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Are people like Ramachandra Guha trolls?

Indian 'liberals' perhaps had no choice other than to become trolls. Sitting around in Mommy’s basement looking for a purpose in life. Baiting real people who lead rewarding lives in the real world. Trying to get a rise out of them.

Yesterday, just as I was about to fall asleep, I reached for my phone one last time. A friend had sent me the article in the Washington Post supposedly “downgrading” our democracy. I glanced at the headline, saw the name of author, Ramachandra Guha and rolled my eyes.

Then I rolled over and went to sleep. I wasn’t going to let a newspaper headline and some ‘intellectual’ ruin the perfectly amazing day I had.

In the morning it hit me. That one moment of annoyance I had on seeing the headline from the previous night. Was it all that Ram Guha was aiming for?

This article is not about any one individual, but an entire genre of folks rendered irrelevant several years ago. They can act as historians, as cricket administrators, as economists, as foreign policy experts, legal eagles, anything. Nobody really knows what qualifies them. Nobody knows if anybody is listening to them. Above all, are they trolls?

Consider this. As far as the world is concerned, India seems to have a complete free hand. We crossed the Line of Control and went for the surgical strike. After the Pulwama terror attack, we went and bombed terror camps in Pakistan. Recently, Pakistan has been trying its best to make an international issue out of India’s decision to abrogate Article 370, but they have not met with any success. The verdict is clear: The world will not mess with India easily. Least of all to make Pakistan happy.

Then, what does it accomplish when some article in some newspaper “downgrades” India?

In the United States, the mainstream media has never been more irrelevant. Not just in the eyes of Trump and his supporters. The leftist media establishment is just as much a villain in the eyes of the young left wing radicals who are swarming in favour of their icons like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

And when it comes to foreign policy, the Trump administration seems committed to hard nosed, pragmatic dealings with everyone purely on the basis of trade and diplomatic interests. They couldn’t care less about some intellectual railing in some newspaper article.

Articles of similar tone and character have appeared in outlets such as The Economist, The New York Times, TIME Magazine, yada yada yada. I am too lazy to even make a full list of the outlets that carried such articles or the intellectuals who toiled to write them.

Even they couldn’t possibly believe they would change anyone’s mind with their unhinged rants. I remember The Economist had an article claiming that a Modi win would put India’s democracy in danger and exhorted people to vote against the BJP. If I remember correctly, the article appeared after three or four phases of the election and you had to pay thousands of rupees to even read that article in full.

That tells you seriously they meant it. They only expected you to read the headline or so, feel annoyed for an instant and then move on.

That my friends, is what a troll does. It desperately tries to grab your attention. Your own moment of annoyance makes the troll feel validated.

Think about the world from the point of view of an elite liberal. With the fall of Communism in the early 90s, their ideological foundations were wiped out. Not since the end of Nazism in 1945 has an ideology collapsed so spectacularly, been crushed and stamped out in front of the whole world. But the Indian elites still had Nehru. So they were sort of okay.

But then the Nehru-Gandhi brand became toxic for the Indian electorate. Their asset was the undeserved respect they had been handed by earlier generations of Nehru-Gandhi court poets. Those assets were wiped out. The airs that Indian ‘liberals’ would put on, from fake accents to fake mannerisms to fake thinkfests, everything came to be brutally mocked. Indian ‘liberals’ were left holding nothing.

You can still find the occasional Indian ‘liberal’ reminiscing about the days when Manmohan Singh would take them abroad on the PM’s official plane.

Indian ‘liberals’ perhaps had no choice other than to become trolls. Sitting around in Mommy’s basement looking for a purpose in life. Baiting real people who lead rewarding lives in the real world. Trying to get a rise out of them.

Trolls are known to validate themselves by making up fancy sounding statuses. Perhaps that’s how these trolls operate as well. Did Economist carry your article? That’s +100 reputation points. Did TIME Magazine feature your rant against Modi? That’s +150 reputation points. Another 200 reputation points and you can become a Level 10  Swordmaster. Then you can wear your fancy Redstar Fleet uniform to the Galactic Liberal Supermasters Convention at some thinkfest somewhere.

This stuff doesn’t mean anything, except to them trolls.

Let them have it. Don’t feed the trolls. Ignore them.

So today when you go out into the working world of normal people, take a moment to look at your neighbor whether on the train, bus or subway. That person probably doesn’t seek validation in making you feel one moment of annoyance. Because that person probably has places to be, a family to feed and real dreams to fulfill in life. Turn to that person and give them a smile. It will make their life better for one moment. You will like it too. Then get back to your own rewarding life.

And always be thankful that this Independence Day, you don’t have to be a troll.

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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