In almost every conversation that runs on the internet today, “troll culture” manifests as the passing snide remark, the absolutely unnecessary profanity, the family shaming, slut shaming and once all their creativity runs out, it escalates to violent death and rape threats.
“Her secularism stems from being molested by a Maulana or a Priest at an early age“, the intrinsic masculinity rhetoric and heavy amounts of violent vitriol in that statement are nothing new to the outspoken female who takes to social media to express.
It is no garbed fact that the country stands at crossroads today and in maintaining a veil of silence while violence burns bits of us everyday, we romance the oppressive forces. In times like these, there will always be syncretic dialogue and healthy discourse, and a massive blockading effect by those in positions of power that it threatens. Take the case of Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer during the Apartheid regime in South Africa, where her own country denounced her for speaking against the establishment. What is it that Gordimer did to make an entire regime come after her? She spoke up. This is precisely what we should consciously take on, whenever there is an attempt at “Othering” a part of the population.
As a 21 year old appalled with the orgiastic nature of mob justice that’s taking over the narrative of the country today, I decided to add to the conversation. An article that I wrote for a particular news portal examining the historicity of mob lynching as a paralysis of the law was used as clickbait to throw a stone at my head, to call me “Pakistani, because sindhis are anti-national”, to defame my father and grandfather, to talk of my degeneracy stemming from possible molestation and to issue lynching threats openly.
The conversation glaring towards questioning my Nationalism is one peculiar feature that marks all dissent, as we saw in GurMehar’s case.
To begin talking of the concept of Nationalism today, one must always point to the country across the border. A bellicose vituperation of the “enemy” is how one’s love for the motherland is measured today, 70 years post independence. The more profane your condemnation of a land you know little of, the more intense your commitment to your land. What would we point guns to if Pakistan as a Nation State did not exist? We’re free but living in two histories, always arguing with one another, the brunt of which always lies on the minority’s shoulder to justify.
Furthermore, I remember seeing a morphed image of a fellow female activist friend and the comments on her post gravely denouncing the vitriol as gender directed. We currently run a 95-5 rate for online trolling that amounts to cyber harassment, and to say that oppression or trolling comes free of the yoke of patriarchy that’s seeped deep in our arteries and bloodstream today, would be a blatant lie.
Trolling and Patriarchy as two oppressive structures join hands, for they must.
After a strenuous one week of physical and mental violence, a police complaint and visibly no relief, I decided to fight back. When we sit silent in the face of adversary, we embolden the oppressor. A lot of activists reached out to me and within 24 hours, a movement called “Stop Online Mobs” was initiated. The questions were pertinent, and we wouldn’t rest till we found answers : Who are these people behind the screen? What/Who emboldens them? Why is there no heed paid to complaints?
What we simply dismiss as an ill of being on social media is in fact an organised controlling tactic. How is it that one post garners thousands of detractors in a jiffy? And how is it that bombarding an unknown person’s phone number is that easy? There has to be some authority backing this, in an attempt to crush alternative points of view.
A protest under the name “Stop Online Mobs” was staged on the 30th in the capital, at Jantar Mantar with a lot of participation from student groups and held talks on how the virtual and the real merge on an ugly middle ground. Initially we were met with a lot of teething problems, from accounts being hacked and suspended to open questioning “INC aur AAP se kitne paise khaye”. An unshakeable faith in what we stood for is what got us through. But, the fight continues.
Furthermore I shall be appealing to the authorities to demand fast tracking of complaints dealing with rape and death threats and strengthening the existing judicial framework that looks into cyber harassment, after collecting a database of complaints that went unheard and accounts of open rape threats. Real time violence always begins with one harmless threat, and it is high time we took this conversation from the screen to the concerned authorities. What we also need to do, is create a strong sociological counter culture to the unhealthy practise of taking somebody down with threats. There are 13 year olds fetishising threats and abuses as a marker of masculinity, and that derails any viable progress we’ve made with Indian Feminism.
I have always believed that at the heart of all violence lies a deep fear of losing control over the oppressed. It is our voice that scares them, and if we take threats silently lying down, we empower them. A lot of women are afraid to speak up considering trolling as something so innocuous and commonplace, and defenders of cyber harassment labelling it “Freedom of Expression” only exposes the brute, empty logic behind crushing dissent. There must always be room for debate and factual evidence, but once it gets to violent threatening that can have real life imperatives, you need to act.
Disclaimer : This article is Sole opinion of Author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Irony Of India . The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.