The Indian government has clearly not learned its lessons from the various PR debacles of the year. From fighting social media, to maintaining a fierce silence and outright denial on public issues, 2012 has seen the worst moments of the government.
Fuelled by public anger over the recent gang rape incident, social media-led protests across the Capital against ineffective policies and laws met a stern response from the government – against the protestors, revealing its ineffective PR machinery, especially on social media.
And why is the government so bad with social media?
Because the government is not ‘social’ to begin with.
At the heart of social media is the desire to reach out to people, offer solutions, and share things that make people happy. This is what funny cat videos, memes and tweets telling everyone to assemble at India Gate on Saturday have in common.
On the other hand is the 3rd person and aloof voice Twitter posts of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh , and more recently, his scripted, perfunctory speech on the issue- this reveals a style that is conversational, accessible, and down-to-earth is not on the menu.
This is why rape is, as Jaya Bachchan argued, not a Rajya Sabha issue – because dealing with people is not something the Indian government knows.
Social media, a democratic channel of communicating dissent, uniting democratic voice and enabling demonstrations, is clearly an alien, hostile terrain, and the government has previously sought, unsuccessfully to clamp down on it.
Criticisms of the government on social media reveal real life dissent – and in the same coin, inability to understand social media reveals a real-life inability to comprehend a nation’s people.