Click-tivism. Keyboard Warriors. We’ve all heard those terms before. They speak about a type of engagement phenomenon relating to media fueled by the internet, social media, and the rise of public voices in this arena. At what point to we go from “liking” something or expressing outrage, to actually getting off our butts and make an actual change in the real world? Does the increase in media consumption and clickbait articles lead to something more meaningful? Or does it get us on a social justice faux “high”, only to disappear when the next 24 hour news cycle comes around?
We are not the only people asking these questions. Bollywood actress Kalki Koechlin, who has used her voice outside of cinema to advocate women’s rights and feminism, has issued a challenge to all consumers of media in the form of a spoken work potery performance video. Titled ‘The Printing Machine’, Kalki delivers a scathing and honest perspective on the tabloids, sensationalist headlines, and the way we fuel the cycle by our willingness to click and click and click.
It’s a video that needs to be shared over and over again on our social media pages, and her rhythmic, hypnotic, fast-paced lyrics, set to the backdrop of the sound of incessant typing, ensure we are glued to her voice, the same way as we would an article bearing the headline news of the day.
She references specific cases that would be well known to the most ardent media observer. The first is the 2012 Delhi gang rape incident, well-documented and dissected in the documentary ‘India’s Daughter’.
“Chrrring a nation that prides itself in the hanging of four men. Five if you count the suicide bastard,” says Kalki.
The other is the story where two young women were raped and hung in Uttar Pradesh.
“Chrrr chrrr chrrring a village dangling of two girls, like pin up dolls, upon a tree,” she continues.
Her point in reciting these horrific stories is to point out how they come with such regular ferocity which only serves to make us numb after a while. But it’s not just sensationalist headlines, it’s also women’s magazines who peddle false ideals about beauty and womanhood.
“A world we can buy into, a dream we can hang onto…values that depend on what others think,” she calls them, before summing up how the media has captured India in such a profound way.
“How our great Indian heritage fell to its knees at the mercy of our innocent little printing machines,” she recites.
In an interview with NDTV Good Times, she explains the reason she felt the need to make this video after writing the poem in 2015, and what we should take away from it.
“It was about the whole system and how we function as a very media-oriented society. Especially with Facebook and Twitter, it’s only about living for that one headline for that moment. And then we forget it so quickly and move on to the next shocking thing. We’re really outraged about something, but then we don’t follow through with the stories,” she said.
And although it may look like the video is a big diss to the media, Kalki is very adamant we are part of the problem, there is not one person or one entity to blame.
“I don’t think it’s about trying to pull down the media it’s about a system which we’re all responsible [for] and part of. It’s up to us what we choose to make popular…It is about every one of us and that we are in a common place so why can’t we change them? If we all believe they’re unjust and it shouldn’t be that way, its like a wake-up signal for us to do something about it,” she explained.
The reaction has mostly been very positive and welcoming to her message. Kalki told IB Times in another interview that some feedback she received suggested she spread the message even further.
“I was so touched, especially, when one of the websites said that I should go to schools and colleges and speak to the students, after they saw the video. I mean, I would love to talk to young people about all this,” she said.
It’s definitely a great reminder to constantly evaluate the way we fuel media patterns by our consumption. Kalki certainly understands this, living in a country where there have been many sensationalist headlines especially in relation to gender violence. There has been an increased amount of Indian media paying attention to the horrific rape cases, domestic violence and other forms of harassment toward women ever since protests around the country in the wake of the Delhi gang rape case hit international headlines.
Is it enough to just read headlines and stay informed? Should we make more of an effort to start discussions about the headlines we see with our communities and social networks in the hope it might spark ideas about activism and making a change? Or should we just click less and not share articles in such haste?
In our opinion it means we need to continue raising our voices and advocating for issues that matter, so that these stories don’t just become the latest sensational tidbit or headline as we go about our day.
Decide for yourself after watching “The Printing Machine” below: