‘Cancel culture’ has become the norm on social media. Celebrities are targeted by left-wing outrage mobs over past tweets or some comment they have made or anything else they might have done to attract their angsty tantrums.
In recent times, the outrage appears to have consolidated around the lines of caste. Not too long ago, ‘stand-up comedians’ and actresses were attacked on social media for unsavoury, arguably offensive, comments against BSP supremo Mayawati. That phase created quite a stir and numerous left-wing individuals were forced to apologise for the tweets and comments they made in the past.
However, that has since then transformed into something infinitely more troubling. Suresh Raina was targeted on social media for asserting his Brahmin identity during a commentary. He made the comment as a passing remark and did not appear to think too much of it. Following that, however, he was targeted on social media by the left-wing outrage mob. Soon enough, Ravindra Jadeja was also targeted for taking pride in his Rajput identity.
The matter escalated quickly and Yuvraj Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin were also dragged into the matter. The argument appeared to be that Suresh Raina should not be proud of his Brahmin identity. While the logic of it remains unclear, what was clear is the fact that the outrage mob genuinely believe that Brahmins should eternally be ashamed of their identity while they piled on to them relentlessly.
The outrage mob appears to have forgotten that not everyone has a humiliation fetish and those who do are in the micro-minority, even though they might have a disproportionately high representation in the left-wing camp.
The outrage against Suresh Raina had not died yet that the outrage mob has latched on to another issue, this time, their target is actress Neena Gupta and the subject of their ire is an advertisement of a paneer brand. The particular lines from the ad that has sparked outrage is one where Neena Gupta asks the audience if they knew which people had touched the unpacked variety of paneer.
Quite clearly, the ad wanted to drive home the message that unpacked paneer was unhygienic because it is exposed to germs from various people but the outrage mob managed to twist it into a casteist message. The assertion appears to be that the ad was somehow hinting that the paneer might have been touched by people of so-called ‘lower castes’ and therefore, people should not purchase it.
However, that was clearly not the message of the ad. The ad only said that the paneer might have been touched by those who do not maintain a necessary hygiene, and such people can belong to any caste. Indeed, the outrage appears to be extremely condescending towards ‘lower castes’ as it appears to say that only ‘upper castes’ care about maintaining hygiene.
Apparently, the ad that spoke of the importance of hygiene is somehow evidence of ‘everyday casteism’. It does not make sense at all but making sense is not the priority of the mob, outrage is.
Neena Gupta and Suresh Raina become target of clout chasers
What we see here is a pristine example of clout-chasing. A ‘clout chaser’ is a person who attempts to garner popularity be feeding off the fame of others. There are two ways to do it, of course. One is by groveling before others more able than them, so that they can benefit from their association with them.
The other, which can be seen in this particular instance, is attempting to gain influence by throwing muck at others who are more popular and thereby, creating a sphere of influence for themselves as leaders of the anti camp.
Most of the people outraging, here, are virtually nobodies. Therefore, they attempt to establish themselves as an authority and garner clout by tarnishing Neena Gupta and Suresh Raina’s reputation. One hopes members of the mob are smart enough to realise that there was nothing casteist about the ad at all and yet, they did it anyway because it is his only chance at gaining some clout.
A perverse incentive structure
It is easily perceivable that the tactics adopted by the mob here is remarkably similar to the ones adopted by radical leftists in the United States of America. It is not surprising since Indian liberalism is western progressivism with a time lag.
Like radical leftists in USA, who label everything as racist and patriarchal and misogyny, individuals must resort to more and more extreme stances in order to distinguish themselves from the mainstream liberals. Radicalism is provided incentives by the existing structure as ‘standing out’ of the horde is the only way to make a separate space for oneself in the cacophony.
If a person says the same thing as everyone else is, he is unlikely to succeed in creating his own band of followers. He has to come up with something new in order to prove that he is a ‘true liberal’, a true ‘anti-casteism’ warrior so that he can then accuse others in the mainstream of not being ‘anti-casteist’ enough, thereby creating a separate space for himself to occupy.
Thus, we have trolls seeing casteism in a goddamned paneer ad that speaks of hygiene. Since others of his ilk have occupied the rest of the positions, it was the one of the few options left available to him to create his own space. And he jumped on to it like a fish to water.
In the world of social media, such antics are rewarded. It does not matter how radical one is in his or her approach, the individual will always find followers behind them if they are willing to stand by their opinions. And if they are not, someone else will come and occupy the space that was created.
The outrage against Suresh Raina: Why Brahmins are a convenient target
Indian liberals wholeheartedly buy into the oppressor-oppressed interpretation of human societies that is so popular in the western academia. Since their Indian counterparts perennially seek their approval, they force-fit the narrative into the Indian context without even bothering to evaluate if it really applies.
Consequently, Brahmins are accused of all kinds of crimes that their ancestors are supposed to have committed. Yes, atrocities were indeed committed against people of ‘lower castes’ and it would not do to engage in denial of history.
But circumstances throughout history have been a lot more complicated than simply an oppressor-oppressed version of events. But Brahmins are a convenient target for the left-wing outrage mob because they can be used to turn away entire Jaati groups from Hinduism.
Brahmins can be the portrayed as the ‘enemy’ to rally the ‘lower castes’ against, who have fissures and divisions within themselves as well. But when the hatred can be externalised towards a different caste, it can serve as a bulwark for unity among the in-group.
Consequently, the ‘lower castes’ can be driven into the arms of missionary groups and others, and thereby, weaken Hinduism further. The pot of caste animosity can be kept boiling so that India can never present a united front against external threats. That has always been the agenda.
Consequently, something as innocuous as Brahmins taking pride in their caste identity is portrayed as an attack against Dalits. Someone taking pride in their identity is not an attack against anyone else and cannot be construed as such, unless of course, the intention is malicious in itself.
Does the outrage mob really believe the ad was casteist?
It is extremely unlikely that the troll actually believes the ad was casteist. Most likely, he levelled the accusation because there is no risk of adverse consequence for him but the potential for gains is infinite. But if he actually believes the ad was indeed casteist, then it might be a good time to consult a mental health professional.
Hygiene is an intrinsic aspect of all human societies. Everyone, regardless of their caste, has specific ideas about basic hygiene which they go to great lengths to maintain. No caste has a monopoly over hygiene. Therefore, it is extremely derogatory on Ankit’s part to insinuate that an ad emphasising on hygiene is anti-‘lower caste’.
People of ‘lower castes’ would undoubtedly be angered by such insinuations, as they should be. However, the left-wing outrage mob is least bothered by calumny. All they care about is their agenda and whether they stand to gain clout through their allegations.