It was exasperation.
This article on Niti Central, an online publication that claims that it is “Bold and right”, has focused an inordinate amount of its attention on my facial expressions during a debate on NDTV’s show “The Social Network”. Instead of focusing on the points I was making on the show, the writer appears to have attempted to discredit my views by focusing on how I was smiling by saying that I was smirking. I find that rather petty, and symptomatic of the discourse that we currently see on Twitter today.
Shifting the focus doesn’t change the fact that those (apparently) representing the left (Congress) and the right (BJP) on the show were constantly attacking each other, and in the process, drowning out the others point of view on the show.
I was smiling because that’s exactly the point I was trying to make, and it was being proven on the show: both parties, the Congress and the BJP, have been constantly attacking each other on Twitter, and reacting to criticism by attacking the person criticizing them. In the process, they’re drowning out all legitimate debate.
I support neither party. I’m neutral, and undecided, and equally critical of both sides. The Congress lost me long long ago with its ruinous policies, and the BJP is losing me with its vitriol, and lack of focus on what it plans to do for the economy. I hate it that what should be a debate on who has better ideas to improve things for citizens has turned into a shouting match, with each trying to prove the other is worse.
The trolls are obnoxious. By being vicious, vindictive and crass, they’re losing me as a voter. Things have been tough the last few months, and Twitter was once a place one could turn to, for friends and some banter – that five minute break (multiple times a day) that could brighten up things for you. Now it has people spewing hate and vitriol. I’ve unfollowed a lot of people in the past week – some for tweeting, some just for retweeting.
That was the point I was making on the show – don’t feed the trolls, and unfollow with a vengeance.
The discussion on NDTV was on mobs taking over Social Media, in the context of a satirical page criticising one party being shut down, alleging that he was being harassed. It was about mobs. Instead both sides tried to appropriate the discussion by blaming the other, hijacking the debate on whether the mobs are stifling free speech (which I feel strongly about), and focusing on a micro issue of one satirical page being (allegedly) forced to shut down by mobs, instead of the macro issue of this stupid, relentless and immature blame game.
You can abuse the other person all that you want, but that never really makes you look good. This morning, I was critical of the Congress for having shut down Aditi Restaurant in Mumbai, because it printed a snarky message on its bills, criticising the UPA government. A Congress supporter started attacking me because I agreed with a point an alleged BJP supporter was making. How does that help their cause? It just shifts the debate away from the policy being discussed.
As a neutral, if you support one sides point of view, the other side labels you and attacks you.
I don’t remember where I read this, but this stuck: be a gentleman not because the other person deserves it, but because you are one. There aren’t enough gentlemen around, unfortunately.
I smiled because I’m Indian, and there are times when we’re fatalistic. I was amused by the helpless situation I am in: Look at these two parties, or the Niti Central article which tries to divert attention from the issue: do we have any choice? They’re both giving me reasons to not vote for the other. Arvind Kejriwal is doing much the same with the Aam Aadmi Party.
Here’s an idea for the Congress or the BJP: Assume that the other party doesn’t exist. I’m a neutral, undecided voter. Now tell me, the voter, why I should vote for you.
Hint: I’m socially liberal, believe in a small government, light-touch regulation (unless cartels need to be broken), open markets, empowerment of small businesses, a low fiscal deficit and low government spending, and transparency and accountability in governance. I’m also almost a freedom-of-expression absolutist (minus defamation), so…oops.