We often find ourselves at crossroads in life- attempting to deal with the unending struggle of right and wrong. Almost like an Armageddon. And in this pretext, it is only but natural that some situations bring out the biased in us, often forcing us to become bigots (even when we don’t like it). Such bigotry is what pushes us to the edge or sometimes even off it. We find public figures and companies often caught up in this battle. The purpose of this article is not to question their beliefs or opinions. Neither is it to pass any judgement over who is right or wrong. It is simply to question the underlying attitude of gaining publicity over the expense of someone else, under the garb of freedom of speech – and what standard it sets for others.
Now, this can seem long. But give it 5 minutes of your time and I promise it’ll have you thinking.
We are constantly privy to banters in personal situations, all in ‘fun and games’ and ‘nothing personal’. But while what may pass as seemingly acceptable in such private lives may not necessarily be taken with the same spirit when done at a larger platform. People of the world are regularly witness to such tug-of-wars between personalities and even companies. But who’s to say when one crosses the line of being ethical or of substance? Again, no judgements. Just questions.
India witnessed a controversy between a stand-up comedian, Kunal Kamra and a television journalist, Arnab Goswami. Controversies like these often divide the societies into Team A and Team B, where each plays the victim. While both of their actions can be questionable at some point, clearly neither of them are the victims. What followed the incident were a series of tweets and posts by Kamra and an entire debate on national television by Goswami. Sure they both have their reasons, and rightly so, but what it did do was boost their audience. What we all realised, hopefully, was that it eventually stopped being about their opinions and the specific incident anymore. It became more of a personal battle fought on a public platform – with Team A and Team B fighting alongside. The subject stopped being relevant after a point and seemed nothing more than an exaggerated form of a publicity agenda.
Similarly, most political campaigns we see are more about bringing down the opponent than talking about one’s own beliefs and agenda. We saw that in 2016 during the US presidential campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And we also saw that in the 2014 & 2018 general elections in India. The agenda or manifesto of a political party doesn’t make as much headlines as when a candidate takes a dig on the opponent.
While being is news at any cost seems to be of utmost importance, what we fail to realise is that the core content somewhere gets lost on the way. The focus strays away from the fundamental subjects towards frivolous comments and bigotry. This may be gaining eyeballs and publicity for some but it is a definite loss of quality debate for the society.
Some may argue that it is only but natural in a debate to question others. Sure, rebuttal may be inherent to the spirit of any debate but bigotry most definitely is not. Questioning someone else’s opinion can be healthy as long as their divergent views are respected. However, what we usually find is people labelling others for having opinions contrasting to the “public sentiment”. Such dissent is not taken well by many and the focus is shifted from rebutting the opinion to ridiculing and name-calling.
For some of the influential personalities, this is often a well-thought of, planned publicity strategy. Celebrities, politicians, and leaders see this as a way of gaining more “followers”. They often resort to making bold, controversial statements to attract comments and gaining publicity. The creation of Team A and Team B is an essential marketing strategy for their increasing public image.
It is people like us who watch them on television, read about them in the tabloids and then talk about them in our conversations. We refer to these tactics as “publicity stunts” but they still make way into our dining-table discussions – not realising that we are giving in to the desired results. And because of this, it seems almost acceptable that such tactics have worked in the past and shall continue to do so. So who’s to blame, right?
Like I said, we’re not here to question right or wrong. But we are definitely questioning this publicity gained over the expense of others. It can be over an opposing view, or an action or even an individual. Adopting measures to socially execute a contrary opinion for the purpose of getting into the limelight is never healthy- has never been healthy. It speaks more about the lack of substance in oneself than about anything else. While it can be passed off as a “joke” between friends, it does not have the same effect when done in front of millions. Questioning someone just for the sake of it or with the intent to create a controversy is not only a cheap marketing tactic but also infamous publicity. It goes against the very nature of becoming popular and being an influential, public figure.
Access to information and social media has only made it more convenient for such tactics to grow. It now takes only one tweet or one post to take a dig at some. And with millions of followers, it can be blown up in an instant. And we, members of Team A and Team B, don’t hesitate to share and build it further. Thus, giving them the publicity they intended for.
If you have come this far, you are probably thinking that the purpose of this article is probably similar – To question the status quo and gain publicity. Well, yes and no. While I would definitely want this discussion to start, the purpose of this article is limited to only that. To simply question why we resort to bigotry, often disguised as being “opinionated”, as a means to stay relevant and attract attention? The world is free and we all are free to express our opinions. But, where does one cross the line? Or more importantly, is there any such line?
And if this is not enough, here’s some more food for thought: Does Team A and Team B really exist or are we just playing along as puppets? Maybe, we are just divided into teams for the benefit of someone who is feeding off us. Maybe, just MAYBE, we aren’t as bigots as we think.