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Angry Birds

Armed with a 140 characters, wit and intent to insult, they fire at their favourite targets – celebrities. Meet Twitter’s trolls, the meanest girls and boys of the virtual world.

brunch Updated: Sep 08, 2012 17:53 IST
Rohit Khilnani, Illustration by Abhimanyu
Rohit Khilnani, Illustration by Abhimanyu
Hindustan Times

These days, it’s not safe to be too controversial on Twitter. What if you find yourself blocked by the Indian government? (To be fair, that can happen even if you’re just the minister of state for communications and information technology). But despite all the discussions, online and offline, about ‘communal’ handles, free speech and the like, there are a small bunch of people dedicated to being as opinionated as they can possibly be. Meet the trolls, who post inflammatory messages in an online community – often at a celebrity, and often just for fun. However, the crisp nature of their posts, and an audience looking for a laugh, can often make trolls so popular that they become better known than the celebs they’re targeting.

Poking fun
These self-anointed masters of mayhem set a lot of topics trending. They got Ayesha Takia to face a volley of vulgar jokes about her assets. Porn star Sunny Leone received an unwanted desi welcome. @BollywoodG***u said, “Funny how Maruti and @SunnyLeone have the same slogan: “Kitna deti hai?” They made Sonakshi Sinha’s broad forehead the target of unkind tweets [@indiantweeter: Sonakshi Sinha’s forehead declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO] to which Sinha replied: “Sonakshi Sinha’s forehead is mighty pleased ;) gnite funny people!”. They even poked fun at Sidhartha Mallya for his views on football and when he tried to defend his IPL team member who was arrested for allegedly molesting a woman. It got bad enough for the annoyed Mallya to tweet: “Shut the f*** up you b****** b*** headed fag! You don’t know s*** about football.”

Illustration: Abhimanyu Sinha

Vantage point

Celebs have always been the target of jokes and criticism. What makes it such a growing phenomenon on Twitter is that it lets your barbs fly swiftly to the world at large while you remain relatively anonymous.

In disguise

@BollywoodG***u has made his name from slamming celebrities with hilarious, en pointe tweets. His profile is ever changing (most recently it was “I am Akshay Kumar’s chest hair waxer) and he seems to know everything that transpires in Bollywood, but no one seems to know who he is, and his attacks have earned him 70,000 followers. The stars hate him, but a lot of them interact with him directly. “I didn’t start with any anonymous agenda in mind,” says the tweeter. “I just opened an account and started speaking my mind. I never indulge in any gossip. I see a retarded tweet from a celeb, I just slam it. The other day, Jiah Khan was trying to equate the God particle to the Mayan calendar, I had to say something!”

Less abusive than @bollywoodg***u, but also one whose contributed his 140-character slurs is @cilemasnob, always ready with a sarcastic opinion about movies and movie stars. Again, anonymity is his best defence. “It’s just a cheap thrill,” he says. “People react to you differently when they don’t know [you]. Some people found out who I am and now half the fun is gone.” Like @bollywoodg***u, he too is encouraged by celebrities. “Some of them follow me but for some reason, they don’t want to endorse it publicly.” His 12,700 followers however can’t get enough.

The more, the merrier
The tweeting picadors insist they are doing what’s expected of them. “Whatever I say, I can’t be dishonest to my followers,” says @cilemasnob.

For tweeters, though, the more followers the better, even if it’s at the cost of someone else. Moksh Juneja whose company Avignyata manages celebrity handles and Facebook fan pages and gets paid for deleting derogatory posts, admits that beyond a point it’s impossible to monitor every 140-character insult.
Or you can be a smart celeb, follow your troll, exchange messages and sit back and enjoy the show. As always the joke is only funny as long as it’s on someone else.

Wow! Joker finally managed more than 3 stars! 1 star (Taran) + 1 star (NDTV) + 1.5 (Raja)!

Weird how u have memories of people attached with places. Every time I pass it a flash comes my way?@BollywoodG***u Are you in Kamathipura?

Nevada is the only US state to allow legal prostitution, albeit only in the form of regulated brothels. ?@BollywoodG***u Moving there soon?

Watching a kid trying to pull her Grandpa's hair. And am thinking, oh ho, poor Aaradhya!

Free speech is an interesting concept it’s all about what you give and what u expect to take

What do you mean ‘it’s not personal’?
“There was one woman who used to bombard me with responses on how much she hated me, hated my hair, voice, face, clothes etc. I asked her why she was constantly trying to contact me if she hated me so much. The minute I wrote back, she responded with a ‘Nothing personal Ma’am!’ Hello? You abuse me in the worst possible language in the most personal terms then say, it’s nothing personal! Apparently she was just craving a response.”
– Sagarika Ghose, deputy editor, CNN-IBN

Rohit Khilnani is an entertainment journalist, his twitter handle is @rohitkhilnani

From HT Brunch, September 9

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