Barack Obama is trying to use Twitter and Facebook to raise campaign money. Our politicians have found a better use for social media - being anti-social.
The grand political fights are moving online. The lumpen elements might still duke it out on the streets and college campuses, breaking heads and threatening each other with bhojalis and homemade bombs.
But pipe guns are just so Gangs of Wasseypur. Internet wars are far less messy, far more bitchy and never run out of ammo. It’s also terribly convenient. Light a tweet bomb. Get some of your BFFs from all over the world to join in with their pokes, jabs, snipes and soon you can have a good old school yard brawl happening, all from the comfort of your own Blackberry.
In fact, given the number of Twitter-spats these days, Seema Goswami asks a very pertinent question in the Hindustan Times: “Do you think they should rename Twitter as Bicker?”
Twitter is Bicker and Facebook is Facefight and there’s no taking it offline anymore.
NaMo versus RamGuha: Narendra Modi’s website just called historian Ramachandra Guha a “vacuous intellectual” who hasn’t gone anywhere after “more than 40 years of Dynasty history writing.” Guha, obviously an old-fashioned kind of “vacuous intellectual” responded in print in The Telegraph arguing his case point by point like a good historian. He obviously has not got the memo yet. We like our brawls in 140-character bouts. The only reason I even cottoned onto this fight was because I saw a tweet from Naresh Fernandes: A great accolade for Ram Guha: Narendra Modi calls him a ‘vacuous intellectual’. Actually it wasn’t Modi who hurled the epithet. It was a blogger named Sandeep. But as An Outlaw tweets: Ram Guha is trending. This is the power of shree @narendramodi. His name only is enough to make a pauper prince.
Shashi Tharoor versus LaMo: This was of course the scorched earth mother of all Twitter wars. Even if you cared nothing about the Kochi franchise of the IPL you couldn’t resist following this fight. Tharoor resigned his ministerial job, this time because of someone else's tweets instead of his own. Lalit Modi lost control of the IPL. Future historians of our Twitter wars will mark this as the critical turning moment of our online fights. It could have put our politicos off social media for good (or at least the next five years). Luckily that didn’t happen. Though Tharoor did tweet “I have had enough” he has remained the demi-god of Twitterverse with 1,412,198 followers. (Lalit Modi, for the record, has 504,922. Who's cattle-class now?)
Anna versus Anna: This was the best case of online shadow-boxing ever. In 2011 Anna Hazare obviously decided that blogging while maun-vrat-ing was an excellent way to have your mithai and eat it too. You could say what you wanted but you did not have to respond to anything anyone else said. That worked fine till Anna’s blogger , Raju Parulekar decided to be more than his master’s voice. Anna accused him of misusing the blog and passing off his agenda as Anna's thoughts. An indignant Parulekar blamed it all on the Gang of Three – Bhushan, Bedi and Kejriwal. “This group is exploiting public sentiment against corruption for its own financial gain, fame and recognition,” Parulekar toldOpen. Now if you go to AnnaHazareSays now, all it says is “This Blog Has Been Closed!” The banner above still promises “Long Live the Revolution!!!”
MamBan versus the world: Now the online wars have its most unlikely sharpshooter. Mamata Banerjee was famous for disparaging Facebook as the playground of the elite while she was more of a down-with-the-masses-chappals-and-all kind of a gal. But these days Didi is quite active on Facebook posting love notes from all and sundry – Abdul Kalam to Gopal Gandhi. “Mamatadi was never anti-Facebook,” clarifies Derek O’Brien, an inveterate Tweeter himself. “She was critical of the manner the CPM and its supporters were using it against her and Trinamool.” It’s not just the CPM. TMC’s “ally” the Congress has got into a Facebook spat with Didi as well. The Congress FB page has taken potshots at Didi’s suggestion of Krishna Bose (Subhas Bose’s nephew’s widow) as the vice presidential candidate calling it the “politics of convenience taking the name of Netaji.” Bose has added to the firestorm by saying it’s true, the TMC has suddenly rediscovered her after 8 years in the political wilderness since she lost an election in 2004. The Congress is chortling. Having been clobbered by the Trinamool all over the state, in every election high or low, it’s determined not to lose the Facebook fight. “In six months we will have more followers than Trinamool,” vows Pradip Bhattacharya, the PCC president.
But it’s unlikely our politicians will ever scale the Royal heights of the French where the new president’s current girlfriend went on a Twitter catfight with his ex who happens to be the mother of his four children. For that kind of bile, we will have to fall back on Bollywood. That’s where Karan Johar can Twitter warn Priyanka Chopra not to “mess with goodness” without ever naming her. Or Sonam Kapoor can retweet a tweet calling Shobhaa De “a fossil who’s getting no action but going through menopause.”
I don’t think even Mamata Banerjee’s worst enemies will dare stoop that low on Twitter though they have said worse on the campaign trail. They wouldn’t dare be that venomous because then they might find out the difference between social media and real life anti-socials the hard way. One is armed with 140 characters, the other is 140 armed characters.