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If you don’t click and read this article, your left eye will swell and hurt

We are in unique times. We have officially entered the age of unwanted misdirected online hyperventilation. People literally read the headline of an article and start outraging without reading the content and applying their mind about whether what is being done is good or not.

And that’s why this article has been headlined that way, sorry for that.

A textbook example of this is the article that recently appeared in the Business Standard titled “Centre to SC: Cows need Aadhaar-like identification too”.

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As soon as the article appeared on twitter the outrage games had begun. Aadhar and Cow in a single sentence – how can anyone not dispense immediate gyaan and take holier than thou position? And that’s exactly what happened. People immediately started how cow is just another animal and nothing sacred about it, and obviously, outrage over Aadhar.

This happened as people didn’t bother to read the content the article. First, let us see what the article itself says. Here is a small excerpt:

“Once the tag is fixed, the technician will use a tablet to update the number in an online database. He/she will also provide the cattle owner with an ‘animal health card’ recording the UID number, owner’s details, status of periodic de-worming and vaccinations of the animal as well as breeding details. This will help track the cattle along with all relevant details.”

How is helping a rural farmer by providing them with details of the status of things like periodic de-worming and vaccinations of the animal as well its breeding details a bad thing? Since when did scientific intervention become a bad thing?

Also notice how the headline of the article is mischievous and the content different. The headline says “Cows need Aadhaar”. This is clearly written to trigger certain cognitive responses amongst leftists and outragists. But the article itself talks about “cattle” as a general category. Heck, they go to the extent of sharing the exact numbers here “India has nearly 41 million buffaloes and 47 million indigenous and cross-bred cows that produce milk. UP has the highest cattle population (16 million) in the country, followed by Madhya Pradesh (9 million), Rajasthan (8.4 million), Gujarat (6.2 million) and Andhra Pradesh (5.4 million).”

Maybe the people who write the headlines of articles need to do some soul searching too. We have seriously developed a cognitive disorder. Clickbait journalism has officially usurped every other journalistic ethic. And it is kind of insulting to the average reader.

It is as if journalists in the mainstream media outlets have convinced themselves that the average reader is some hooligan who is looking for a daily dose of outrage. The headline of this article should have been “Government decides to tag cattle to improve quality standards”.

But that would mean that the government would be shown in positive light, and no outrage. And how can a media outlet be show casing the truth. The truth after all is boring. Especially if the truth is that the BJP government is doing something sensible.

I may not be an expert at cattle breeding but I have a little bit of experience of working in rural India. And from what I have seen and understood in my stint of working in rural India, this idea of the government to tag the cattle will be immensely helpful. Here are some of the benefits that I feel off the top of my head:

  1. Better cattle movement data.
  2. Cattle theft will be reduced gigantically. Especially in a country like ours where we have trigger happy Gau Rakshaks this move should be especially welcomed. If the cattle can be tracked the chances of them being stolen will be reduced significantly.
  3. One can monitor the fertility, health, feeding system and other welfare programs via this tagging system.
  4. One can keep track of the age of their cattle breed. It can help in determining whether you have a good-aged herd or not.
  5. Remember it’s not just cows, so one can also track if the meat from the cattle is hygienic and safe even in states where cow slaughter is banned. Lower risks of any disease spread due to contaminated meat.

These solutions mentioned above actually deal with a major chunk of issues related to cattle breeding.

But the reason I wrote this article is not that I wanted to show case my skill set as a cattle expert.

My reasons are different. I am trying to raise a different issue. My issue is that of intellectual laziness. People who outrage on the basis of headlines are intellectually lazy. And this kind of laziness can be very harmful for a society. It shows the lack of attention spans in our population. If we can’t even read an article and then form an opinion, what kind of a population are we becoming?

A study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute says that 59 percent of links shared on social media never get clicked. But I’m sure a bulk of these links are getting comments and discussions!

Arnaud Legout who was the co author of the study says, “This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”

To cut a long story short most people Retweet or share articles on Facebook walls without reading a word of those articles themselves. In such a weird scenario, the media outlet can simply manipulate their minds by wording the headline to suit a particular agenda and their job is done. What do you think was done in the article that we discussed above?

In such a scenario we are in gross danger of the subversion of the truth and the socio-political landscape can be easily manipulated. This de-intellectualization of the discourse online is a serious threat to sanity itself.

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