From Arun Shourie to Raj Thackeray – How ‘liberals’ have failed to create their own heroes

One of the most often offered criticism – and a valid one too – of India’s so-called online RW (Right Wing – a diverse group that is essentially non-left, but ‘non-left wing’ term is a bit drab, hence RW it is) is that it is almost always in combative and reactive mode, and in the process, ends up making little known people on the other side famous.

Some guy with no real achievement in real life has to just put up a tweet or a placard or a short video containing some anti-Hindu or anti-nationalist rhetoric, and within no time he can flash a victim card saying he got abuses and death threats for his views. Next you know the guy is sitting in some TV studio or lit-fest regurgitating the same rhetoric, further peppered with platitudes about freedom and tolerance.

I’m sure you can think of two or three such characters already who have popped up in the last 4 or 5 years. So is the online RW acting as free PR agency for the self-declared ‘liberals’ of India? Definitely yes, if you think of those few characters that you could just recall.

However, so far as the wider ideological battle is concerned, I believe that this free PR service by a vocal section of the online RW is going to harm the left-liberals (an oxymoron, but I’ll still use it as it’s a popular term like ‘right wing’) in long term. In fact, it has already harmed them, and the signs are visible.

It appears as if the liberals have given up on creating their own heroes. They are not only happy to accept and rally behind the specimens that the online RW picks up for them, they are actually rushing to accept even the disgruntled and discarded personalities from the ‘right wing’ as their heroes.

It had started with them suddenly finding Arun Shourie an intellectual – which he always was – whose ideas must be listened to and taken seriously, only because Shourie had started speaking against Narendra Modi. Ram Guha, the conceited connoisseur of everything from gully cricket to military combat – which actually makes him the epitome of Indian liberalism – last year had declared that that Shourie was an intellectual who had “produced serious books”. The same Ram Guha had earlier said that “Shourie is a pamphleteer parading as a historian” while critiquing one of his serious books.

Coincidentally, or not, Guha had belittled Shourie during Vajpayee years. A person dismissed as pamphleteer and courtier during Vajpyee’s tenure was celebrated as intellectual and rebel under Modi regime. Well, Modi hai toh mumkin hai, as BJP says.

How much lazy and unoriginal the left-liberals have become can be gauged from the fact that almost everyone of them religiously uses “North Korean channels” to disparage those broadcast journalists who don’t hate Modi. This insult was coined by Shourie. Today, the liberals can’t even think of an original insult.

Their “activism” was already copied from whatever the Left in West does – they just used to replace ‘White’ with ‘Brahmin’ and a new intellectual movement was born – and their insults are now copied from disgruntled sections of RW. This unoriginality is so exceptional! Even Rahul Gandhi has not copied Arvind Kejriwal to this extent.

The latest hero of the liberals is Raj Thackeray. The guy who has all his life stood up for ideas that are as much liberal as… umm… ideas that are as much liberal as Pakistan is… well, I can’t think of any befitting cheeky analogy as Indian liberals reduced liberalism to a joke years ago, so actually Raj Thackeray might be a quintessential liberal.

Whatever he might be today, Raj Thackeray is another borrowed hero of the liberals, reinforcing the fact that Indian liberals have lost the ability to create their own heroes. They need RW to lend them some old ones or help them in finding new ones. Earlier, they had accepted Hardik Patel as one of the heroes, just because they thought he could create student unrest and bring back pre-Emergency days and defeat the ‘Right Wing’ party BJP in Gujarat.

This is in sharp contrast to how the left-liberals could create heroes for themselves and for the unsuspecting masses until a generation or two ago. Those born in the 80s can especially feel the difference. Just take the example of Arundhati Roy; the fiction writing (everything that she has written qualifies for this) star of the liberals at least had to write a novel and win an international literary prize to become a hero. Whereas all one need today is to write a few tweets and claim ‘trolls are attacking me’.

Just look at their current heroes – a placard holding person claiming death threats, an abusive ‘comedian’ claiming democracy under attack, a ‘fact checker’ whose superpower is that he can do reverse image search on Google, an actor who can masturbate on screen, and an array of ‘journalists’ whose lies and lack of logic can be not caught only by Umar Akmal – only thing common among them is that all of them have claimed to have received “RW troll attacks”.

What a fall. While the left-liberals were always a bunch of people who closely guarded their ranks and were ruthless with people who dared to dissent, at least there was some rigour in the selection process of selecting their heroes. They were bullies, but they worked hard.

Earlier a person will write a book, become famous, and then will claim that ‘right wing’ is intolerant. Now a person first claims that RW is intolerant, becomes famous, and then wins a book contract.

This inversion of the process of a hero’s making is not some natural evolution or innovation of the left-liberals, it is a proof of how this lot is getting lazier each day and is creating a system that is rewarding mediocrity.

For sure the online RW is not doing it as part of some grand plan or conspiracy – some of them just love trolling while some of them are instinctively reactive and rude – but they are doing a great service.

Left-liberalism is getting mediocre each day and soon it will be left with a parody of ideas and phoney heroes. And for that, let us all say a heartfelt thanks to every RW Twitter troll out there.