Thursday, September 10, 2009

Social media and the fight against ELM

Sanglia, Miraj riots: Muslims hoist their flag on Indian police vehicles, break Hindu festive pandals/idols

Considering asymmetric warfare situation Hindus are in, it is important that social media be used more effectively to counter the ELM menace. The above amateur video is such a powerful message. Any amount of paper or editorial posturing cannot alter the message conveyed so powerfully by the image of a muslim rioter standing atop a jeep and waving the muslim flag, with the police inspector standing helplessly infront of him. This helplessness is not because of the numbers in the mob but due to the muslims being beyond the reach of the executive wing -- both law and justice. Any action against muslims will immediately be declared as police brutality by the jhollawallas, media and the sickular parties. And then, there are the numerous committees that invariably come to the same conclusion of muslim infallibility, a more recent instance being the Ishrat Jahan case.

But here is social media providing a level-paying field -- just the right opportunity for us to fight for our survival. There is also the power bestowed by anonymity in case you need it to fight against the powerful adversary. If you are protected by the free speech laws (tip: doesn't include India), without the fear of law suit, you can rightly say, for example, that Barkha has blood on her hands. Facts dont fall prey to power, position, reputation or interpretation.

Nowadays, most forms of online content creation and management systems have some form of social networking built around them. A social media, a network formed around online journalism, can build rapidly through user participation and creation of original content including opinion and analysis. Interestingly, the size of the network doesn't change the rules of balance and fairness. Reputations built over long periods can vanish with a single click. For example, just this article by Ananth Krishnan is enough for me to turn off my subscription to his blog feed (if he has one). Or an article could be highlighted through a viral marketing or a social bookmarking site to severely tarnish the author's image. As in newspapers, the wider the audience the greater the need to maintain balance. But the crucial differences are in accountability, freedom and the participatory effect.

In newspapers, reader response, which comes in the form of letters to editor, could be and is often always regulated by the editor him/herself. It is really a case of take of leave it, with little power in the hands of the reader. This is the reason why we have the current endemic corruption in ELM. In case of social network, the reader's response is swift and almost instant. Except foul language, reader's views are generally accommodated. In those instances where comments are severely regulated, the discussions eventually move to another site providing a fair opportunity for meaningful discussion. This means, no matter where the original content is posted, ultimately opinions formed through an open and logical discussion tend to hold longer. Entities that value their reputation understand this. For example, if you had a bad experience with a reputed hotel, post an honest review on a not-so-obscure social website. You are more than likely to invite a response from the hotel. This level of accountability does not exist in traditional media. It is truly empowering in online journalism built around social networking.

I have briefly touched upon the point of freedom in my previous example. I will elaborate it a little more here. Social media also has the ability to regain its freedom from any form of control that attempts to regulate opinion. This is another crucial difference which must make us all jump to social media. In the case of chindu, we have all seen how the newspaper moved from a quality newspaper to a red rag of yellow journalism when N.Ram became the editor. Editorial judgments in newspapers are susceptible to change in editors, management, investors, etc. But social media is more likely than not to retain its freedom from oppressive control. Let me give a couple of examples.

Take the case of wikipedia. Making changes in wiki can be a fairly tedious process. It is now more or less controlled by a bunch of individuals who are sitting up the hierarchy in a graded system. While it is by no means losing out on its popularity, its growth rate is definitely slowing down. People who have spent enough time on the wiki know that it is not the best source for certain types of information. Wiki is probably a very generic example but it still shows that when people do not get an opportunity to express their opinions, they are bound to react and react quickly in the online world.

Sulekha was popular with a fairly large community -- both as a news aggregator and opinions outlet -- until it decided to regulate free speech. Eventually, it fell out of way with a large part of the Indian diaspora. It probably still has some following but articles by authors like Rajiv Malhotra and Sankranth Sahu generated some discussion.

There are two main reasons why social media is likely to retain its fairness. One, it is not possible to regulate speech on internet. China is trying it and it failed even before it started. Second, the vast majority of us like to believe and demostrate that we are fair and that our opinions are based on sound judgment.

Online discussions have a strong participatory effect on the reader. When a reader reads an article in a newspaper and responds to it by writing a letter to the editor, the conversation usually ends there. In an online setting, when the user reacts to an article, the conversation begins. In a discussion with the author and other participants, new facts are brought in and  existing positions are reevaulated. So, by participating, the reader is contributing to the group arriving at a more objective opinion. It pushes the reader from a passive consumer reacting to an article by writing a letter, to an active participant involved in evolving collective consciousness.

We have been demanding for a very long time or we just didn't care enough about media bias by choosing to live with it. In either case, we can't afford to lead our life as second-class citizens and let the media shape public opinion against national interests. Most Hindus have at some point experienced the vulgar display of power by Muslims. But it is to the media's credit that the incidents are always projected as isolated cases. The colonised Hindu mind has failed to recognise the pattern. Until now, we didn't have an opportunity to share/piece this information together.

Social media is a good way to counter the ELM propaganda. With a critical mass, social media changes the equations significantly: ELM's ability to regulate news and opinions diminishes and with it its ability to channel public opinion. The entrenched power centers begin to evaporate. Most important of all, the ELM which enjoys unbridled power will be made accountable to the public. I wish more Hindus drop their lethargy and take some action. Even if the EVM's have been tampered with, there is still hope. Get onto social media.


Gorphi said...

Au contraire, video shows police bashing and chansing the Mohamedans, while some among the latter try to tear down temporary pandal structures erected on the street.

The wideo also seems edited. There is a spot where a large Hindu mob waving Hindu flags is also ringed by police, and then suddenly there is discontinuity.

Sorry Chindu, you goofed on this one.

Karthik said...

This is a terrific article and you are doing a wonderful job of exposing the ELM and providing the alternate voice. Kudos to you. Keep it up.

Gandaragolaka said...

If you want more "accurate", "unedited" videos, go to youtube and look for yourself.

Anonymous said...

The Hell Hole that is India.

harish said...

chk this. Its hilarious.

kuttychathan said...

Thank you...harish... That is a wonderful take on Teesta Beevi... Thank you... Hats off (thrice!) to the wonderful guy (or gal) behind that post...

I have been busy for the last several weeks with job...That is why I have been lying low...Will soon be back with all the bile welling up inside...Ram, Malooni, Vish-chaprasi, better watch out....