A Nation of Nasty Keyboard Warriors


A Nation of Nasty Keyboard Warriors

Illustration: Namaah/ Arré

In the 10 short years since YouTube first launched, it has transformed itself from a displayer of lolvidz, master of copyright infringement, and resting place of unskippable ads, to a forum for very angry keyboard warriors. Seriously, YouTube commenters have zero chill. If our government were to take the comments seriously, we could expect a few really confusing policy decisions.

For one, half of India would have to slowly make its way to Pakistan and then admit once they’re there, that it has always been a part of India anyway. If one side fights for making yoga compulsory for the dead, and cow slaughter illegal on the moon, the other will insist that yoga is detrimental to their health and that cows have been killed on the moon as rite of passage for generations.

YouTube comments reflect the kind of religious polarisation that makes “love jihad” seem like the most plausible explanation for a declining Hindu populace. According to this study conducted by TED, YouTube trolls are worse than other commenters on the internet. It says trolls are more likely to make sexist, highly emotional, and irrelevant comments on YouTube than any other platform. The comments on YouTube are starkly different from those on Facebook, where you are more conscious that everyone can see what you’re saying, or Reddit, where shitposts are usually downvoted in a matter of minutes. What adds to the madness is the fact that YouTube has taken away the ability to downvote comments. The trolls can (and they do) upvote their own comments from pseudo accounts and all relevant thoughtful comments get pushed to the bottom.

In order to save you a few days of facepalming your nose into the back of your skull, this piece will attempt to give you a general idea of the kind of hate speech that is usually passed off as freedom of speech on the walls of the pit of despair itself.

First, throw everything you know about how intricate the Kashmir problem is and read what this guy has to say about it: “Kashmiri can go and live any part of India study, earn, travel… thy got complete freedom… hole country is ur home brother.. but if any 1talk saperation of Indian land should be killed even if it’s my family members..”

Well, that escalated pretty damn quick, didn’t it? Maybe somebody asked him to calm down in the follow-up comment. But, of course, we do not live in an ideal world, and in all likelihood he’s faced with someone like this guy, who takes very strongly to people fucking around: “Don’t fuck around here. Else mother will also be raped along with sister.” 

There are several other comments on this thread which shall not be explicitly mentioned for fear of stoking a little tension of our own. But you can be sure, most make the aforementioned guy seem like he’s writing a love ballad.

As more people go online, the situation is likely to get more vitriolic.

Admittedly, the Kashmir issue is a serious, polarising topic that has gripped much of the country and mainstream media, so there’s bound to be some hatred there. But do we not even spare harmless comics? When a commenter on a video of Kapil Sharma called Navjot Singh Sidhu a “chutiya”, one warm-hearted user, who goes peaceably by the name “Love You”, asked him to give Sidhu some credit, to which the commenter responded with a “Are you from Pakistan?” which these days is competing with “teri ma… behen” as India’s go-to slur, for pretty much everything under the sun.

After trawling through a few thousand comments, it really seems as though trying to look for an intelligent comment on YouTube is like trying to find Pokémon without a phone. You can roam around for as long as you like, but eventually will have to admit that you aren’t going to find anything and go home disappointed.

India currently has 220 million smartphone users, more than any other country in the world. But that’s just 30 per cent of our population. As more people go online, the situation is likely to get more vitriolic.

Some guy watching a Newshour debate on whether “Kejriwal is deliberately targeting Modi” decided he hates Arvind Kejriwal so much, he felt compelled to leave this note: “Dilli-wallas are stupid as fukk = Aur marwa-o iss Khujliwala Nautankiwala say!!” Which is understandable if Kejriwal personally entered his home and murdered half his family. But that probably isn’t the case. Yet another wondered if one panelist supporting Kejriwal “was a gay” because he “looked to him as if LGBT”.

The worst comments seem to come on debates about Rahul Gandhi on NDTV. Something about the combination inspires hatred in the hearts of keyboard warriors like nothing else could. One of the top comments will be something like, “May RG have a long life and a long tenure at helm of Congress”. And you think, hey maybe RaGa does have some fans after all. But scroll down and you’ll see what he truly means: “May Italian Gods give Rahul baba all the power (to sink Congress party), as he’s rightly doing it.”

NDTV, of course, gets the really savage ones thanks to YouTube’s love for Barkha Dutt, garnering remarks like, “Paid media/presstitutes” and “Burqa Dutt” brainwashing the public into “turning India into Saudi Arabia”. It may sound like the paranoid rants of a heroin abuser, but it’s actually there for everyone to see. With a profile picture of a mountainside, or the Indian flag to boot.

At this point, you might either really relate to this article since you’re a YouTube asshole yourself, or naturally want to jump in on the action for the fear of missing out. In case of the latter, we’ve crafted a four-step guide to manufacturing your own outrage:

Step 1: Identify easy target in video that really annoys you.

Step 2: Imagine said target cut you off on the highway in peak traffic on a summer afternoon.

Step 3: Make no less than three spelling errors per sentence.

Step 4: Bask in the glory of having taught everyone on the internet how many swear words you can string together in a sentence.