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Rihanna’s Rights & Rightist Anger – Never the ‘Twain Shall Meet’

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In an unfiltered world, filters are purposed when we doctor our profile pictures on social media to create the most attractive version of ourselves. Otherwise, pretty much everything goes.

Freedom of expression is a hotly-debated subject though, and obviously, it is functional within limits. Democracy, in general, is reasonably tolerant towards dissent, even, criticism, and provides legroom for discourse, debate, and discussion.

Tweets from foreign ground spark controversy

Right now, social media is ablaze and hotly (even vilely) exchanged words are doing rounds. The issue started with Rihanna’s tweet on farmers’ protest and her stand in their support. ( Not getting into the nitty-gritty of if the tweet was sponsored or not). Soon after, climate activist Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris, the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris, followed suit and also tweeted similar sentiments.

What is interesting and perhaps fuelled the fire, was the MEA’s response that its “Parliament passed reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector. The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible.” I would question the need for this.

But we will speak!

 In a connected world, we have access to 24/7 news, including the fake ones, and people (even celebrities) have opinions on just about anything. Things they don’t have deep knowledge about and subjects that do not concern them directly. In a civilized world, people should be allowed to express themselves as long as they don’t perpetuate hatred and social unrest. The challenge is, we are thin-skinned, and we are never short of reasons to take offence. Especially when the views expressed are at loggerheads to what we stand for.

Social media is a hyperactive platform because people can express themselves in real-time, and only a minuscule have deep domain knowledge on the subject being debated. If only “experts” were allowed to comment, social media would end up with very few participants. Tens of millions of “likes” and followings that people draw power from would be relegated to history.  

Political strife on microblogging platforms

A war was being waged on social media. On one side were the “liberals”, largely the anti-BJP cult, which lauded these celebrities’ efforts, and on the other, were the right-wingers who went to great lengths in making disparaging comments about these individuals. Their credentials were questioned as to their knowledge on the subject and what right they had to comment on India’s internal matter. An FIR has also been lodged against the teenage sensation – Thunberg.

And then we had heavyweights such as Tendulkar tweeting in support of the government. This naturally, didn’t go down well with the liberals, and all kinds of insinuations were levelled against the nation’s greatest sporting icon. Kangana Ranaut made some characteristic low-blow remarks on liberals that continued to bolster her image as a “controversy” specialist.

Twitter some days back pulled down tweets by actor Kangana Ranaut. The tweets were related to farmers’ protest and the furor it created! The celebrities with their fan club power can create avalanche in not just national community but also influence their kinds across border including international media.

What’s okay what’s not?

By now the position is clear. If one supports the farmers’ agitation, then it’s because little understanding of the laws or vested anti-national interests is at play. A common refrain – opposing the government is seen as being anti-national.

On the other hand, if a celebrity supports the government, then it’s due to coercion. Moreover, celebrities are often compelled to take a stand, and staying non-committal is seen as a selfish gesture.  

Was there a need for the MEA, GoI, to issue a statement in this case? We need to ponder over this. By responding, it gave undue importance to the point of view that would have normally been buried under an avalanche of tweets within an hour, as it generally happens, or at least, there was a strong possibility. There’s no gainsaying that the MEA’s involvement amplified the issue.      

With an army of trolls on either side keeping watch, the case for vested interest seems strong.

Today, one is never quite sure about the intent of the content creator. It is complex and common people aren’t able to take sides as easily. Be that as it may, this is the world of 24/7/365 online provocation, and as humans, the least we can do is be informed (to the extent possible) and rid ourselves of herd-mentality. There are no right or wrong answers/sides, but we need to reflect before taking a stand about what’s right for the nation and us. Obviously, a farmer in Punjab growing wheat & rice stands to be massively impacted by these laws, and he will take a critical view. Whereas, a corporate big-wig or a sportsperson will be seeing it through a different lens.

When livelihoods are at stake, it’s almost impossible to stay rational. That’s why we must pick and choose our battles. And, it’s okay to not have opinions on hotly-debated topics.  

Well, that again is an… errrr..opinion! 

Vineeta Jerath Grover & Soumitra Das Gupta

About the authors
Vineeta Jerath Grover is the Co-founder-Editor of SUBURB Magazine. She writes on a wide spectrum of topics and is passionate about social issues. She is also a US certified NLP practitioner & a Reiki Channel.

Soumitra Das Gupta lives in Gurugram. Besides reading, he is also stimulated by observing quirky human behavior to create stories around them. A flâneur of sorts, he loves to scout for ideas.

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