Monday, July 19, 2010

Whatever happened to fair speech?

In a recent article in the Hindustan Times (, an influential Indian journalist displayed, once again, non-exemplary writing, combined with an obvious acquaintance with the language, it not with the norms of debate.

> would be surprising if there were no terrorists
> at all within the (Hindu) community. In a nation of
> over a billion Hindus it is hardly cause for shock and
> horror if 0.01 per cent of the community
> turns to violence.

The consecutiveness of the two statements suggests that the journalist finds it acceptable for a community to have one terrorist for every ten thousand citizens. That equates to around ten terrorists at a large cricket stadium. How this is not cause for shock, indicates perhaps how inured the journalist is to violence. Or is this acceptable as long as the victims are other people, with journalists all dry and safe, probably because they are having a drink in the press lounge, to continue the analogy.

> Prem ("clearly a fascist of some description") got
> to be an MP twice

The "got to be" bit implies privilege. But the gentleman our journalist suggests is "clearly a fascist" was elected to Parliament by voters. Twice. Obviously, his fascism was either not as clear as suggested, or the electorate did not find it objectionable. Perhaps the journalist would that such people be not allowed to stand for election. Or that such people not be allowed to vote (that right perhaps to be given only to those who agree with the journalist). Who here is a fascist, again?

> We know that in the early days of the Sangh,
> many of its leaders supported such fascists
> as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

This appears to be a mean little propaganda trick, argument by association. Subash Chandra Bose, one of modern India's most celebrated sons, actively courted Hitler. The latter was, after all, happy to fight an Empire who had occupied the land which was the origin of the Sangh. The Sangh, which incidentally has more than a hint of nationalism in its name, was founded in 1925. Hitler was appeased, by statesmen and intellectuals around the world, before they got around to fighting him. The author does not inform us when exactly these "early days" were. Notice also that Hitler, a Nazi official of the first rank, is labelled a "fascist". The word Nazi is not, however, long neglected - in the very next sentence, however, the Sangh is advised to remove Nazis from its extended family, if it wished to discard the legacy of "those days".

> An angry mob (numbering anywhere from 500 to 4000,
> depending on whom you believe) stormed the offices

Whom should we believe? What is the choice that is ostensibly being presented to the audience? The journalist might as well have said, "a mob, armed with anything between stones and rocket launchers, depending upon whom you believe", or "numbering between eight and twenty three thousand"? Does the journalist himself or herself have a smaller range of numbers? Was this the best estimate that could be gathered? Notice that the journalist refers to police stopping the mob from entering the building - how many police personnel were on duty? Notice also that the journalist refers to video footage of the mob - was it not possible to use this footage to obtain a better estimate? Or does the journalist deliberately choose to avoid doing so?

> The basic defence (of the RSS) was that terrorist
> acts were the work of individuals and did not
> reflect on the organisation. The RSS is
> rigidly disciplined. It does not believe in violence.

Then comes the bit about the angry mob (between 500 and 4000, or perhaps even more).

> The mob shouted pro-RSS slogans and its members
> made it clear that they were protesting against
> Thursday evening’s story.

Notice that the journalist does not state that the mob was made up of (between 500 and 4000, or somewhere in that general range) RSS members.

But then comes a clear suggestion to the effect:

> If the RSS is so disciplined, then why is it
> being represented by rampaging goondas?

So was the mob an action of the RSS or not?

If not, then the journalist's self-satisfied (if only because preceded by "Oh dear, I said to myself") conclusion that the previously stated three defences of the RSS "crumbled at a stroke" may not be allowed.

If, however, the mob was directed by the RSS, then that should be grounds for a very strong legal case for the law appears to have been broken. But, if the latter, why is the journalist not clearer in his or her accusation? Why not louder? Or is it that this is conjecture on the journalist's part? Is the footage being examined by the public prosecutor's office? Is the journalist interested in that? In seeing justice done, freedom defended? Or was the article enough, an end in itself?

> Not one BJP person spoke up for freedom of the press.

This sort of statement, of course, is incredible. Did the journalist assemble all members of the BJP (or all BJP MPs? or all BJP office holders from around the country)? Give them all a chance to do so (i.e., were they aware of the context, that the freedom of the press was under threat?)?

And shameless. What about freedom of the zoo officials? And of the students? Of prostitutes, chess players, dancers, Dalits and of everyone else, especially those who are not members of the Fourth Estate, by no means diminished in power since Burke's day?

1 comment:

!Teq-uila Del Zapata said...

amazing analysis sire.
>>>"a mob, armed with anything between stones and rocket launchers, depending upon whom you believe"

I really laughed hard, when i read this.