Perils of living in the age of instant outrage by media and social media

In the world of instant noodles, instant outrage has become a staple diet of those consuming news. Indian mainstream media is very experienced in such off-the-cuff, prima facie information based outrage, which then percolates to social media.

Social media, like all inventions of technology, is a double-edged sword. It all depends on how one chooses to use it. It has been used in a very positive manner for a lot of social initiatives and problems and has led to authorities taking note of issues plaguing the common man faster than ever before. We have seen countless examples of Union Ministers taking cognizance of tweets by “Aam Aadmi” and taking corrective means to address the grievances of such commoners. But, on the other hand, it has also created a mob which is quick to demand on the spot justice without ascertaining facts.

The latest such controversy is about the “drunk cop” in a Delhi Metro. Last year in 2015, several news channels reported that an amateur video showed a Delhi cop in an “inebriated” state, riding the Delhi metro. Primetime debates were held discussing this issue. He was slandered/abused and made fun of on social media and a debate started about the safety of Metro trains and about the Delhi police. Political parties like Aam Aadmi Party which are waiting with bated breath to sully the name of “Modi’s” Delhi police also jumped on the social media bandwagon.

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Owing to tremendous Media and Social Media pressure, the “drunk” cop PK Salim, was suspended the next day by then police commissioner BS Bassi and an enquiry was set up. Two months later he was cleared of all charges and was reinstated on his duty.

It is now known that Salim had suffered a stroke. A blockage in his brain caused brain haemorrhage which left him paralysed from the left side. He was repeatedly hospitalised and suffered occasional seizures. He was on medication with regular medical checkups. On the fateful evening when he was recorded in a “drunk” state, Salim felt sick at work. After boarding the metro, he suffered a fresh bout of blackout and felt so dizzy that he had difficulty in even locating the doors of the train. He began to swing from side to side inside the coach and when it came to a halt at the Azadpur station, he lost his balance and came crashing down on the floor. His wife is still recovering from a heart attack she got after public humiliation of her husband.

Another similar instance of quick social media mob justice was seen when a girl named Jasleen Kaur posted on her Facebook account that a guy from Delhi eve-teased her on a red light. She further went on to claim that when she tried to take his picture, he abused her and threatened her with dire consequences. Immediately after she posted the video the guy, Sarabjeet Singh was made a villain on, news channels and social media. He was abused, called a “pervert” and was hounded by holier-than-thou journalists, who were hell-bent on extracting a confession and an apology.

He too lost his job. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal congratulated Jasleen Kaur for her bravery. Later when police registered a case and questioned the witnesses it turned out Jasleen Kaur told this guy that she is a AAP volunteer and is managing the traffic and when this guy objected she took his picture and later posted on social media. The guy was innocent. Only recently, Times Now was ordered to apologise for their hysterical coverage of this issue.

Another famous incident is the one involving the video of two sisters beating three molesters in a Haryana bus. The sisters were immediately made heroes, labelled the “Rohtak brave hearts” and debates followed on mainstream media demanding justice for these girls without ascertaining the facts behind the video and without even talking to the other side. The boys were deemed molesters, and were denied army jobs.  Later, like in the case of Jasleen Kaur, when the police investigated the matter and questioned the witnesses, it turned out that boys did not molest the sisters and the girls were the one who started fight. The news like other cases quietly fizzled and no media house bothered to apologise to the boys.

We live in scary times, when we don’t know when you appear on social media as a person accused of harassment and molestation on social media. It is a lesson for everyone, think before you post.

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