A few days ago, the Congress tweeted Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s photo while honouring Field Marshal Cariappa. As expected, the since-deleted tweet raised quite a stir. It led to a flurry of responses ranging from calls for corrections and demands for an apology. While a few pondered how such a blunder could be committed, many recalled the previous occasions when the Congress made a faux pas on social media. This is not the first time that the political party in question has committed such a blunder on social media. However, the regularity with which such common mistakes are made also suggests the possibility of marketing misdirection at play.
In the tech-savvy times that we live in, piquing someone’s interest is both easy and challenging. The inherently human desire to correct a mistake is perhaps enough to quote the Bard’s sublime tragedy, Julius Caesar, “let slip the dogs of war”. Combine this with another very human trait—smugness—and you have an unmissable opportunity to draw attention. When it comes to the political arena, purposefully making a mistake also helps evoke a sense of victimhood, a powerful tool of influence.
What makes the desire to portray victimhood a go-to tool in politics, especially on the Left, is how it’s a prime source of authority. In 2018, while writing on the female presidential candidates among the Democrats, Jonathan Chait, identified as a liberal pundit, noted that within the ecosystem of the Left, “demonstrating that you have suffered harassment or microaggressions is a big win”. This liberal victimhood mentality fostered by the radical Left, according to observers on the other end of the spectrum, creates utopian longings that threaten to upend the political system.
Political blunders committed in full public view (read social media) are meant to be caught and mocked. Considering that as they rarely fail to capture our attention, could there be any other reason on their part than to evoke victimhood? It’s interesting to see how political outfits often operate on the strategy that the mistake made would affect them more than other people. This notion only furthers the reaction, and what makes this a more heady concoction is how it deals with the feelings of both parties involved.
How someone feels is all that matters now, and victim politics thrives in this terrain. If you do not call it out, you are not true to what you feel but go a little further, and you could risk hurting how the other feels. The allure of victimhood in the era of grabbing eyeballs notwithstanding, each ruse can run its course and, like a great statesman once said, you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Film historian and bestselling author