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A politician said something outrageous? Follow this guide before outraging

If you are an Indian political animal and are on OutragR, the dying social media network sometimes also known as Twitter, you have definitely used terms like bhakt, AAPtard, Khangress, Sanghi, and presstitutes. If you didn’t, Twitter would have definitely suspended your account for negatively affecting its already low monthly active user (MAU) count.

Politicians work hard for the only job they know – i.e. win elections. To get to that goal, sometimes they say things which may have no real meaning. Sometimes they don’t believe in what they are saying but the subject could be important to voters. But let’s face it – they are mostly sticking to their core purpose of attracting voters and creating a certain image in voters’ mind.

Most of us have listened to our corporate bosses in offsite events or all hands’ meets. We know they are lying through their teeth. But we don’t take to Twitter to shame them for every line they say, do we?

So why is our Twitter timeline full of quote tweets, where the added value on media quoting a politician tweet is three winking emojis? Sometimes it is just LOL or lulz. And of course, there is the “is it true” format of shaming and abusing.

In every case, the Twitter user never accounts for the possibility that her or she, not the politician being mocked, may be wrong. Twitter users should set high standards for outrage, given how invested they are in this core feature of Twitter.

Here’s a simple guide to check if an outrage quote tweet is actually justified or not.

Step 1: Did the politician actually say what the media said?

This sounds counter-intuitive – why will media report something that was not said. But media is mostly a 20 something just-graduate from Delhi or Mumbai who can’t make out a Panchkula from a Panvel, tweeting under pressure real time. It is certainly possible that such a person hears pineapple, but keys in coconut. The base assumption should actually be that every media tweet is potentially incorrect.

Step 2: Is the language of the tweet and the language of the politician same?

If languages were assets, India would be Ayesha Takia. Politicians are inherently rustic. Except for the ones living in Lutyens – and very few have that experience given that only party has ruled 54 of the 70 years and the other 16 are divided between several parties – most actually don’t speak good English. Media tweets are almost always in English.

When a politician says “oh maa, khet mein neelgai”, a media reporter may translate that as “OMG, neelgai in the fields”. The politician is worried for the crop damage; the reporter is taking a cute selfie.

Step 3: Do you actually understand the language of the politician?

Every language has several words to say the same thing. While we have all read Roget’s Thesaurus to prepare for GRE or GMAT, we haven’t read anything in any other language since completing class X, when we were forced to read a second language. A nuanced word spoken in a language half-alien to the regional reporter, translated on the spot to English and fitted in 140 characters – a game of Chinese whispers has a better probability conveying the message without distortion to the last person of a long chain.

Step 4: Is there a video?

Nothing that is being quoted is probably correct, unless there is a video. If you haven’t watched the video yourself, hold your outrage horses.

Step 5: Is the video from that specific date as claimed?

Politicians say the same thing multiple times – actually we all do. Except that we aren’t saying these things on camera. It is critical to ascertain that the politician actually said what she said in the context of the current outrage. If you don’t understand this, you are probably watching a “Sattais saal UP behaal” khaat sabha while you should be watching a “UP ko ye saath pasand hai” jingle.

Step 6: Is the video from that specific place as claimed?

Nigerian scammers to Syrian child protectors to Amdavad amphibian bus video makers have one thing in common – they are able to create their content in their studio or pick random content from elsewhere, labeling it Nigeria or Syria or Amdavad. Politicians attend multiple rallies. They all look the same – the SPG commando standing skill, the lectern covered with white cloth, the pick headgear of the politician, and the 35 people sitting on a stage which has a capacity to seat 15. Never confuse occasions or then the basis of outrage gets nullified.

Step 7: There is a video, but is it the only video?

Remember the bright, innocent, energized, passionate Delhi students who have devoted 35 years of their life learning how to divide the country into pieces? There were multiple alleged videos from allegedly different dates allegedly carrying morphed sounds allegedly not dividing the country. The police took a full year to remove all instances of allegedly from the hypothesis.

Of course, no one on Twitter can wait a year to outrage, but better to watch various versions of any video clip before outraging.

Step 8: Is this the complete video?

OK so you did find multiple videos and you are sure a politician said what you thought he said. But is this the complete video? It is not difficult to edit a 60 second video addressing reservations on the basis of religion to a 30 second video addressing reservations without any qualifier – media achieved this in Jaipur LitFest just this year. It is also not difficult for reporters to cry wolf about being assaulted in faraway New York until someone produces the six preceding seconds of footage showing the boxer version of the reporter.

Step 9: Was the politician sarcastic?

So you have a complete video from the right date and place, in a language that you understand yourself. But hang on – do you actually understand sarcasm? The famous Twitter celebrity @gabbbarsingh once said – “Sarcasm is like electricity, half of India is yet to get it”. Piyush Goyal has since made the tweet irrelevant more or less, but as they say on Twitter – bhavnao ko samjho.

Politicians say a lot of things in a sarcastic manner. Media can hear “Shehanshah of Delhi” in a speech and paste the picture of Crown Prince morphed with Hrithik Roshan, attired as Akbar on the front page of the newspaper. Not everything is literal.

Step 10: Did you understand the body language?

When a politician stands up in a legislative setting and pumps his hand up and down, that’s because – well – he is pumped up making his point. Don’t take the action literally. Body language is important. Is the politician winking? Or is he smiling? While most Twitter users do not have a real life, it should still be remembered that what’s being said can actually be negated by or amplified by body language. This sounds complex human psychology, but real life, unlike Twitter, is indeed complex.

***

So now, have you ticked all boxes? Congratulations! You may go ahead and outrage. And don’t forget to tag your tweet to @coolfunnytshirt and @rahulroushan – their RT is the safest bet to reach 100 RTs.

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Amit Kelkar
a Pune based IT professional with keen interest in politics

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