• Param Dane

The root of all ill-informed social media woke-ism - political and historical illiteracy!

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

The past few years, riding on the internet liberalization a novel form of political involvement, Social Media has risen. Just two decades ago, one had to be proficient in at least the basics of politics, and socio-economic dynamics of the past to participate into any political activity and more so to 'rise the ranks' within any movement's leadership hierarchy.

Today, doing the same requires a mobile device, an internet connection, a twitter account and an uncanny ability to proclaim every opposing voice, a fascist.

Politics of any nation, any region, any city is almost always based on the events and happenings in the past. Unsurprisingly, political decisions, law making and every other associated avenue relies on the same.

But here's the problem, the majority of 30 million odd young Indians on social media platforms are being introduced to the world of politics for the first time. They gauge the political scenario on the basis of a hypothetical idealist world which doesn't exist and then draw the exaggerated conclusions on the lines of 'death of democracy' and 'fascism' creating a perception of victimization when in reality, nothing is out of the ordinary.

A striking illustration for this can be drawn from the anti-CAA protests. An overwhelming landslide majority of young social media activists couch-agitating were getting involved in the field of politics for the first time. It wouldn't be a long shot to say that most did not understand what an "Amendment", "Bill" or an "Act" even meant. They found these provisions odd, unnecessary, "unjust" and blew it out of proportion for they did not know the incredible struggle of decades by thousands of people living like foreigners on their homeland that led to this law being formed and how would they? Their basic history textbooks taught them about the french revolution but not the liberalization of East Pakistan.

When the Delhi Riots broke loose, the same young activists jumped the gun to draw conclusions based on photographs and videotapes obtained as a result of the most obvious selection-bias and blamed the authorities for 'brutalities'. But they had no way of knowing this. Most of them were seeing, experiencing and 'understanding' a riot for the first time! They simply lacked the ability to comprehend how a riot progressed. Instead of calming their nerves, social media campaigns aggravated the riots to deepen the permanent scars of hatred and vengeance caused by the riots. An example of what a rumor, even before the times of internet could do is the 1992 Delhi pogrom where a mere rumor that Mustafa mosque has been razed led to the massacre of 53 people! Add to this the secret photoshop sauce false commentary and that makes a recipe for disaster. What might shock you further is that this exact thing happened, in the same year in the capital of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal. Sensational photographs and unfounded claims in newspapers fueled riots which ultimately killed in hundreds! The consequences of something similar in the ultra fast age of internet and free social media real estate become exponentially more disastrous. Doesn't cutting off the internet before rumors like these could spread sound like a logical choice and not human rights violation now?

1992 Bhopal Riots news reporting in an hindu newspaper
Hindi daily, Nav Bharat, regularly published images of riot-hit areas which fueled 1992 Bhopal Riots. Kashif Kakvi. Firstpost.

Another recent example are the recent tweets made by a utopian Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, popular Barbadian singer Rihanna on the lines of 'We stand with farmers'. Greta went ahead to share a 'toolkit' which involved schedules of mass-tweets, social media campaigns to support the protests, information about pressure groups and everything except information about what is being protested - The Farm Laws. The entirety of such social media campaigns are focused on weasel statements framed to dig emotions rather than logic, rationality and civil discourse about the issue at hand. Inciting the uninformed to support a cause without explaining what the cause supports has become a prevalent phenomenon on the social media sphere and is fueled by seemingly disinterested parties, like actors, singers and anyone chasing the sweet sweet social media clout.

Edit 0: This essay is the first part from the series 'My experiments with Social Media'.

Edit 1: The fact that Rihanna's tweet came of a paid social media campaign by 'Poetic Justice' a Khalistani group was unknown during the time of writing this essay.