We live in an opinionated world. Maybe it’s because of WhatsApp university, or the dating apps, or the general obsession with seeking validation and dopamine through likes or going viral and monetising your following through advertising moolah. But literally everybody seems to be under huge pressure to be clever—to have a ‘take’ and a ‘point of view’ and an ‘IMHO’ (in my humble opinion) on everything, from the wives and girlfriends of Indian cricketers, to the latest show on OTT platforms, to Hamas’s attacks on Israel.
In the old days, we had experts—people who’d done the homework, or got the degree, and therefore had the creds to share their measured opinion via newspaper or television. But today, it’s talking time at the zoo and anybody with an X account can address the world free-of-cost and declare their unsolicited verdict on anything under the sun. ‘Margot Robbie is Mid. #Barbie’; ‘Loved the airport. Hated the city #Bangalore’; ‘#Palestinians don’t play victim card’. (Um, Margot doesn’t give a rat’s posterior about your opinion, she’s laughing all the way to the bank. Bangalore parwagillah [does not care] about either your love or your hate, and Palestinians are way too occupied (terrible pun, apologies) to take instructions from you before playing their cards.)
Tailored to cater to the algorithm, which favours the shocking and the hateful over the nuanced and the reasoned, these opinion threads quickly spiral into misogyny, extremism, casteism and Islamophobia. You need a gut of iron to wade into this filth and grapple with it. One young lady who seems to have no qualms doing this is former porn star Mia Khalifa, who shot to global infamy in 2014 owing to a video of her engaging in a threesome while wearing a hijab. The geeky eyeglasses-sporting Mia, who clearly hasn’t got the memo that porn stars should have neither intellect nor opinions, is totally qualified to have an opinion on the Middle East. Born and raised in Lebanon, she follows the issues of that part of the world closely. Her post on X read, “If you can look at the situation in Palestine and not be on the side of Palestinians, then you are on the wrong side of apartheid, and history will show that in time.” Fair enough, right? I mean, even when kids fight, and parents have to yank them apart, the question they always ask before apportioning blame is, ‘Who started it?’ Not the Palestinians, for sure.
Back in the day, this used to be something Indians and Palestinians bonded over. How we were both victims of the English drawing random lines across the land and inventing new countries. Back in the day, we shared solidarity, because Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin had been snatched away from us, just like their entire country had been snatched away from them. And, we were both hoping the United Nations would do something about it.
Anyway, Mia got a tonne of hate for airing her honest opinion. Almost immediately, X was full of images of her mouth crammed with pork sausages, with haters hissing that that was all her mouth was good for. Playboy and a Canadian broadcaster immediately cancelled their contracts with her, in posts that described her stance as ‘horrendous, disgusting, truly gross, sick and reprehensible’. To me, it seems like an attempt to throw deliberately shaming adjectives at her, to underline her ex-profession, to create a chill factor, and somehow get all reasonable people to leave the opinion-making to willfully unreasonable haters.
And the strategy of hate is simple. Not just in Palestine but in India as well. Cage the bear, beat it half to death, then poke it. Poke it and poke it and poke it till it lets out a weak snarl. Then righteously crush it to death for snarling.