Jan 24, New Delhi: The growing popularity of parody Facebook pages is for all to see. From cynical to sarcastic to funny to mostly making very strong political statements, mimicking is given a new dimension by these FB pages through images, news reports and also memes.
These pages on the social media are gradually taking up the space being left void by the mainstream media and their growing reluctance to speak on issues that matter to people. These shareable, sometimes pithy and often puerile units of culture have emerged as the new lingua franca.
Ramit Verma, Administrator for Official Peeing Human with 1.53 lakh followers says, “there was no real idea when I started the page very randomly, but now the idea is to engage people with political and media related content so that their interest in it is maintained and they might get more involved and aware with regards to politics and policies.”
For the administrator at Drunk Journalist which today has nearly 75000 followers on their Facebook page, the journey started in 2014 when he saw fake news being circulated and getting viral and there were no pages to counter that. “Being an avid reader, economist and following politics for many years helped me understand what is fake news and what is healing. Hence the page was started to counter the fake news and helped many to differentiate between the fake and truth.” Says the Admin who works in anonymity.
For Acche Din Memes, another very popular parody pages on Facebook the idea to start the page came right after BJP came to power in 2014 “Suddenly we saw a price rise of various commodities and the social media team of the opposition was not good enough to expose the Government. So I thought of creating a page which should continuously criticise the government for its bad policies in a humorous way” Admin of the page said in response to an emailed questionnaire.
Every different work brings with it the perils of criticism and these days healthy criticism has been replaced by online trolls, abusing and threats.
Last year the Facebook page ‘Humans of Hindutva‘(HoH) which parodied right-wing fundamentalism was shut down by its administrator after he and his family received threats. The page which had gained immense popularity in less than a span of nine months had taken up issues like cow vigilantism, moral policing and murder of senior journalist like Gauri Lankesh.
According to Pratik Sinha of Alt News, one of the co-founders which is also the admin for the other popular page Unofficial Subramanian Swamy, what happened with HOH despite being anonymous is worrying for sure.
“If you are leading a public life and if you are in media it is a part and parcel. There is no way you can avoid trolls, you have to develop a thick skin. Everybody is worried about their family but you have to deal with it. They have thrown muck at me and my family too but one has to know how to deal with it”.
“I read almost all the comments on my videos and reply to every message I get because that’s the only reward of running a page which has no monetary or any other motive but to start some sort of a dialogue. I do that by making content where politicians and journalists look like the entertainers – that they are already. Going through the comments also makes me a lot more patient I guess, because after a point I had to consciously get used to being abused for no logical reason or accused of running a paid propaganda or some other such ridiculous assumptions, especially when I know it’s just me and my laptop behind this page and everything that goes in & on it. So, it’s always a humbling experience and super funny at a lot of times.”
Ask him whether he received any threats or now and says “No I haven’t received any such serious threats yet, thankfully, so right now I’m determined to keep the page going irrespective of threats. But it’s such a tricky thing to deal with that I think I’ll only know when it happens. Most of the threats that have come my way have been from fake profiles so I’ve never really taken it seriously. But what happened with HOH despite being anonymous is worrying for sure.”
And yes, the signs of worry are visible with others as well, Drunk Journalist another popular parody page states “It’s said that HoH was forced to shut down even when we live in a free and democratic country. This is one of the reasons why I never trusted anyone or shared my personal details which could lead to me being identified.” He is honest enough to accept when it comes to family, we all like to play it safe though it is unfortunate that in a democratic country like India one has to hide behind a handle to say the truth, while people who are supposed to tell the truth are not doing their duties.”
For Pankaj Jain at Hoax Slayer, however, there have been threats but they were not serious enough and the fact that he helps cops too debunking gives a sense of security. Admin at Ache Din Memes, however, has an interesting way of dealing with these trolls “I usually play with trolls when I am free. That’s my favorite pastime. Sometimes I post screenshots from the inbox after trolling them back in humorous ways.”
So, have they ever thought about closing their page? “My page is only about truth with solid proofs, not for defaming anyone, so no intention of closing down.” Says Jain. Admin for Drunk Journalist agrees that there was a time when he wanted to close the page as it was taking too much of his time, however, he was persuaded by followers of this page to stay on. Same with the others who too have no intention of closing their pages.
And on crossing the thin line between being sarcastic and disrespectful, Verma says I don’t really mind being on either side or on the line because the characters I feature are themselves disrespecting their authority and position of power, so I guess that liberates me a little to worry too much about that thin line.”
Similarly, for Jain “In given times people are always looking forward to getting offended and make a scene so there is no thin line anymore.”
And as we write HoH makes a comeback with this post “Humans of Hindutva believes in continuing the legacy of the original HoH page, that was recently taken down by the admin himself amidst death threats to his family. This is a tribute to the admin who is perhaps sulking in resignation and to the people who have supported the original page throughout, HoH returns and will not try to disappoint you.”
The journey for this new age media has just begun and they are here to stay