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Election 2018: Social media and middle-class elitism

On Election Day, twitter was abuzz with criticism of yet another display of elitism. Sara Taseer, daughter of Salman Taseer, in a tweet, had wondered how a bunch of low-income and rural women can be trusted with the country’s future. The tweet included a picture of women, clad in traditional dresses, coming out in throngs to vote. People from all walks of life were quick—and rightly so—to call Sara Taseer out on her elitist views.
But while such bare instances of racism by the elite are slammed, there is another brand of elitism that seems to have escaped such reprimand. Racism by the middle-class, especially of those residing in the large cities. According to these folks, who calls themselves educated, the right to vote might be reserved for those who has achieved a certain level of education, be it matriculation or even graduation. No wonder former military dictator Pervez Musharraf was so popular with such lot for making graduation a pre-requisite for being a lawmaker.
A lot of such middle-class people at one instance could be seen scoffing at the elite’s elitism—and in the same breath question the ability of those less educated and residents of rural areas to make sound political decisions. These questions were being asked on various popular Facebook groups and twitter, where such lot displayed their hypocrisy unabashedly.
Not surprisingly, such people were widely supporting the same political party. Cookies for you if you guess which one.
A Dawn opinion piece also poked holes in such outlandish propositions and emphasised that every citizen reserves the right to vote for a political candidate of their choice.
One of the reasons the urban, educated middle-class is able to make such suggestions and get away with it is because social media access still remains limited in rural parts of Pakistan.
While the number of mobile and internet users has increased significantly throughout the country, the network penetration is still very low compared to urban centres.
This, together with the fact that English and even Urdu continues to be a language many in Pakistan are not fluent in, contributes to the invisibility of voices of the rural population. It is not that they are completely absent on social media but that this group still remains separate from the English-speaking middle-class on online spaces.
This trend also goes to show that education and social media use have not contributed enough towards creating a truly aware lot. In Pakistan at least, educated middle-class continues to be intolerant and devoid of pluralism, especially towards other sects and religions. While social media leads to more exposure, and hence tolerance for diversity of views should follow, perhaps the increased clampdown on all forms of media by the state has resulted in only the same kind of views being disseminated to users in the country. This has inevitably resulted in a population with views so homogenous that it refuses to acknowledge different views without being intolerant or elitist.


Author: Sindhu Abbasi.

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