YouTube comedian 'MostlySane' fights hate online but 'likes' trolls
United Nations : How does one react to the torrent of hate engulfing the social media?
The surprising answer of the Indian YouTube personality Prajakta Koli, herself the target of trolls, was: "Personally for me, I like them."
"I don't hate them at all because they bring a lot engagement to my videos," she said.
"And they bring me a lot of content because the way they type sometime is so funny that I use it."
But on a serious note, she said: "And I feel the best way to deal with them is by not reacting because I feel the minute we react, we give them the power that they do not deserve."
A comedian with a cause, Koli, who goes by the stage name of MostlySane, was speaking to IANS in the UN Delegates Lounge after premiering her latest YouTube video "No Offence", at the International Day for Tolerance event organised by the UN Department of Public Information on Friday.
Having drawn nearly 3 million viewers on YouTube, she was made a YouTube Creators for Change ambassador in a programme that the internet company said aims to "drive greater awareness and foster productive dialogue around social issues through content creation and speaking engagements".
In contrast to her easy-going response during her interview, "No Offence" packs total knock out punches literally in boxing style.
The video starts off with clips of haters who post abusive hate messages and who say, "If girls want freedom, let them roam as much as they want in the kitchen", and that being gay as a disease.
Koli as MostlySane clicks them off and starts a video game where she is matched on a boxing ring against those characters.
She knocks out the hate-posting troll and then challenges the next hater, "Are you scared of equality?" She is beaten and bloodied, but unbowed and finally knocks him out.
The homophobic "aunty" character is next, but at the first punch from a bleeding MostlySane, she runs away without a fight.
Asked if the video's message is a rallying cry to meet hatemongers on their own violent terms, Koli said: "No, no, not at all, which is why we made it into a video game.
"What I did with 'No Offence' is what I will come closest to dealing with haters with violence. If it gets to you, you speak about it, you get it out of your system.
"When I wrote the song, it sounded more like a boxing fight, and in no way do we want to promote that, 'Hey you know what, punch haters in the mouth'."
So looking for a way to relate to young people, she said she hit on the idea of a video game as they spend a lot of time playing electronically.
"I feel that all violence that has to happen should happen only inside a video game and not outside of it," she explained.
"So that is how we dealt with that; but no, in no way do I ever speak about violence as way to deal with the haters."
Her video ends with the message in rap style: "I dream to wake up to a day, and I will, when I will be more than a hashtag or a social media drill, with a smile for a smile and a heart for a heart; evolution of a new mankind will start."
During the panel discussion after the premiere, she shared how the video got its name.
"It is crazy how people hate on you and end it with 'No offence.' It is not OK to hate and it is worse to end it with 'No Offnece'," she said.
Koli has campaigned for girls education and health and against bodyshaming and cyberbullying.
She said the rise of cyberbullying is a failure of society as a whole, "it's not just one troll".
"Basically, it is just one troll who says something and (it is) sad that we believed in ii the first place (and spread it). So I feel that is just us promoting hate and being OK with it."
However, she also said that the portrayal of women in entertainment in India is changing for the better from the sexist and misogynistic - and the internet has contributed to this change.
"People are engaging in conversation, people are making sure that they tell, 'Hey, listen, we are not OK with this'. People are calling out content that is bad."
This change began, she said, after "people started voicing opinion in the first place thanks to social media, where people thought they have place to let people know that they are not OK" with how women are shown in entertainment.
"I think that just opening up the world of technology, Internet, has helped a lot with that," she added.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)