“Popular Hate” – pulling humanity apart on social media & news

I think it’d be fair to say that South Asians have many well-known, generalised social problems – racism, sexism, homophobia, religious extremism, the taboo on discussion of sex and sexuality, strict and repressive honour codes, all the way down to the highly publicised and shockingly recent specific manifestations of these problems – terrorist groups, honour killings[1], race-related riots[2], the ever-looming danger of being raped or sexually assaulted[3], extra-legal death squads taking to the streets with encouragement from the country’s parliament to gun criminals down in the street without recourse to due process[4], all things you’ve heard before, I’m sure. And this is in addition to the other problems – cripplingly efficient organised crime, drugs, corruption, bureaucracy.

Yet the biggest problem by far is the concept of “popular hate”, a vast, underlying problem which is either directly or indirectly responsible for most of the world’s most popular problems today.




First, a quick break to understand the current situation. Today, we live in the world of the Web 2.0, and the Internet of Things[5], and several other terms that are meant to awe, and confuse, and sell you shiny things at high prices. The preponderance of both mass and social media portals ensure us that we will know everything, before everyone else, with all our news tinted in whatever flavour of bias in which the news portal from which we received said news has decided to spin it.


The Problem:


This is hardly, however, a current problem. The tendency of news portals to “raise hell” rather than “print the news”[6] has been a problem since at least the heyday of actual physical newspaper readership, one that, arguably, cannot be eradicated, since the main purpose of any business is to turn a profit, which means appealing to a customer base. Even the French Revolutionary period of 1789-1791 involved radical newspapers calling for the execution of public speeches and people ended up doing just that.

No, the difference is that now there are so many of them. We are flooded, in every direction, by someone else’s opinion, often literally hours after the breaking of some new scandal or other commercially newsworthy event. This has, in turn, facilitated your own personal bias, hampering your ability to look at a problem from all angles in the belief that your angle, cobbled together from a few badly researched news items and your own personal deductions/ deeply held beliefs, is the only angle worth looking at the problem from.

Thus, in this day and age we have people who feel very strongly about hate and bigotry. But only because they want to replace it with their very own form of hate and bigotry, which, much like a venereal disease, can now easily be spread everywhere with little effort, no precaution, and often total anonymity, thanks to the advent of social media. And it definitely isn’t just a bunch of poorly coordinated bigots spreading hate – well, okay it is that, but the fact is, they’re here, they’re far more numerous than you might think, and they are spreading hate.

This sort of thing is extremely difficult to source, since there are so many, little, private biases, and there isn’t really a large enough audience to warrant a single easily accessible source, but examine the comment sections of political magazines’ social media pages, and chances are, you will turn up an interesting assortment of hate-filled social commentary. My own experiences on social media include seeing a Muslim man, probably a delightful person in conversation, and a wonderful spouse and parent, insist with honest fervour that not all Muslims are terrorist extremists, only to turn right round from that inclusive message and insist that all the extremist organisations that were giving Islam a bad name were run by a Jew. [7]

Regardless of the verity of the statement, the implication of the turnaround was quite clear – the person controlling these terrorists was not controlling them because he was a terribly flawed individual, but because he was a member of the Jewish race, all of whom, as is widely known, covertly run terrorist cells on the side. In brief, not all Muslims are terrorist extremists, but, somehow, all Jews are responsible for terrorist extremism.

Other enlightened individuals committed to speaking the gospel truth include people that are convinced that the recent race riots at the Jaffna university are not the result of poor race relations after years of clearly xenophobic policy making leading to institutionalised racism (leading to a thirty-year civil war that probably did very little to foster further understanding between the two sides). No, the problem was obviously the work of… Tamil Christian missionary work? [8]

And finally, rather more on the “shrieking troll” side of the Internet than the “politely misinformed” side of the Internet are those one or two delightful individuals rather bafflingly accusing Malala Yousafzai of “selling out” to the CIA, often in capital letters with overuse of punctuation, and in the midst of several unpleasant implications about her sex life, suggesting that her father was a CIA plant that deliberately arranged to have his own daughter shot in the head, to increase Western influence in the country.[9]


Solving the problem:


Solving this particular problem is probably the most critical of all, and not unsurprisingly the hardest, as four different people may often have six different deeply rooted biases. The solution starts, as most do, with oneself. Examine your own convictions. Do a little research, gain some perspective, find out if they’re as true as you think they are.

Urge those around you to come to their own conclusions, instead of agreeing with your views, or the news’ views, or their parents’ handed down views. You’ll find, that if your view is hateful or derogatory of an ethnic or religious demographic, that most of the time, your view will fall apart under scrutiny. Understand that there may be more than one way to look at a problem.

Remember that the news portals are here to tell you what is happening, not to tell you what to think about what is happening, and that social media is a tool that is meant to bring us closer together in order to share our lives and the human experience, and discuss issues of importance from a position of safety, not a comfortable mask under which you can hide while you do and say things you would hesitate to in an actual social setting, and only serve to drive us further apart.


As much I hate to be this cliché, I can only conclude that change starts with you.



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  1. Pingback: “Popular Hate” – Aishcharya Kahandawala

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