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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
Outlook.com

140 Character Assassination

Everyone gets hit by bullet or shrapnel today. Here’s when Outlook got trolled.

140 Character Assassination
140 Character Assassination
outlookindia.com
2018-03-17T14:17:49+05:30

The internet idealism of the 1990s was perhaps born out of a very naïve optimism. Everyone those days spoke like a digitally enabled beatnik. The new medium was itself the message. It was going to be constituted and governed by their principles: essentially non-materialistic, democratic, a world away from the wolves on Wall Street. No vested interests, no cigar-chomping media barons guarding their empires, pulling off a murder or a riot just to break the news and sell copies. The revolution was going to be webcast. People would wage peace. Knowledge was going to be freely shared in verdant commons. In the middle of it all, strumming a guitar, would be Lennon’s statue.

This world of milk and honey was never born. Instead, we see an orgy of war. Online spaces have invented a whole new cult of collective violence: every day it demands a new sacrifice, a new voodoo doll. Bodies lie strewn around these blood-spattered white screens, in pain, in shock or in rigor mortis. There was a time when trolls could be seen as fringe pathogens. Even that was a time of innocence. We are all trolls now. Snark is the new lingua franca, the online Esperanto. And schadenfreude is our prime driver. We all go online to see some character assassinated, some strange new fruit swinging on that poplar tree.

A print magazine offers a self-ironic ledge from which to survey the landscape (and the damages). Print is dead, they say, so it feels like the corpse cutting up a living, breathing body for the autopsy. Outlook, moreover, was born in 1995, the same year the internet came to India—that doubles the irony content. Still, it was with a knowing smile that we saw the vested interests move in and entrench themselves. The biggest online players today are not creatures born to immaculate digital conception. They are the same old same old. The new la-la land...

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