Ranjona Banerji: The sad, mad world of Twitter Bhakts, Turncoats and Trolls

21 Mar,2017

By Ranjona Banerji


What a week we’ve had in journalism. The best of the rubbish was on display on social media, bringing our ignoble profession to new depths or heights depending on how you look at it.


First well-known TV and print journalist Sagorika Ghose deciding to mock Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for going abroad to accompany his unwell mother back to India. She decided that he was taking a holiday although it had been announced that Sonia Gandhi was abroad for medical treatment. This insensitive comment brought the rightwing and middlewing and leftwing together on one page as Ghose was berated, chided and called out for her tweets. This coming together of all hues of the political spectrum does not happen often but it did this time.


Many journalists also joined in as did I, because forsooth her tweet was unnecessary and too-clever-by-half, achieving nothing. Of course, I did not really see her tweet because I have been blocked by her as I discovered that day because I rarely follow TV journalists for various reasons including the use of the word journalist. Never mind. Anyway, many people put up screenshots of Ghose’s tweet, so all was clear to the world.


There are several journalists who have decided to jump on to the winning bandwagon – in this case the BJP – after the UP election results. Needless to say, the results in Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa do not really interest most, should I really say this, “Delhi journalists”. They are places where other people live.


The internet, that hotbed of speculation and innuendo, is certain that Ghose is one of those who have switched from centre or left of centre to right. It must be made clear that the internet – especially the rightwing internet – cannot clearly distinguish between the left and the centre of the political spectrum. Anything slightly to the left of them and they see red. Therefore anyone who does not adore the BJP is a Stalinist Nehruvian Congressi Commie or some such evolutionary aberration.


But definitely many journalists have decided to vent all their ire on the Congress and Rahul Gandhi. There have been endless articles and Twitter discussions on what the Congress should do and where Rahul Gandhi should go. However in most journalistic worlds the focus is on government. Take a look at the USA or the UK for instance – journalists centre in on Donald Trump’s shenanigans as president of the United States and on Theresa May’s handling of Brexit as prime minister of the UK. The media is not lost in the condition of the Democratic Party or what Labour is up to. Yes, these are also examined but it is government which is the primary concern.


Which brings us to the second point of fun on Twitter and India Today TV’s Rahul Kanwal telling the world that Yogi Adityanath should be “given a chance” as chief minister of UP before passing judgment on him. This attitude would be spot on perfect if Kanwal was a spokesperson of the BJP. He is not though. He is a prominent news anchor. It is his job to put ministers under scrutiny. If journalists bat for “giving chances” to politicians before they even start working then that is the end of journalism.


And now we reach the saddest little to-do on Twitter. A couple of months ago, Opindia writer Rahul Raj was named as a troll by TMC MP Derek O’Brien in a brilliant speech in Parliament. Raj is a rightwing commentator with another day job and his main internet job appears to be to troll and abuse non-BJP people. Opindia itself is a giant whine against anyone in the media who does not like the BJP. Anyway, Raj’s Twitter handle was suspended for abuse and he was very unhappy. Many of his rightwing friends and editors of the rightwing Swarajya magazine which owns Opindia started an online petition to protect and stand up for Raj’s freedom of expression.


Now Raj appears to have developed an opinion of his own where he disapproves of the BJP’s choice of Yogi Adityanath as chief minister of UP. The poor man has been excoriated and abused by the rightwing, including people demanding his Twitter account be cancelled. I searched for an online petition from Swarajya to protect Raj’s freedom of speech once again but sadly could not find anything.


It’s a sad mad world on the internet.


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  5. ashok759 says:

    I think Rahul Kanwal made a fair point. With 325 seats won in a free, fair, fiercely contested election, it is the victor’s prerogative to choose the CM. It is only in the story books that the newly elected MLAs elect one of their own. So Yogi Adityanath should be given an opportunity to show if the commisar has governance and development skills. The media will not give him a free pass if he does not measure up. Nor will voters.

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