India’s foremost Counter Terror Analyst and a former head of one of India’ Intelligence Agencies B. Raman had this to say on his blog
I can block them, but how can I ignore them? How can I refrain from drawing the attention of the Indian public to this pernicious phenomenon of misuse of the Twitter world by the Hindutva Storm-troopers for a campaign of defamation and criminal intimidation against those whom they do not like?
How can I fail in my duty of sounding a wake-up call to alert our people to the emergence of battalions of electronic Hindutva Storm-Troopers to intimidate people they don’t like?
How can I refrain from drawing the attention of Shri Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the RSS, and Shri Ram Madhav, the RSS leader who has been my friend since 2003, to the worrisome direction in which the Hindutva movement has been drifting?
The intolerance of critics and the willingness to destroy them and their personality by any means demonstrated by the Storm-Troopers are dangerous not only to you and me, my dear co-citizens, but to the country as a whole.
Mr. Raman’s frustration with the anarchy of opinion on Twitter is understandable given his age, health and given what is evidently his unfamiliarity with the technical interface.
What is however incomprehensible is this obsessive compulsive digital behavior to counter argue on every idiosyncratic disagreement. The tenacity with Twitter Crusaders engage in arguments makes one wonder if they have divined upon themselves a religious obligation to counter argue.
Every one has the freedom and right to their idiosyncracies and obsessive compulsive behavior on Twitter. The anarchic medium that it is, wisdom lies in exercising discretion in engagement and in ignoring the noise even if it gets abusive on ocassion.
But the optics of an eminent senior citizen and a patriot being frustrated by a raucuous group of voices in an anarchic medium reflects less on the merits of that Senior Citizen’s arguments and more on that which identifies this raucuous group.
What we are increasingly seeing is that in trying to make sense of the Anarchy on the Internet and the cacophony voices on a medium Twitter one looks for the least common denominator. Dogmatic ideologies and Agenda based Digital Activism make ideal candidates for such a least common denominator. They lend themselves easily to negative stereotypes and sweeping generalization. What is worse their dogmatic stubborness not only reinforces the negative stereotype but also gets amplified disproportionately given the cacophony of voices and the anarchic frequency at which they make themselves heard.
There are perhaps less than a handful of extremist voices of the Hindutva persuasion on Twitter. But as Mr. Raman’s frustration exemplifies, the dogmatic stubborness to counter argue with him and the multiplier effect of those counter arguments across time zones has created an impression where the Ideology and the Agenda become the casualty while the Crusaders and the Anarchists fade away into the background thanks to Internet anonymity.
This is hurts the Ideological Right more than the Ideological Left and not the least because the Left are less dogmatic about their ideology or less activist about their agenda. The Right hurts more purely because of the perceived sensitivity deficit.
When the Right are stubborn on dogma it is because they are arguing on an ideological principle (rightly or wrongly) unlike the Left who more likely than not are arguing on a human condition (real or imagined) which inherently carries with it emotion and sentiment. There in lies the sensitivity differential between the Left and the Right.
As a communications channel the digital medium is unemotional. Arguments on principle are more likely to come across as cold and harsh when using a terse and chaotic medium like Twitter. Arguments on human conditions on the other hand, thanks to the inherent emotion and sentiment are more likely to come across as sensitive and understanding despite the nature of the digital medium.
Perhaps Mr. Raman could have been more tolerant of the chaos and anarchy and more savy on effectively using the medium. Perhaps those who felt obliged to counter argue with him could have been more sensitive to his situation and less combative. But in the final analysis the casualty is the broad ideological movement labeled Hindutva and thus by association the BJP and the RSS for no direct fault of theirs.
As the digital entropy on the Internet increases over time the challenge for the BJP and the RSS will only get worse unless a clear line is drawn in their own self interest.