Hall of shame: BJP and RSS members amplify YouTube video calling to hang journalists

The video by The String demanding state action against journalists, including at Newslaundry, was taken down by YouTube.

ByNidhi Suresh
Hall of shame: BJP and RSS members amplify YouTube video calling to hang journalists
Anubhooti Gupta
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What do BJP leaders and sundry Hindu nationalists do when a YouTuber calls for Indian journalists to be “hanged”? They describe his video as an “honest cause”, insist that it contains “nothing illegal or offensive”, and swarm Twitter to condemn the fact that YouTube, quite correctly, took the video down for violating its policies.

The video was published on February 11 by a man who posts from an account called The String, which purports to work towards “establishing a network among individuals who are working towards uplifting the culture and spiritual ethos of this country”. Titled “Arrest Rathee, Zubair, Barkha NOW! (Greta Toolkit Exposed)”, the video accused a group of “leftist” journalists, activists and media organisations of everything from being “the real Godi media” to participating in a “money trail” to having “vested interests”.

The video’s targets included Barkha Dutt, Mohammed Zubair, Saket Gokhale, Newslaundry, Scroll, Alt News, the Wire, the Quint, the News Minute, India Spend, Outlook India, and PARI. The video specifically demanded that the journalists and activists in question “be hanged”.

When the video was taken down, BJP bigwigs such as its spokespersons in Mumbai and Tamil Nadu and former Delhi MLA Kapil Mishra took to Twitter in protest. So did members of the RSS.

Who is The String, anyway? The account joined Twitter last March and released its first video, “Truth Behind Delhi Riots”. It now has over 85,000 followers on Twitter, 58,000 on Instagram, 7,000 on Facebook, and 4,15,000 on YouTube. Apart from English, its videos are available in Hindi, Kannada and Telugu.

Amplifying hate

When YouTube took the video down, The String responded with shock on Twitter. Inexplicably, the handle tagged prime minister Narendra Modi, the home ministry, the Enforcement Directorate, and the National Investigation Agency as well as Republic, Swarajya magazine, and OpIndia, asking them to “take note”.

The Twitter handle has a history of tagging the Hindu nationalists in power; before releasing its video The String had tagged Modi and the NIA, among others, saying the host’s life would be in “danger”, thanks to its “explosive” content.

The String got a lot of support in its crusade. By afternoon, #BIGEXPOSE trended on Twitter, even though the video is in clear violation of Twitter’s hate speech policy.

Former Delhi MLA Kapil Mishra – who made an incendiary speech that has been blamed by many for inciting last year’s communal carnage in Delhi – said the video was “bringing out truth” and “had nothing illegal or offensive”. BJP leader Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga tweeted it too.

SG Suryah, spokesperson of the BJP in Tamil Nadu and member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, expressed shock at The String’s video being taken down. His post was retweeted over 790 times.

Suresh Nakhua, the spokesperson of the Mumbai BJP, tweeted about the video being taken down. He called it a “great revealing explosive story”, and his post was retweeted more than 1,450 times.

Vikas Pandey, an RSS volunteer who helped lead the BJP’s social media campaign in 2014, tweeted that he had donated to The String to “support an honest cause”.

Former Shiv Sena member Ramesh Solanki – whose Twitter bio says he’s a “very proud Hindu nationalist” – used a “Jai Shri Ram” hashtag while calling The String’s videos “important exposés”. Hindu nationalist website OpIndia’s Nupur Sharma said the video was “excellent”, and got over 3,000 retweets for her trouble. “Indic” publisher Sankrant Sanu approved of The String’s works too, as did Tanmay Shankar, an entrepreneur, who tweeted “we are with you”.

All these accounts have “blue ticks” on Twitter. And these are just the handles that Newslaundry spotted. If you see any others, please tag us on Twitter.

‘Yeh double standard nahi chalega’

Even as these RSS and BJP supporters encouraged a video that called for journalists to be hanged, union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was busy warning social media platforms of strict action if they failed to crack down on inflammatory content and misinformation.

In response to a host of questions in the Parliament, the information and technology minister said that social media platforms must comply with the country’s laws. While claiming commitment to the rights of individuals and press freedom, Prasad said the government was “concerned” about law and order and so, the spread of violent content or misinformation would not be tolerated.

Claiming that social media companies applied different standards to the Capitol Hill riots in the US and the farmers marching to Red Fort in India – thereby implying they were similar – he said: “Yeh double standard nahi chalega.” This double standard will not be tolerated.

So, while the BJP government demands that Twitter “follow Indian law” and suspend Twitter accounts like the Caravan, and while its functionaries and supporters move to a dubious homegrown alternative in protest, a video literally asking for journalists to be killed continues to circulate thanks to the governing party’s leaders.

Also Read : What’s ‘hate speech’? Depends on who is speaking
Also Read : OpIndia: Hate speech, vanishing advertisers, and an undisclosed BJP connection
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