Voices Sunday, June 22, 2014 - 05:30
Siddharth Mohan Nair  Aware, empowered and strong we all become because of the spread and the ease of access of the social media, especially Twitter. Right from the Prime Minister of the country to the person next door we get to know what people do and what they think, on a minute to minute basis. News – information (at times disinformation) and views – come so quick and in plentitude.  I use the word ‘empowered’ because in Twitter, unlike the conventional information providing media, one can not only hear what one says but, also respond – second, argue and question. To our response comes another response, and to it another, and it goes on and on. It becomes a potpourri of views, to an extent empowering. But, sadly, all is not so rosy in Twitter. There thrives a fervent section among the Twitterati, who mount vociferous abuse on those who speak something against their beliefs and faith. Criticism is fine and even necessary, but certainly not abuse in the guise of it. If one does not like a particular person’s views, he can very well not ‘follow’ that person on Twitter. But, far from doing that, there is a strange section among the Twitterati who ‘follow’ more carefully those with whom they have diagonally opposing viewpoints, wait for them to speak, and then pour abuse like molten lava in an indefatigable manner with an intention to stifle them. Among those tweeple on the receiving end; some do succumb, tweeting no more of that. Some are sangfroid, with a say-what-ever-you-want kind of attitude. Some, albeit very few, fight back. Many ignore; but not beyond a level. Indeed, the level of toleration needs to be too high, and if one wishes not to bow down and to keep tweeting their views, what they should develop is a thick skin.  Here are some celeb Twitterati who get the most of it. On 8 June Smt Sagarika Ghose of the CNN IBN tweeted ‘Why is press freedom in jeopardy across the globe? Delighted to be presenting India paper at global media women retreat!’ Not much time had passed when her tweeple ‘haters’ took her to task. ‘I swear I read that as ‘Global MediaWORM Retreat’ – a place better suited for you perhaps,’ tweeted one. Another tweeted, ‘Who will listen to you jeehadi brainless anchor who has been strip(ped) off from IBNLIVE? Keep tweeting bullshit Indian not interested.’  On 2 June when she tweeted ‘Its been a long and wearying election & its time for a break at last! Stay well and stay cool folks.:),’ a follower of hers replied ‘Come back soon… India needs journos with spine, now, more than ever!’ To this tweet came a reply, ‘Can’t say about the spine – but on FTN (Face The Nation, a show she hosts) one certainly saw the biceps :)’ Abuses in professional to personal front, such is the level to which some tweeple can stoop! When Shri Shashi Tharoor tweeted yesterday ‘Someone needs to remind PM @narendramodi of these views of CM Narendra Modi..’ sharing a link where Shri Narendra Modi as Gujarat CM had asked Shri Manmohan Singh to withdraw the hike in freight charges, a tweeple replied thus: ‘Yes we have also reminded him about synonyms death of a lady…. Yaad bhi hain ki bhul gayein.’ It seems some tweeple do not even let free those who have ascended from earth. When there were abuses all along, Shri Tharoor, probably pained at what he was reading, did not bother to reply. A tweet came, ‘shashi ji do you ever read our tweets even,’ and Shashiji replied ‘sometimes!’ Alas, what else could be have said? Politicians and journalists are not the only ones to be heaped with abuses. Academicians, too, get their share for voicing opinion on Twitter. On 7 June when Shri Ramchandra Guha, a pre-eminent historian tweeted that ‘The largest and most influential ‘foreign-funded NGOs’ in India are in fact BJP and the Congress..’ and shared a link of a newspaper article titled ‘Delhi HC finds BJP, Congress guilty of receiving foreign funding,’ an exasperated man replied thus: ‘MORONS 1st,this story is 25 years old..2nd political party is against India?U r true moron and invloved in anti national activites.’  Well, to who say that historians should stick to topics of History alone, here’s what happened. On 10 June when he tweeted ‘Gandhi, speaking in Madras, March 1919: ‘There is too much recrimination, innuendo and insinuation in our public life...’ the tweets in reply were ‘From our eminent distorian,’ ‘someone seems to be a fan of " Back to the future",’ ‘… there is not a single favorable comment on this joker's tweet’ and so on.  This morning Shri Siddharth Varadarajan, former Editor of The Hindu tweeted ‘My twitter day usually starts with a bunch of Hindutva types copying me on some anti-Muslim rubbish and me then muting them. Score today: 18’ In less than a minute he got a tweet in reply, ‘wow. That’s all you are reduced to now. What a fall.’  It was a trend in India in the past to call people who had opinions contrary to theirs as Communists and agents of the CIA. Very recently Shri Sanjay Jha, national spokesperson of the Congress party had, following a dispatch authored by a US Department of State diplomat, in a tweet on 25 April, called Shri Subramanian Swamy a CIA agent. Swamyji, the maverick he is, took the issue head on by accusing the Congress spokesperson of libeling him and served a legal notice on him. Sanjayji replied to the notice saying that his ‘impugned tweet’ was an attempt by him ‘solely to invite discussions in the social media to seek perspectives…’ and tendered an ‘unconditional apology’ and also promised to ‘delete the said tweet forthwith.’  Seldom do instances like these happen. Very few people read such tweets that come in response to theirs, let alone take them seriously. However, abuse should be stopped. Without which, rather than being a beautiful platform for sharing information and views, Twitter would turn into an ugly place. The easiest way is to not ‘follow’ those whose views one never concurs. But the urge in you to know what they tweet does not let you to do so, you must not reply, or at least, reply with civility. No one likes to see abuses being piled when they enter the world of Twitter. If nothing of these works, perhaps, we may well need a TPC, a Twitter Penal Code! Let such a day never come. Happy Tweeting! Siddharth Mohan Nair is a Gandhian, author and a political activist. The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability on the same.