The Lede
www.thelede.co.in
How influencers of trolls control the narrative on social media
How influencers of trolls control the narrative on social media|Courtesy: The Black Vault
Society

Social Media & Thought Control: The Influencers Of Trolls

The third and possibly the most poisonous strategy that fuels the spread of viciousness online 

Jeff Joseph

Jeff Joseph

Strategy three is that of Troll Influencers as opposed to the Professionals. These Troll Influencers more often than not, influence the carpet bombers by pointing them in the direction in which to channel their anger.

Direction is also given to the carpet bombers by way of a variety of half-baked information mixed in with falsehoods and factually incorrect “data” which bolsters the message they want to send.

The valiant carpet bombers then loyally take this message to the rest of Twitter, not knowing or bothering whether the message is true or not.

To be a Troll Influencer, one at present, has to be a cheerleader of the political dispensation and necessarily be excessively loud and outrageous.

Swamy And Friends

Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy is a key influencer of the troll carpet bombers
Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy is a key influencer of the troll carpet bombers

The Rajya Sabha MP is much worshipped on Twitter, thanks in large part to his academic credentials that he regularly falls back upon.

In possession of a doctorate in economics from Harvard University, Swamy taught two course on the subject in Harvard, until an opinion piece written by him in 2011 led to his ouster.

Swamy has also openly made clear that he wished for a seat in Modi’s Cabinet – the Finance Ministry in particular.

Swamy is outrageous, funny, full of pluck and intelligent to boot.

A method used commonly by him is to raise questions challenging the validity of settled matters. Shoot and scoot strategy – he would then offer no proof whatsoever to support the claims or insinuations, because, well, it is the internet, and there are no rules here, are there?

Take this instance.

“aryan”? Wallowing in the British tutored bogus history?

Swamy tweeted early in the morning of 24 May.

One of the first comments illuminated what he was hinting at.

“Sir, how can we fix Tamil Nadu?” asked a lady with a sad emoji voicing her worry.

While Swamy’s BJP won with an overwhelming majority nationwide, his home state, Tamil Nadu sent the party packing.

And so, within hours of the results being known, Swamy’s tweet casting doubts over the Aryan invasion theory was of relevance. Dravidian culture being the prominent theme of Tamil Nadu politics, Swamy’s purpose was clear – question and thereby discredit.

To counter the Dravidian behemoth political parties in Tamil Nadu, would take a ground shaking event. And to cast doubts on the foundation of these parties, Swamy and the BJP need to break down the Aryan theory as being a British theory propagated by colonial stooges.

Swamy, though politically redundant, is an influencer of repute on Twitter. With algorithm on his side, Swamy’s theories, postulations and half-baked conspiracies, reach the far corners of Twitter.

Swamy’s conspiracy theories range from the denial of Aryan invasion to the hacking of EVMs - a theory he has dropped in the BJP era.

Madhu Purnima Kishwar

Madhu Kishwar has risen to prominence on Twitter due to her often outrageous tweets
Madhu Kishwar has risen to prominence on Twitter due to her often outrageous tweets

Author and academic Madhu Kishwar rose in prominence on Twitter owing to her often outrageous tweets, which were simply speculation or plain falsehoods.

Journalists, in their attempts to call her out, end up lending support to her stories by spreading it far and wide.

A recent instance was when NDTV’s Srinivasan Jain commented to a fellow journalist to ignore her. His comment ended up giving it more visibility instead.

Shefali Vaidya

Another influencer of the troll carpet bombers, Ms Vaidya never lets a chance go to send out her brand of messaging
Another influencer of the troll carpet bombers, Ms Vaidya never lets a chance go to send out her brand of messaging

Shefali Vaidya, in her Twitter bio, states that she is a freelance writer and columnist based in Pune.

Her byline largely appears in right leaning magazines and digital outlets.

Vaidya is again, queen of the half-truths, giving facts a spin that endears her to the carpet bombers and possesses no dearth of outrage.

Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri

Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri sends specific messages constantly with similar keywords
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri sends specific messages constantly with similar keywords

The filmmaker who has had an average run at the box office in his career, is getting a good run on Twitter.

Thanks to his incessant questioning, mocking and sharing of arbitrary WhatsApp videos without context or explanation, Agnihotri is much loved by carpet bombers.

He is now in the process of making a film on Kashmiri Pundits after a lot of ranting online about the issue.

Social Media & Thought Control: The Influencers Of Trolls
Social Media & Thought Control: The Influencers Of Trolls

“Personalities are being used to push agenda online”, said Kiruba Shankar, social media expert.

“Cobrapost had outed a lot of celebrities who were willing to do it.”

Ashok Swain

This academic from the anti-BJP brigade often makes outrageous statements
This academic from the anti-BJP brigade often makes outrageous statements

It’s not just the right wing leaning handles that push mischievous messages. There are intellectuals at the other end of the spectrum – the anti-Modi, anti-Bhakt cadre who produce some gems too.

Here Ashok Swain, a professor of peace and conflict research in Sweden, is seen bringing his political glasses to watch cricket.

Sankrant Sanu

Author Sankrant Sanu takes off on varied rants, largely over religion & language
Author Sankrant Sanu takes off on varied rants, largely over religion & language

Sankrant Sanu, a self-proclaimed author, entrepreneur, meditator, IITian who knows Sufi dances, Sudarshan Kriya and is a drummer too, holds and expresses extreme opinions, many of them against minorities.

Anand Ranganathan

An academic at JNU, Anand Ranganathan is verbose and often passes off half-truths as facts
An academic at JNU, Anand Ranganathan is verbose and often passes off half-truths as facts

Anand Ranganathan is an associate professor at the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Ranganathan, despite working in the much reviled JNU, is very clearly not part of the ‘tukde tukde’ gang.

Ranganathan endorses troll accounts like @TrueIndology which have been suspended by Twitter. At times he is moderate but his tidbits of fact mixed in with falsehoods are a potent mix, spreading incongruities across the social media platform.

“Social media influencers are those who are willing to stick their necks out - they are either stupid or bold,” said Sashi Kumar Menon, senior journalist and chairperson of the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai.

“They are like the pied pipers. They will lead everyone to the sea & drown themselves too. Those who says the most shocking things get most traction. The more outlandish things they say, the more they are seen as leaders. It is a race to the bottom. If you say bad now, next time it has to be worse,” he explained.

It is these influencers who point the direction in which the low level minion trolls should head to. They pull out tweets by influencers of the opposing camps for the minions to attack. They give cues as to the line of argument the minions should follow when attacking others or defending themselves.

In the troll ecosystem on Twitter, the troll influencers are powerful warriors with a cause - to protect and perpetuate the alternate reality of their silos.