When Cyrus Broacha started gaining immense popularity through his prankster role in MTV Bakra, Indian entertainment industry mirthfully opened its door for public “trolling”. With better TRP results, the thin line between invading someone’s personal space and playing a light prank with someone started fading.
TV channels started selling shows in which show-hosts troubling families by ringing their call bells at 2 in the night was called entertainment and radio jockeys started dialing random people and horrifying them with random jokes. While entertainment was reshaping its definitions, public was also preparing themselves to accept “trolling” as a form of communication.
In late 2000s, social media exploded like a nuclear bomb and generated multiple options for communication. The old possibilities of “many to one” and “one to many” communication suddenly changed into “many to many” and “any to any” communication.
With this new platform available to everyone at an equal footing, trolling, intrusion, blocking, abusing, attacking, etc. also grew manifold. However, social media trolling is much more than just invading personal space. Unlike trolling done in old MTV Bakra days, when people were disturbed just for entertainment, social media trolling has multilayer dimensions. Also, unlike general social establishments, where people have the rights to maintain their privacy, social media blossoms around unveiling social privacies.
For this column, my sample sets of observation are champions of freedom of speech, democracy and liberalism, who are offended when their mechanisms are applied on them, my sample sets of observation are journalists/columnists/thinkers, who boast about their responsibility to question ideologies, but block people when they are challenged.
In my previous post, I put non-abusive and non-vulgar arguments against a post published in Scroll.in. As far as my intelligence allows me to interpret my writings, I was not even remotely trying to threaten the author – an author who propagates the fear of Hindu Nation, but I was blocked.
To analyze my fault, I tried to search his opinion about freedom of speech. This is what he says:
Without freedom of speech and expression, there is nothing to save. A thousand bullet trains won't make for democracy.
— Shivam Vij (@DilliDurAst) July 11, 2014
On 3rd Jan 2015, I read that Praveen Swami was blocking people for writing anything against his terror boast post. I tried to act funny by tagging him in a tweet with an OpIndia.com link and this text “Sir, don’t block me, khi khi”. I was blocked within 5 minutes.
I don’t have issues for being blocked. In fact, I do block people for using abusive languages, but I was surprised because a senior journalist, who questions authorities, was offended when an article tried to question him. Maybe, as acknowledged by him in the tweet embedded below, questioning his articles would be low for free speech:
Lakshmi Chowdhry and Sandip Roy, on why the attacks on Shobhaa De mark a new low for free speech in India | http://t.co/mZwhFFemxV
— Praveen Swami (@praveenswami) August 3, 2013
I was blocked by another gentleman (Naresh Fernandes) from Scroll.in for calling Scroll a Troll website. Some of the other twitter handles confirmed me that the progressive liberal Naresh doesn’t take anonymous accounts seriously. It’s another issue that the same Naresh allowed a well known abusive Twitter handle to publish an article on his website, just because the Twitter handle is venomously anti-Modi.
@bwoyblunder Should also not be anonymous if you hope to be taken seriously.
— naresh fernandes (@tajmahalfoxtrot) October 16, 2014
Blocking people from social media is just another manifestation of the freedom of expression, however, it talks about tolerance and ideological stand of people too. These columnists, who question organizations and individuals for not entertaining their queries “liberally” block people for questioning them.
Let me repeat. Blocking on Twitter per se is not against the idea of free speech. One is not obliged to hear every opinion. But when you, as a journalist, declare yourself non-partisan voice representing the masses, and then chose to block some voices just because they didn’t agree with you, you betray your hypocrisy.