How to handle trolls? Learn from Sushma Swaraj

The external affairs minister is disarming hate — one like at a time.

 |  3-minute read |   25-06-2018
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External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj first showed us how social media, especially Twitter, could be used to work effectively and efficiently. She is now teaching us how to "fix" those coming in the way of work.

Swaraj has a lesson for all those battling the scourge of abuse and hate on social media. The Union minister is simply hitting "like" for all the hate directed towards her Twitter handle, throwing an uppercut at her newfound haters.

Swaraj attracted the attention of hatemongers on Twitter last week after a Passport Seva Kendra official, Vikas Mishra, in Lucknow, was transferred following allegations by a couple that Mishra humiliated them when they went to the office with their passport applications.

According to the couple, who happen to belong to two different religious communities, Mishra asked the husband to convert to Hinduism and pulled up the wife for marrying a Muslim.

A section of the social media attacked Swaraj and her ministry for taking action against Mishra, claiming that he was just doing his duty.

Some reports have claimed that Mishra quizzed the couple as he found discrepancies in the documents they had submitted along with their passport application.

While criticism over the transfer of any official without a proper probe is understandable, abusing a minister and calling her communal just because one has the power to tweet his/her latent hate is not.

Genuine voices and reasoned arguments find ample space in civilised discussions, but abuse is not aimed at dialogue. Abuse is meant only to offend. The challenge then is how to handle such abuse.

While ordinary citizens can choose to look the other way, ministers meant to serve the public may have no option but to respond to abuse. They are, after all, elected representatives who take oath to treat everyone equally.

sushma690_062518043742.jpgSushma Swaraj's message: You don't counter hate with hate. Try "liking" hate.

Swaraj has thus shown us how to take the moral high ground with aplomb. She has disarmed her trolls with her likes and left them — and their hate — speechless.

She even retweeted some of the vitriolic tweets directed at her in a bid to show haters the mirror.

The principle of satyagrah that this country takes pride in is based on appealing to the conscience of one's adversaries.

Is there a better way to appeal to the conscience of trolls than retweeting their hateful messages and exposing their bigotry? Well, we are yet to see one.

The external affairs minister has set an example on how to use Twitter — one that will be difficult for people to replicate.

Swaraj's message: You don't counter hate with hate. Try "liking" hate.

With a timeline that is always buzzing with calls for help, she has shown both her admirers and critics how Twitter's use can be maximised.

In February 2015, after a video was tweeted to her, Swaraj ensured 168 Indians were rescued from Iraq.

The same year, Sabah Shawesh, a Yemeni woman stuck in a conflict in her country, who was married to an Indian, was reunited with her husband and eight-month-old baby after she took to Twitter to share her plea with Swaraj. And Swaraj did not disappoint: she said it was her duty to help Shawesh. It indeed was. But the promptness with which she has been doing her duty is worthy of praise.

In January 2018, a man named Pranshul Singhal tweeted to Swaraj after his brother Ankit got stuck at the Doha airport. And Swaraj, yet again, did not disappoint.

There are numerous such examples that exhibit the high degree of professionalism that Swaraj has presented before us by using Twitter as a medium to both reach out and allow others — especially those in need — to reach her.

But with her like-for-hate move, Sushma Swaraj completely steals the show, even by the tall standards set by herself as a minister.

Swaraj is disarming hate — one like at a time.

This feat must be met with love.

Also read: Why we will never know why my friend Arvind Subramanian quit as chief economic adviser

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