Is social media to blame for Tharoor family tragedy? Vir Das responds

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 20, 2014 10:42 hrs

​Vir Das posted an open letter regarding the recent Tharoor family tragedy, on his Facebook page. Here, he expresses why social media is not to blame for Sunanda Pushkar's sudden demise. Below is the excerpt. Read on to find out who he points the finger at in the letter titled, 'TWITTER BAD'? 'FACEBOOK EVIL'? OR 'WE STUPID'?

Dear All…………and Mr. Shinde,

Something strange is happening. Yesterday, I spent my day on the phone being asked by numerous journalists whether I think, Twitter had caused the tragedy that befell the Tharoor family this week. Today begins with me waking to news of your govt, my govt, saying that social media must be checked and is harmful.

Sometimes sir, I tweet about my breakfast. Sometimes, I post pictures of my bulldog. Other times, I’m a wise-ass who throws spitballs at the nation I reside in, points fingers at the leaders I’ve elected, and parodies people who make mistakes.

Why do I do it? It is because I’m a comedian and I consider it my livelihood? Nope. Am I a rage defined citizen looking for the ‘pappu of the day’? Nope.

Am I a voyeur who is living vicariously through the lives of others?

Nope……I’m just on twitter.

There is no good way to say this so let’s just put it out there directly: Sunanda Pushkar passed away in what seemed like tragic and really heartbreaking circumstances. She had gone out on twitter, had a spat with someone, and her marital problems were public in a matter of hours.

When I initially heard about the spat on twitter, I tweeted ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman with your password’. That’s all I felt at the time. Did I get into their marital problems? Come up with Tharoor affair jokes or stupid graphics? No.

Not because I think it was wrong to do so, not because it wasn’t happening at the time, not because it hasn’t been done with every single world leader from Clinton to Obama to Sarkozy, but just because that’s not what I felt about the situation. I’ve been in enough relationships to know that they get tough sometimes, and I thought the public twitter spat seemed strange.

Today’s news channels and newspapers are filled with gloriously sanctimonious pieces about the faults of Twitter. Pieces edited by the same vultures who camped outside their house, parked OB vans in their yards, get 20 person panels to discuss 2 people for millions of viewers, and put them on the front page way before their tragedy took an even darker turn. Because it’s okay to assign responsibility to everyone else, as long a they are not ‘Editor-of-Something’.

Social Media is where I feel connected to the sentiment of an entire nation, and yet it’s where one Modi joke leads to three hours of hateful messages on my time line. It’s where I’ve grieved during our nation’s tragedies, and received strength during mine. As an artist twitter is where I publicize every single piece I create, and its where I’m exposed to every single artist I admire. It’s where we yell about women’s safety, and support Aam aadmi parties.

Twitter is where animals get adopted, its where patients get blood, charities get support, trolls get their jollies, and Alok Nath gets to trend. Twitter is where I follow both Shah Rukh Khan and Kamaal R Khan. Freedom to say what you are thinking is at the core of everything I just listed. We are now seemingly afraid of a medium that was specifically designed for sporadic and uncontrollable expression. Nowhere is this fear more prevalent than in our leadership.

Twitter Sir, is where we as a nation collectively discussed how disappointed we were in your govt’s meager response to a horrific gang-rape in Delhi. That lead to news headlines, the organization of protests, and the change in our policies. Effectively, twitter lead our leadership, which was seriously lacking.

If the take-away from this horrible sad incident is that we are to submit to censorship on twitter, to tone-down, and to be wary of commenting on the behavior of our public officials, then I would be a little sad. Also, that is a very slippery slope.

If the take-away from this is that we should exercise our own moral compass on every single post or public communication that we put out. I think that’s completely fair.

I don’t expect twitter to take responsibility for the things that happen in my country, and I am willing to take complete responsibility for who I am on twitter.

I’m a comedian, and a citizen, and a miniscule public figure and I’ve accepted the social media consequences of all three. The RTs, the trolls, the hate and the love….because I value the freedom.

If you’re a part of hateful tweeting, lynch-mob mentality, cruel commentary, communal sentiments or militant political support…it’s because you’re an idiot. The fact that your account exists isn’t to blame, you are.

That’s all I have to say.

With regards to the future Sir, I think I can speak for a comedy community and a fair amount of citizens when I say: While it’s still legal, I’ll see you in my next tweet.


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