The echo-chamber of liberal outrage

Liberals spend most of their time sniping at each other, oblivious to the lived realities on the ground.

WrittenBy:Ashley Tellis
Date:
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The emptiness of progressive discourse on the internet-based social media and in the media in general is not apparent to its producers and purveyors because they live in an echo-chamber where they only hear each other and share straw men and woman adversaries.

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Let’s take two recent examples, from feminist and Dalit discourse on the net and in the media.

The first was an article on some female TV anchor who covers cricket and wears the most ridiculous clothes imaginable to do it. An internet-based machine did a non-article about it and various self-appointed feminist people on social media jumped down the throat of the machine saying this was sexist and offensive and the anchor was not asked whether or not she was comfortable, which, they insisted, is the most, if not the only, important thing.

Let’s begin backwards: why is the anchor’s view important? She may be deeply invested in her own commodification and say she is not. Does that make what she wears on TV to cover cricket okay? Does this mean no commentator can say what she or he feels about her without asking her view? So, if we ask a woman being beaten to pulp by her husband whether she is okay with it and she replies in the affirmative, we should cease and desist for commenting on it?

What is it about gung-ho, popular feminism, derived largely from the US, that it lacks any structural critique at all and resides only in some mindless individualism and absurd sense of personal agency? If the anchor says she does not feel uncomfortable, then she does not. The article did not even speak of her sex or the nature of the costumes except in relation to the conditions around her (wet grass, for example) but only about discomfort and itself did not raise questions of structural sexism which it should have. Both the article and the responses were a waste of space but generated enough click bait outrage.

The second was a popular social commentator who sometimes claims to be a historian and at others a political scientist and his rather sad article on Gandhi being of all and no caste at the same time. A bunch of Dalits jumped down his throat exposing his Brahmanism and casteism. Firstly, the article was itself a response to a right wing, cleverly phrased, simultaneously appropriative and attacking comment on Gandhi by a grisly right wing politician. The commentator’s response was a liberal one seeking to retrieve Gandhi from right wing jaws. It was a hatchet job not deserving of any response at all.

But is it wiser to attack the pathetic liberal response or engage with the right wing comment and its more fruitful articulation of the Gandhi conundrum? Was the whole kerfuffle over the commentator’s article worth anyone’s while? Is it also not particularly wasteful because right now the real people we have to contest are the right wing nut heads and not wishy-washy liberals?

There is a righteousness to Left-liberal responses on the social media and the internet that is too sure-footed for it to have any impact at all.

Isn’t it clear that the more important arenas of both gender and caste atrocity – the two areas of my two examples – are unfolding before our eyes every day in grisly stories of women being beaten up on the roads in broad daylight by stalkers, men being brutally beaten and killed for transporting or eating cattle? How many articles are the feminists and the Dalit activists writing about these things? How many fact-finding reports are feminists and Dalits doing on these incidents?

Instead, we prefer the echo-chamber of the social media and the internet to argue about utterly useless and irrelevant things like the putative discomfort of a commodified anchor and the empty ramblings of a Brahmin-liberal, self-appointed historian/political scientist.

What these progressive voices wasting time on the internet writing articles and comments do not realise is that they are the worst examples of liberal emptiness themselves, tilting at windmills and smug with their voices ricocheting back to them. What we need is analysis of what is going on on the ground, involving life and death situations for constituencies like women and Dalits. That opinion would matter, that analysis is tied to the project of social change and is a step toward it.

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