence on 'data', and straight up lies.

Trolls trade on collective speech and collective unreason, deriving their strength purely from numbers.

Think bees and ants, but less cuddly.

Some semi-literate lunkhead tweeting at Rs 2 per tweet from a dingy basement in Chennai or San Diego accomplishes nothing, but give hundreds of thousands of them a time, date, and talking points, and they can create a wall of sound -- a nonsensical wall, perhaps, but one that is heard, and that can occasionally prevail just because it's there.

We could all learn a thing or two from the organisational capability of these creatures -- backed and directed by the BJP's information technology cell, and encouraged, followed, and felicitated by directly by Modi and BJP President Amit Anilchandra Shah.

Nodal trolls with tens or hundreds of thousands of supporters act either as original sparks to start a fire, or as petrol to throw on one when they are tagged by those with 182,000 tweets and 15 followers.

Trolls work with discipline, follow orders, and execute the dark arts of psychological operations.

They deflect substance and concentrate on reshaping public perception of their targets.

Their messages to those who dissent or oppose the government fall into a few broad categories, ranging from trivial to dangerous.

TROLLS
  1. 1. Looks: You look like a witch/prostitute/a man, and/or old.
    This level of trolling ricochets right off one's ugly old eyeball.
  2. 2. Dyspepsia: You can't 'digest' the fact that Mr Modi won.
    Health would include the peristalsis of compliance.
    Dissidents are just cranky invalids still sickened by a loss, and unable to think clearly.
  3. 3. Burnol: Trolls paint dissenters as people stewing in their own juices, frying in their own distress.
    Their recommendation to apply Burnol is shorthand for reducing opposition to wounded vanity, pain arising only from stinging humiliation or jealousy.
  4. 4. Elitism: Sour grapes! You miss the gravy train of your paymasters at 10 Janpath, and the perks of sipping champagne on former PM Manmohan Singh's plane.
    It doesn't matter whether you ever had it, you miss the freeloading high life, but your time is over, sucker.
    Dissent as the bile of deprivation segues nicely into:
  5. 5. Slavery: You are an Italian slave and a bonded mouthpiece, and you need to express these views to get your monthly cheque from your Congress paymasters.
    You refuse to bend because of Western brainwashing, and because you are already crawling before the Congress.
    This dovetails into:
  6. 6. Sold-out presstitute: You 'peddle' things for the highest bidder ('peddling' connotes a cheapened or purely mercenary ethics, and in the case of women, is bound up in misogyny).
    Never forget that it was the PM who came up with 'bazaaru media', and his Minister of State V K Singh who came up with 'presstitute'.
  7. 7. Spreading lies: The troll faculty at the 'University of WhatsApp' simply states that unflattering news reports are lies, and provide cherry-picked or utterly fictitious nonsense to prove the opposite.
  8. 8. Hatred of Modi: Criticism comes only from 'blind hatred' of Mr Modi himself.
    Saying that you're neither blind, nor hate the man, would be like reasoning with a landslide.
    This tiresome refrain blurs the distinction between critique and motivated hatred.
  9. 9. Hatred of Hinduism: A boring trope, especially to an atheist, but it's catnip to fundamentalist Hindus.
    Critique is religious and cultural insult.
  10. 10. Hatred of India: You're an anti-national, you're part of the 'tukde tukde gang' or the 'award wapsi gang', where the word 'gang' is suggestive of criminality.
    You're 'breaking India', you're part of the 'anti-India forces', you're defaming India, you should go to Pakistan, or live in Saudi Arabia, you should be jailed, or killed, or raped, you should be put on watchlists.
    Of all the frenzy a mob can whip up, this is the most dangerous, because it challenges the dissident's right to citizenship, safety, and liberty.
    Never forget that the PM publicly validated Vivek Agnihotri's malicious term 'urban Naxal', which slyly conflates privilege and sedition.

Right-wing trolls began as a nuisance, swiftly graduated to an electoral leg-up, then propped up propaganda sites such as OpIndia and Postcard News as legitimate journalism, and are now a serious challenge to fact, history, and the public's right to know.

They have so vitiated public perception of the media, under the benevolent guidance of the top BJP leadership, that one can only quote this twist on Martin Niemoller's warning: 'First they came for the journalists. We don't know what happened after that.'

Mitali Saran
Source: source
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