Yes, you read it right! This is an article in praise of unparliamentary language. In simple words, in praise of filthy abuses. They normally begin with an ‘F’ in English and ‘B’, ‘C’ or ‘M’ in Hindi. And yes, they are playing a crucial role in the revival of the Congress party’s fortunes.
In 2014, BJP swept to power, and I – as the head of a media house and in individual capacity – believed in Modi’s development promises and backed them wholeheartedly. Of course, instead of development, a wave of nationalism and religious fanaticism took over. So much so that today, there are ministers with the audacity of stating that we must drop the word ‘secular’ from our Constitution and that BJP would change the Constitution of India – while in the name of development, we got some slogans around Swachh Bharat (mind you, no real cleanliness).
This poisonous wave of nationalism and religious polarisation was orchestrated mainly through the social media through a two-pronged strategy. On one hand, there were thousands of posts and videos created to spread hatred; and on the other hand, there were thousands of posts created to lampoon the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and brand him as a joker (Pappu, if you may). And the nation was caught unawares. There were thousands kept on the payrolls and incentivised, who did this job to precision. This not just propelled BJP to power but also was carried on and on and on post elections, to give an image of invincibility to BJP.
Little did they realize that they were playing with fire. Social media can’t be manipulated for long. It’s the world’s first real prefect market. It’s the world’s greatest equalizer. It’s the world’s greatest democratic force. It is the world’s only forum where all kinds of people are really equal – or at least have a real chance at equality. And by the mid of 2017, the waves started changing. And I wrote about that in my editorial “The jokes are now taking a U-turn” a couple of months back (https://www.dailyindian.com/2017/10/15/the-jokes-are-now-taking-a-u-turn/). Many people didn’t believe it and mocked me, showing me opinion poll results of the Gujarat elections and then the exit poll results. But of course, the reality was what I had written. The jokes are indeed taking a U-turn. The BJP, which said anything less than 150 seats in Gujarat would be a defeat, couldn’t touch 100. And Rahul Gandhi, despite continuing to give bland and ineffective speeches, almost made a joke out of BJP. Had BSP and NCP joined hands, probably today the Congress party would have had a CM sitting in Modi’s Gujarat.
But the question is, if Rahul Gandhi continued to look unconvincing, how did he manage to almost match the BJP in terms of the number of seats in Gujarat, despite Modi’s charisma, brute force and massive financial backing. The answer to a large extent is thanks to the social media and the power of filthy abuses. You must be wondering how. And if so, what’s so praiseworthy!
Well, opinions in a democracy aren’t just made by people like Ravish Kumar or Dhruv Rathee or Vinod Dua, who try to use logic and rationale through their videos, or people like me who write such long posts. They are made by the common man. And the common man doesn’t always understand complicated logic. They understand an abusive rap song much easily. They understand an abusive stand-up comedian much easily. They understand a WhatsApp abusive meme much easily. The interesting thing is, when you prick the masses on social media with your money power and try to force down their throats things that they don’t believe in, they revolt with abuses.
Social media doesn’t like voices being throttled. What happened for about three and a half years on social media was an effort to take it over by force. Not that a large proportion didn’t enjoy it or support it all; but the problem is that those who didn’t enjoy, felt suffocated – such was the brute force of this attempted takeover of the social media. And unlike the mainstream media, which can be bought and no one utters a word, on social media there aren’t just a handful of identifiable players. Social media is about crores of players and often unidentifiable. And when they feel suffocated, they hit back hard. So, fed up of getting all government propaganda messages from all over the social media, the ones who were getting suffocated just rebelled. They started to make their own memes. Pen down their own songs. Make their own shows. And everyone else, who didn’t like this feeling of being suffocated, liked, shared and enjoyed these forwards, giving the movement an exponential growth. That’s social media. Say what you like. But try to make the minority feel suffocated and they will grow exponentially. And they don’t grow by using rational, long posts. They grow by using a major shortcut to rationale. They use abuses and it actually often conveys the rationale more than logical and long explanations. Abuses have an instant heart-to-heart connect. The feeling expressed is easily and instantly understandable. The beauty of abuses is that when you use it once, it might sound dirty. But use it ten times in one line and it actually starts sounding funny. That’s why it’s a pet trick used by stand-up comedians.
To Rahul Gandhi’s advantage, every abuse to Modi and BJP is leading to a vote for him by default. There is virtually no stand-up comedian in the country today who isn’t critical of this frenzy of nationalism, demonetization and religious fanaticism. These guys aren’t fools. They can easily give a long sermon. But instead, they use ten F words in English, a few more B, C & M words in Hindi, while in-between taking Modi’s name, and the audiences come out feeling empowered. Never have I ever witnessed the Prime Minister of a country being abused so freely, as is happening in public forums in India, with pride and with the entire audience rolling in laugher instead of feeling offended and coming out and forwarding those video clips. In the US, of course, this has been a common practice; from Bush to Clinton to Trump (Obama included), all have been subject of and to the biggest, abusive ridicule on TV and comic shows. But in India, it’s a first. All because this is the first time the people of social media were feeling throttled, and they revolted with abuses. Just like the Blacks in America used abusive rap songs as a symbol of rebelliousness.
Leading this revolt have been of course individuals like Akash Bannerjee and groups like AIB (All India Bakchod), EIC (East India Comedy) and ATD (Aisi Taisi Democracy), with faces in the forefront like Varun Grover (an IIT alumnus), satirist Sanjay Rajoura and Rahul Ram (of the most iconic band Indian Ocean). A number of other stand-up comedians with their unending use of abuses mixed with their own message and are empowering people to have courage to revolt. Revolt out loud with abuses. The more the current government is trying to create an atmosphere of fear and fake propaganda, the more are the abuses rolling out empowering the common man and acting as a key pillar of democracy – for nothing gives you the feeling of freedom more than the ability to stand up in public and revolt. Not just revolt, but revolt with a good dosage of abuses thrown in. I have actually heard people humming EIC/ATD songs in tea stalls. Can you stop WhatsApp forwards? Can you stop memes being shared on Facebook? Can you stop dignified and well-spoken people like Ravish Kumar, Dhruv Rathee and Vinod Dua from making videos and forwarding them?
No, you can’t. Because the moment you do, there will be many more like them coming up. And no, this isn’t a big city English language phenomenon. This is happening in regional languages, in small towns and villages. Thousands of people are learning this new non-violent way of showing irreverence, and giving birth to more and more such people. They may not be very sharp in their logic, but they will be scathing in their abuses and would convey their opposition as effectively and more. They will prove that while personally using filthy abuses can be looked down upon as a negative quality, it does have a mega, macro effect of preserving the democratic right of freedom of speech in a non-violent manner. And at this point of time, all this is adding votes for Rahul Gandhi, while he sits and wonders where did all the votes come from.
Before ending this editorial, I must clarify my relationship with the usage of abusive words. It was as a student of class 8th in Delhi Public School (DPS), when I first started using abusive language – and realized that the more you used them, the more popular you got. I think that still didn’t make DPS specially bad (at least not as bad as it has become in my eyes after recently seeing a Tulsi song being enforced on the students on the ‘Great Tulsi Day’). During those days, my father once caught me using abusive language and I got a good thrashing. But the style quotient associated with it made me continue using it… till one fine day in 1989 –after 5 years of using them like nobody’s business, a girl I liked was passing by when some of my friends were using foul language between themselves. I was standing there, she looked at us and I realized how uncomfortable she felt (of course, I felt worse that she must have thought I used similar language too). And that’s the day my relationship with the filthy English and Hindi abuses ended.
For 20 long years, that is. Yes! Till 2009, I had never again used a single, filthy word. Not even once did it slip out of my mouth. Then, in 2009, at the peak of work pressure, one day I realized that about 35 odd people I had trusted the most were actually cheating me left, right and centre, taking advantage of my completely decentralized and infinitely independence-oriented organization structure – and I lost it. I started using some of those words again, and got caught by my father again. This time he was more hurt than angry. But I couldn’t stop. I carried on using foul language for five years, till all of those cheats were away from me. And then on my late brother’s birthday on 28th of March 2014, after my second stint of five years, I stopped again. I know this time it is forever. It is a matter of promise to my father. So no, I don’t use abusive words, but I do realize that the ability to use it against people and institutions that are too revered is one of the key ways of preserving democracy, non-violently.
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