The script is simple. There is hate-speech or borderline hate speech designed to provoke hyper-nationalists. There is a facade for liberals to hide behind – freedom of expression, oppression of minorities, dalit rights, animal rights and so on*. There is a highly publicized clash with violence and death threats which is then covered liberally by the news media. If you’re lucky, the face of the controversy might even be from an oppressed group! Finally, there’s a huge ruckus ending with a highly polarized prime-time debate and then poof! the next thing you know, that’s all anyone wants to talk about at lunch and you are expected to have an opinion.
You have a career, family, project deadlines, tax deadlines, aphids attacking your hibiscus, and other assorted worries preventing you from getting the facts, you say? Who the f*** is Gurmeher you ask? Fear not! Use this guide to appear knowledgeable about any issue facing Indian politics at all without reading a single tweet or article.
Step One: Pick an Angle
If you’re a woman, that’s easy. Pick the feminist angle whether or not it’s relevant to the case at hand. There is bound to be some woman being trolled with threats of sexual assault as is the norm in our country. Support her. In this case, call out the trolls issuing rape threats in response to her posts.
The tricky part in this step is suppressing your conscience. For example, you might have some moral qualms about the general hypocrisy of supporting dalit rights when you use the phrase “reservation candidate” in a condescending tone. Suppress them. Over time you’ll perfect the art of double-think just as our news media has.
Step Two: Pick a Persona
Stephen Colbert had it right when he created that guy. My personal preferences are “rational truth seeker” and “feminist”. If I were to play “rational truth seeker”, for example, I would ask questions like, “How do we know the outsiders entering Ramjas college were actually ABVP activists? It’s possible that someone paid goons to beat people up and claim to be ABVP, no?” and if I were to pick the feminist persona, I would write articles such as these.
The risk here is that you may sound slightly deranged and over the top. The best way to avoid doing so is to just ask random rhetorical questions. Try these stock phrases: “Are we sure of the facts?” or “Women always bear the brunt in all conflicts in our country” or even “Sigh! There’s so much stupidity, I don’t even know where to begin analyzing!”
Step Three: Deny All Other Angles
Stop up your ears should you chance upon an idiot trying to make a nuanced argument. One good idea would be to quote celebrities and politicians liberally. Javed Akhtar and Aamir Khan are usually good bets. Kiren Rijiju is usually highly quotable also.
The biggest risk here is of course accidentally seeing an issue in grey instead of black and white. If this is to happen, immediately switch to a prime-time debate on TV.
Step Four: Polish
This is where our Right Wing is at a serious disadvantage. While both sides excel at idiocy in our country, our Right Wingers lose out by resorting to crude stereotypes of hyper-nationalism and Hindu Chauvinism instead of presenting a more polished image. Liberals on the other hand, tend to spin stories better. They also tend to poke gentle fun of their thinner skinned, boorish brothers and sisters and try to educate them how “civilized” discourse should take place. How interesting that hate speech is “just words” but violence arising from said hate speech is “uncivilized”*.
Take Shashi Tharoor for instance. This argument is no more nuanced than Virender Sehwag’s. The gist of the article linked above is, “Be nice to a twenty year old expressing political opinions because she’s a twenty year old expressing political opinions”. Forget the premise for a moment. Notice the gentle condescension in Tharoor’s tone? Notice the subtle reminder to Veeru how valuable an education is? See how he helpfully sets out his argument in paragraphs? Shasi Tharoor is mansplaining, albeit to another man.
On the other hand, look at posts by Shefali Vaidya – a more coherent Right Winger. She’s too blunt. She directly attacks main stream media. She does not ask us to introspect or question society or even remind us what civil discourse is about. She simply tries to call out what she feels is bullshit. From an aesthetic perspective, which persona do you prefer?
I digress. This is meant to be an actionable guide. So, if you’re a Liberal, play to your strengths. If you choose to disagree with mainstream media don’t forget to prefix every other sentence with, “I am not Right Wing but…” You do not want to be associated with an “illiterate cricketer” with humble middle-class roots or a “wrestler troll” worse, a TV actress turned politician. Do you?
Step Five: Sob quietly at night while watching your child sleep
While this cheat sheet will help you survive, it will not change the reality of the world we live in. It’s ok to cry when you think about the world you’ve brought a child into. In fact, given that we live in a world where hate speech is conjured to feed news cycles every time there are elections and violence unfailingly follows, I strongly encourage it.
* All worthy causes in their own right deserving more respect than our news cycles give them