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  Books   01 Jun 2024  Book Review | The angst a social media trial can generate

Book Review | The angst a social media trial can generate

Published : Jun 1, 2024, 1:02 pm IST
Updated : Jun 1, 2024, 1:02 pm IST

The author is a reasonably well-known sports journalist who was a favourite of a former president of BCCI who promoted him as a historian

Cover page of Banned: A Social Media Trial
 Cover page of Banned: A Social Media Trial

It is a bit like watching a noir film. The genre is there, and it is up to the viewer to take it in or not. This book is so full of angst it convinces you what you always suspected and that is that social media is evil personified. How the trolls wrecked the lives of people of one family is proof of how soft targets become helpless in the face of attacks by the anonymous from the ramparts of social media.

The author is a reasonably well-known sports journalist who was a favourite of a former president of BCCI who promoted him as a historian. The problem with the BCCI is its elected office bearers change more often than people discard sweaty garments in summer; their influence while in office waxes and wanes too.

Up against a board that had changed considerably over the years as it its behaviour is akin to that of a weathervane when the hard political winds are blowing, the sports journalist stood no chance against a cricketer who was contracted to BCCI and hence considered one of the babies it must protect and nurture.

The cricketer in question who is not named anywhere in the book, which however is all about him, is none other than Wriddhiman Saha, wicketkeeper and batter. Just hours after having been left out of an Indian squad for a home series, Saha had put out a tweet that a “respected” journalist was intimidating him to grant an interview. He had also shared screenshots from social media platform Twitter (now X) while saying that he felt bullied by the conduct of the journalist.

It would appear to be the mildest of issues that a player refused an interview even if he was known to the journalist and had interacted with him during his international and IPL career. At worst, this was one player falling out with one journalist and a storm it hardly was. That is until the player took the issue public on social media and the people piled on this while fellow players, predictably enough, stood by Saha.

It is a sign of the age that this minor fracas should blow into a full-sized media storm with over one lakh tweets of abuse for days on end not only against the journalist, who had his parentage questioned, but also all his family members. It is hard to face such a trial by social media as no one is willing to listen to both sides of the story. People just piled on regardless of whether they knew what the issue was and whether the player was indeed threatened.

The book takes us through the trauma the author and his family suffered in an account bordering on self-pity but making very valid points about the nature of justice that gets so easily loaded in favour of popular cricketers.

The lines written about his comeback after the ban and his interaction with BCCI bigwigs as well as Dr Shashi Tharoor, wearing his hat of cricket lover rather than that of a politician and MP, went to show that the game is greater than all the storms in a teacup that are brewed by people around it — cricketers, administrators, media representatives, TV executives, fans.

Banned: A Social Media Trial

By Boria Majumdar

Simon & Schuster

pp. 224; Rs 699


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