The Chromental Story: One Video That Started A Comments Pongala

Have you run into posts, articles, or videos that you don’t agree with or are repulsed by? Of course, you have! The internet gives everyone a voice so you are bound to run into people who do not agree with your views. What do you do then? You leave a comment expressing your disagreement and/or maybe unfollow them. What happens when you share your disagreement with your followers and call for a public boycott of the person?

Enter cancel culture. Dictionary.com defines cancel culture as “the phenomenon or practice of publicly rejecting, boycotting, or ending support for particular people or groups because of their socially or morally unacceptable views or actions.”

Proponents of cancel culture say that it is a tool for the underprivileged to hold the privileged accountable; that celebrities, politicians, and other people of influence will be more mindful about what they say and do. While others state that cancel culture stifles free speech as people are afraid to state their views out of the fear of getting ‘canceled’.

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Let’s keep this aside for now, and focus on the story that’s in the limelight. The video about issues with the content that Chromental (supposedly) shares and his reply, has triggered a familiar event on Kerala’s social media landscape – ‘pongala’. The moment a popular figure is critiqued, their fan group (army) goes into a frenzy and mobilises against the critic. These ‘pongalers’ troll spew abuse in the comments section of the critic’s posts and do the same with anyone who supports the critic’s views. 

Why do they do this? One reason that we can think of is to create an example; lest someone else do the same. Antha bhayam!

Looking through that lens, this ‘pongala’ has properties of cancel culture:

  1. It is fuelled by our tendency to form mobs
  2. It is meant to make an example of the person who is perceived to be at fault

We are a social species and so collective actions, albeit online, creates solidarity and reinforces a feeling of togetherness. It is psychologically intoxicating for us to be a part of the group and feel part of something larger than oneself. In both ‘pongala’ and cancel culture, it is this mob mentality that fuels the recruitment machine. 

And both of them have a target. And this person ends up going through a great deal of mental distress and, in the case of cancel culture, probably loss of income and dent to their reputation.

Now you might be wondering if Shriya Nambanath’s video about issues with posts Chromental (supposedly) shares is cancel culture. There’s no clear answer as cancel culture is evolving and its definition keeps changing. But what we did notice from Shriya’s video is that she is calling Chromental out for sharing non-PC content. We believe she is right in saying that there are issues with the content and that such content should not be shared. She also mentions that this wasn’t intended to be a personal attack and that all she really wants him to do is post keeping his social responsibility in mind. She does not call out to ‘cancel’ him but tells his followers that they should evaluate and judge content themselves, and not accept something as good just because someone they admire shared it.

Chromental sees the video, responds with an Insta live where he makes one valid statement – backup your claims with proof. He said he will file a case against Shriya if she fails to show proof in a week.

And this has led to people taking sides and mobilising forces to combat each other’s mob.

We believe that you should not get distracted by this and focus on the real issues – were there issues with the type of content that Chromental shared? Should pages with a great deal of influence share such content?

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