A bigot is a person who puts people off with the strength of their thoughts, which are not based on fact, but on bias.
If you put people off, you are not likeable. Simple.
So how do you become a likeable bigot?
Let Naomi Dutta tell you in this tongue-in-cheek excerpt from her book, How To Be A Likeable Bigot.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
Here are the guidelines for a glossy, palatable and crowd-pleasing version of bigotry. These are the various roles that a bigot can play, disproving that he or she is one-note and uni-dimensional, and is in fact a versatile, multitasking person.
1. The Bigot as BFF (Best Friends Forever, Not Bigot Forever)
As a card-holding bigot, when you are putting forth a slightly problematic view on a race, religion, gender or sexuality, always preamble it with, 'Some of my best friends are...'
This also means you have to be slightly indiscriminate in the use of the phrase 'best friends', but that could be the least of your character flaws. So don't dwell on it...
2. The Intellectual Bigot aka the Gobbledygookist
If you are equipped to, always use words that come couched in intellectualism... Complicate the narrative. The more oblique you are, the easier it will be for you to hold on to and reinforce biases...
...Basically, the aim here is to always speak in finely constructed gobbledygook.
You are likeable, you are bigoted and you also sound intelligent.
You make it sound as if your bigotry has an academic basis to it, that you have arrived at it after careful analysis and theoretical rigour. It isn't personal; it is in fact a detached, philosophical internalisation of bigotry.
3. The Logical Bigot
When someone like you -- read someone from your community -- commits a crime or misdemeanour, it is clearly an individual aberration.
If someone outside your community does the same, he or she indicts the entire race or religion he or she belongs to.
Always be equipped with infallible logic like this that can't be countered...
4. The Inclusive and Questioning Bigot
Always ask the right questions, which, in your case, begin and end with 'but what about?'
The social media phenomenon of 'whataboutery' comes under a lot of fire from hostile liberals.
'What about' is a question that is often misunderstood as a deflection tactic; it is in fact inclusive and shows a generosity of spirit.
When a misdeed or crime in committed in the name of your community or religion, always make sure to be inclusive and do a headcount of all other crimes committed in the name of other religions or communities...
5. The Bigot as Free-Speech Advocate
Strictly speaking, a bigoted view is a view that has the right to be expressed.
Our Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. Hold on to this right and use it strategically.
A lot of deep thinkers will tell you that if you don't call out bigotry amongst friends, family and colleagues, you are part of the problem. You are normalising it.
It is at this point that you can confuse the issue and in fact take the higher moral ground.
Tell them you will not shout down alleged bigotry as every value system has a right to exist in a robust democracy.
You support freedom of expression.
Keep this quote handy, which you must misattribute to Voltaire: 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.'
Apparently, Voltaire didn't say this; someone else did. But we don't want to be too strong on facts, so never mind that.
6. The Bigot as Marketer
At the very outset, we have set out our express purpose.
Bigotry needs a massive rebranding exercise. You need to soft sell it.
How do you do this? By giving it softer labels such as 'controversial', 'provocative', 'contentious', 'fractious', 'problematic', 'conservative' or 'old school'.
This relabelling makes it part of the mainstream narrative and socially acceptable.
It takes the edge off the issue and puts forward the proposition that a bigot is just another kind of person expressing a different opinion…
You see what you have done there: not only have you normalised being a bigot, you have also made it a part of a larger scheme of diversity.
7. A Bigot Is a Liberal Turned Inside Out -- Just a Lot Nicer. #SameGuy
A bigot and a hard-nosed liberal will have contrasting and divergent views. Focus on the commonality.
Both of these views are hardliner views.
What you need to do is hone in on the hardliner part: you need to state that you are opposed to extreme opinion and would rather seek the middle ground.
The middle ground is a grey area, a moral marshmallow that will be more acceptable to the bigot and untenable to the liberal.
You can then make a case for how inflexible the liberal is and is therefore more of the deviant than the bigot.
The context for the hardliner views does not matter. The fact that they are often non-negotiable is what you can deflect the attention to…
8. The Flexible Bigot
This is a masterstroke in the art of psychological warfare. Your biggest ally in this is not a fellow bigot or an ambivalent bigot. It can be the super-woke, super-strident liberal...
...What they do then is effectively work in a closed circle -- one where people leaning towards a more complex and nuanced stance are not welcome.
As a result, the silent, shunned moderate gets clubbed with the bigot.
And finally, it is a volumes game. Right now, the bigots have the numbers. What they can rest assured in is that there will be no resistance: the liberal is in a prolonged sulk.
All we therefore need to focus on is making your bigotry likeable.
By the time we are done, you will be winning all of those congeniality contests.
9. Bigots as Fake-News-Busters
...The factual narrative of the media cannot be a substitute for the uncanny instinct you have for the actual state of things.
The media that constantly plays up an odd case of bigotry or two is the problem, and not the bigotry itself.
Fortunately for us, we live in times when a significant portion of the media too believes in gut over fact. And therefore, will actually not report on facts.
The section that does is clearly biased and looking for easy clicks. We can choose to ignore their reportage.
The reportage of the incidents is the problem; the fact that they occur is not.
There will always be the odd one, or odd one hundred, or odd one million cases of bigotry. Do we really need to highlight and amplify them?
Get your priorities right. Focus on the positives.
10. The Desh-Bhakt Bigot
...You are a nationalist, and you believe in the sanctity of your country and culture.
You are the sort of person people make movies on and write books about.
You are completely right in calling out people who don't share your patriotic fervour.
It doesn't make you a bigot. And it also makes you very likeable -- to the extent that you could soon run for public office.
11. The Bigot Has the Last Laugh
Satire and humour can be another key accomplice in spreading our beatific version of bigotry.
A bigot is too straitlaced a person to use satire. It is far too twisted and complicated a device. But contrary to what you think, we can actually use it to further the interests of bigotry...
...Bigots are far too sweet and simple to be able to tell satire and take humour at face value. The more you run it down in a humorous, oblique fashion, the more convinced they are about their worldview.
Excerpted from How To Be A Likeable Bigot: A Handbook For The Savvy Survivor by Naomi Datta, with the kind permission of the publishers, Penguin Random House India.