Defenders of Aamir Khan may be wrong, but they will still win the perception battle

When many Indians outraged over Aamir Khan’s (in)famous remark on intolerance in India yesterday, the response from the “eminent” club was expected. Anybody who has followed news in the last one year can predict the cycle that every controversial/disturbing remark goes through – when the remark is made by one of their own.

Remark > Outrage by common man, expressed via social media route > Creation of a sense of victimhood for the person people were outraging against > defending this person’s right to speak freely > proclaiming dissent with his remark amounts to abuse/everyone dissenting is a frustrated sanghi > eventually winning the battle of perception

This is exactly what happened in Aamir’s case also.

Aamir’s remark > Hurt (more than outrage) among common people expressed over WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter > Voices from the eminent club claiming he is being victimized because of his religion, being asked to prove his patriotism > Defence that he has every right to speak his mind > Claim that everybody who is speaking against his remarks is abusing him, is a communal, frustrated sanghi > Successfully create a perception where Aamir is now a victim of this abuse (which basically means he has had the cake and eaten it too)

The defense has come from all quarters. Most of them, expectedly, smacking of a patronizing, condescending attitude, and based on twisted logic.

Thousands of people who are expressing outrage are all a ridiculous mob

The contention obviously comes out of the belief that somehow the common man is a stupid moron who cannot think for himself. It doesn’t matter that the same common man was lauded for taking a “wise decision” in the recently concluded Bihar elections.

Registering protest against a statement is abuse of freedom

This is pretty self-explanatory but still for the benefit of those who need some clarification, is freedom of expression a self-entitlement of only a few accomplished souls in India? If you have the right to express your opinion, do I not have the right to express my dissent on that opinion?

India has not made Aamir Khan a star, he has made himself one with his hard work

Really? In real life, no matter how hard you work, if there is no one to see it, appreciate it and reward it, you are not going to reach anywhere. Whether it is an artiste, scientist, innovator or even a regular office going person – unless his manager knows about, appreciates and rewards him, it doesn’t matter how hard he is working.

Any star becomes one because of his fans, it is never vice versa. It is these fans who pay for his movies, run after his cars, open his fan clubs, buy products endorsed by him (otherwise, why would companies pay hefty amounts to stars for endorsements? And, you can see the correlation in the way people have downgraded Snapdeal on Google Play since yesterday), and basically worship him.

It really must take some arrogance to demean the fan when it comes to a celebrity!

NRIs go out to earn, so what is wrong if Aamir wants to go for safety?

If there ever were a contest for stupid comparisons, this one might become a winner. Understand who is thinking about taking this step. For a common man to move out of his country for better opportunity is not same as a superstar contemplating leaving his country on the pretext of lack of safety. It would have still been a bit understandable if, for instance, Akhlaq’s son (from Dadri) had said he wanted to leave – because he might have felt vulnerable. He may not have the social backing or set up to give him a sense of security after such a ghastly incident (though that is not the case thankfully in India).

But, if Aamir Khan says his kid is unsafe, then I don’t know which kid is safe in India. Aamir Khan, today has one of the best security set-ups as compared to any Indian. Should we all then migrate to another country? It is one thing to express concern for your country, it is quite another to create a false sense of alarm and victimhood. And, when you are a superstar who has the ability to influence others, you have to be doubly careful!

Question is, remark is questioning his patriotism

Heard Shashi Tharoor saying to NDTV yesterday that Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have proved their patriotism over the years, so they shouldn’t be questioned. Now, what is the parameter of patriotism. You made films, you made money, you made name in this country – therefore you are patriotic? Is that the benchmark?

Citing someone’s personal success as a symbol of his patriotism is as unreasonable as questioning someone’s patriotism for voicing his concern toward the country.

How is voicing concern about his country wrong?

Not at all; in fact, influential people such as Aamir must voice their concerns. But there is a difference between voicing a concern with hope, and voicing a concern with despair. He could have said, a few exceptional incidents have happened. They must be dealt with well and we are all in this together. But, he chose to raise his concern by spreading paranoia. Why should the responsibility of keeping the social fabric of this country intact fall on the shoulders of the political class alone? Isn’t it the responsibility of all influential people to instill hope during difficult times?

People are overreacting

No Sir, we are not! We have supported you in your journey from being nobody to a superstar, without ever asking where you came from or what your religion was. We listened to what you said, sat through your shows. The least we expect in return is respect. As people whose words carry immense weight, you are expected to speak responsibly. And, then if you let us down we have every right to react!

But, Aamir is going to win this one too!

In life, everything is about perception. While your outrage may have been justified, you do not have the political correctness and manipulative articulation that the people who drive the discourse have. So, irrespective of the validity of your anger and hurt, eventually Aamir Khan will be declared a victim of intolerance and a hero who dared to open his mouth, all at the same time. You can do nothing but watch this drama unless you learn the ropes of this trade.

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