If you started counting the number of things Indians were outraging about at 11:30 PM on 31st December 2017, you’d be well into the New Year before the list was completed. That’s because 2017 was a breakout year, where social media increasingly set the agenda in real life and we collectively jumped from one outrage to another.Facts were twisted, spliced, made into WhatsApp videos, packaged as viral posts on propaganda websites, as those who benefit from spreading falsities continued their merry ways with little disdain for the consequence of their actions. And often this systematic outrage was part of well-orchestrated campaign to peddle political agenda.Sample some of the topics from 2017 which generated fury and tonnes of coverage – Rajput royals and a little-known organisation losing their cool over Padmavati, political parties and their supporters convinced that EVMs could be hacked by Bluetooth, outraging over the celebration of festivals like Christmas and even the choice of destination of Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma’s wedding.The problem wasn’t that particular interest groups raised hell about issues that ‘affected’ them, but them getting a modicum of legitimacy by those who claim to be serious newsmen, who instead of calling out the stupidity gave tacit support to them when it suited their agenda. And make no mistake, all the meaningless outrage and insinuation weakened the institutions which we cherish and are essential in binding together this vast country of a thousand contradictions.Thus, when the judiciary is called anti–Hindu for banning Diwali fireworks; when EC is called biased for not going back to old ballot system; when a modicum of doubt is raised about integrity of an ex- PM; when art surrenders to alter of rabble rousers, it hurts us, it dents what we hold dear, what some of us like to call the ‘Idea of India’. We seem to have become a nation dominated by WhatsApp canards, a land where hate could be normalised by using the instrument of outrage.A murder of a migrant labour can somehow be justified as retribution for love-jihad, lynching of alleged cow smuggler can be passed off as some holy deed. Whether Tipu Sultan’s birthday should be celebrated thus gets prevalence over farmers’ death, systematic rotting of infrastructure in major Indian cities, becomes a boring topic to discuss compared to Rahul Gandhi going to watch Star Wars. It as if someone has cast a spell to put the entire nation under a massive brain freeze, stalling the age-old ability of the argumentative Indian.This led to a situation that we could count on someone to get angry about something at the drop of a pin. From Anushka Sharma’s elaborate sindur to Sunny Leone’s new-year performance, everything was a cause for mass rage. And the enraged came from all quarters, irrespective of their political leanings. Gurmehar Kaur’s poster for peace enraged the right wing, Sonu Nigam’s appeal for sleep was bitter music for left-wingers. People picked up issues based on what suited them and then started the game of outrage – freedom of expression and right to disagree be damned. In the process, the echo chambers only became denser, the ideological walls more pronounced. Nothing except cricket united us. Or not. Even there, critics went after MS Dhoni’s head after one bad performance or found ways to complain about Virat Kohli’s brilliance arguing he hadn’t faced any ‘real’ bowlers of calibre to justify his presence among the pantheon of greats. Those who tried to make sense were drowned out in the sea of cacophony of loud mouths, willing to pit even the most complicated issues into banal binaries. The media, influencers, politicians can be blamed but end of the day- it’s the common people which enabled them to carry on the status-quo, making mountain out of molehills. Any pushback would have forced for an idea of recalibration, a rejig of strategy. But none was there.Can 2018 be any different? Well, it’s hard to be hopeful. With a year to go for general elections, expect more non-issues being discussed and debated both on mainstream and social media. Yet, there is always hope. In the West, a powerful #MeToo campaign shook the sexist cabal in Hollywood that has stood firmly for decades. Maybe a desi campaign will someday kick off to excoriate random outrages dating back 800 years and debate meaningful issues from today’s time for true nation-building. Till then, let’s stick to awkwardly listening to national anthem in theatres only.

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2017: When outrage became our national past-time