In the age of alt-facts, it is becoming increasingly hard to tell the news apart from parody.
On April 18, when a picture of Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath appeared online, threatening to hand beef eaters a hunk of paneer, several Facebook users did a double take. Was this a new way to promote dairy products in an increasingly cow-revering nation? Thankfully, it really was parody.
The post appeared on a page called Humans of Hindutva (inspired by the famous Humans of New York) which since then routinely attempts to riff off current events to highlight casteism, surveillance, moral policing, attacks by the gau rakshaks and other aspects of Hindutva.
The page’s administrator, who wishes to remain unidentified at present, said he had noticed a sharp spike in the number of publications online with a clear right-wing bias, all of which were engaged in the business of peddling alt-facts (i.e. lies), misinformation and doctored videos. But he decided to start his own parody page after a particularly infuriating conversation over drinks with a nationalist friend.
“It got heated, as these things often do, and I thought I should frame my friend’s absurd arguments for all to see,” he said. “That’s how HoH came to be. My friend said that if I had a problem with the way things were going then why didn’t I do something about it? So this is what I did. I joined the fake news party.”
Opinions are divided on whether the posts are funny, or miss the mark for their political incorrectness. A recent post, which depicted the actor Ryan Gosling as the child of Indian parents, riffed off the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s claim of being able to engineer customised babies, was taken down by Facebook for violating community guidelines. While several commenters on the page saw this as a sign that the page’s posts were hitting a nerve with Hindutva supporters, others felt that the post may have been reported for attempting to make a casteist joke, about Dalit murders.
“I am well within Facebook’s guidelines,” the administrator told Scroll.in over email. “I hope Facebook will reinstate the post and take a stand for free speech. While many are using social media to spread communal hate, I’m only using it to spread some humour. My histrionic version of the truth is only slightly madder than what the nationalists actually believe.”
According to the page administrator, there is no dearth of subjects to write about. In fact, he finds it harder to decide what should be left out. “The jokes write themselves,” he said. “We live in a country that is anything but boring. Simply opening the newspaper every morning makes me chuckle. Every day there’s yet another politician or celebrity saying something dumb. Every day the government backtracks on an earlier promise. With each passing day this country is taking a step back into the past with doctored history, mass hysteria, and inflated nationalism becoming the norm…People are defending the violence of gau-rakshaks and anti-Romeo squads and talking about Hindu Rashtra. They claim that there is no racism or casteism or sexism in India. It is this apathy that I wish to address.”
As someone who has always posted “bullshit” on his page for years, the HoH administrator is amused by commenters who take him too seriously.
“There are always those people, the ones who are the life of every party, who comment ‘Chetan Bhagat didn’t say that’ or ‘Don’t spread lies, that is Ryan Gosling’. But I started this page mainly to make myself laugh. If a post doesn’t make me laugh then it doesn’t go up. But then again, I have a very gallows humour and it may not work for everyone.”
Many have expressed concern regarding some of his posts and his friends seem to believe that it’s only a matter of time before the page is mass reported. People also ask why he has not started a page called Humans of Islam or Humans of Christianity.
“Anyone who has a similar problem with other religious groups is welcome to start a page of their own,” he said in response. “I think comedy, like charity, begins at home.”
The latest post on Humans of Hindutva celebrates the return of Arnab Goswami on his new news channel Republic, with a tribute from The Shining, a psychological thriller in which Jack Nicholson slowly turns into a psychopathic axe murderer.