Friday, May 20, 2005

Do we have any?


If America has them, so should we, right? Sure enough, we do have them, and guess what, ours still have some way to go before they can match America's.

Take a look at this serious blogger (BS, for short) with a legendary reputation for being really serious. You don't even have to dig deep into the past; here are a few from the last month or so, that exemplify the clinical precision with which BS is able to slot his victims: Kuldip Nayar (moron, nincompoop), Praful Bidwai (Resident Idiot, which makes you wonder who the non-resident idiot might be ;-) and Girish Karnad (denigrator of Indian culture -- in three parts!). Apparently, the worst insult BS can muster is 'Congress mouthpiece', reserved for the newspaper Indian Express. Compared to these, Dilip D'Souza gets off easy: he is a mere bleeding heart liberal. In case you are wondering, it is the same Dilip who was featured in a recent online conversation...

Now, take a look at this awsome twosome called the Secular Right (RS, for short). They are secular, and they are absolutely convinced about the rightness of, well, their 'right'ness. Can their language be any any less right? Don't even ask; judge for yourself. Recently RS hurled terms like 'anti-nationalist attitudes' and 'subversive acts' at the usual suspects: liberals.

[BTW, When you visit those pages, make sure you read the comments by Dilip D'Souza, and see the contrast for yourself. You can also read Dilip's post on Shy Softness to decide for yourself how insidiously subversive he really is... ;-) ]

I am absolutely sure that it is only a matter of time before the BS-RS section of the right decides to use the nuclear option (a.k.a. the last refuge of a scoundrel): patriotism (perhaps it has already happened, and if you know it has, do please leave the URL in the comments; but, for the moment, let us assume that it has not). Here, then, are some interesting questions:

  • Who will use it first: BS, RS or someone else?
  • Who will be the first victim?
  • How long will it be before this option is used?

The race is on. Any bets?

22 Comments:

  1. pennathur said...

    TAB please don't take the easy way out and insert boilerplate.

    When Prafool Bidwai gives a clean chit to the Nepali Khmer Rouge just a day before they shot dead a Hindu leader and two days before they kidnapped a few 100 school children you do wonder what the RI must have been smoking. The RI's other pearls of wisdom include branding Panun Kashmir a "communal organisation" (what's the matter of a few 1000s living as refugees in Delhi) and the JKLF a "secular organisation" (Ravindra Mhatre is expendable I guess). Prafool's writings in another context would qualify as hate speech.

    Sandeep's criticism of Karnad's third rate copies of Sanskrit classics are a good starting point. The histories of India don't begin with Romila Thapar. There are a good many pre-1947 historians worth reading. Instead of geting hot under the collar how about consulting a decent Sanskritist and coming out with your own take on Karnad. Unfortunately many of our EHs know next to nothing of Sanskrit. Maybe you could talk to the many Sanskrit teachers in Banglaore. Karnad is probably a good actor. I am surprised at the sensationalism over Karnad's shallow Hayavadana and Yayati when they are placed aside masterpieces such as Kuvempu's SriRamayana Darsanam.

  2. Abi said...

    Welcome back, Shiva!

    I have no problem at all with Sandeep's views on the issues that he chooses to blog about. Do I agree with him? No, not on many, many things. Would I say he should not say things that I disagree with? No, not at all. Did I imply such a prohibition in this post? No, again.

    My only -- and rather limited -- point here is about the language: 'Resident Idiot'? 'Nincompoop'? Gosh, I would be scared to visit a site even to drop a comment, when the blogger sets such a tone in his posts. I am sorry I picked right wing blogs for this post, but I would say the same thing about a rabid left wing blogs, too. It is just that I have not found any such blogs on the left (it is reliably learnt that they are in deep mourning about the demise of Yugoslavia, and they don't diss people when they are in mourning ;-).

    Taking the examples you have given, I would really like it if Sandeep calls Praful Bidwai's bluff by pointing out his sins (like you have done about why some of his writings would qualify as hate speech). Similarly, you described Karnad's work as 'third rate'. Fine. I am sure he/his work (I do like the fact that you critisized his work, not him) has been called that by many others as well. Would you say he purposely set out to 'denigrate Indian culture'? It is the same with 'anti-nationalist' (and not 'anti-national' as RS helpfully point out) and 'subversive'.

    If posts (which are the starting point for later discussions) are filled with such terms, can anyone say anything that might go against the blogger's view -- even if it does so in an insignificant way? I mean, if one's blog is to be a public space for discussions, is going way over the top with name calling the best way? Shouldn't the blogger try to be civil, at least to start things off? He/she always has the option of taking his/her gloves off in the comments, right?

    Cheers! ;-)

  3. pennathur said...

    Litterateurs and now scientists. After the polite jawaab I recd from Amardeep a few weeks back here's one from a scientist. I must look more carefully. I see it - there is a 'Preview' button - must click on it before I click "Login and Publish". OK let's put it differently.
    Prafool has had a problem distinguishing between opinion and fact beginning with his days in business journalism. But then I must show some kindness for the person who introduced to me to gin and bitters. Yes he has championed some sound causes as he did when he filed a PIL in favour of slumdwellers in Bombay (with Olga Tellis) during the late '80s - a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court creating the precedent that is widely used now - evict but only when alternative accomodation is available. But he has been so way off the mark so many times over the last 12 years be it thru his op-eds or his pieces (that are gleefully featured by rags across the border) that it Resident Idiot is the kindest epithet one can hurl at him. He is a man of considerable talent - though not much learning.
    As for Right/Left wing I am not so sure if thay is the right way to categorise India's politics. It is laziness to shape what is the world's largest experiment EVER in democratic governance using some inadequate mould imported from the West. There are many more forces in a vastly different context. Having been out of India for close to five years now I have no idea of the mood on the street. I am glad that there are a number of people of all ages representing a range of opinion and colourfully. How much more strident or distasteful is Secular-Right compared to Arundati Roy? You surely have read her essay on the Kumbh Mela of 2001 where she claims to have seen a naked yogi pulling a car with his ***** while an IAS officer and his family were seated inside.

  4. Some guy said...

    http://www.google.com/search?q=resident+idiot

    The term "resident idiot" has been used about Prafool Bidwai for a while by bloggers.

  5. Charu said...

    Sorry - this is not directly relaed to this post - but I thought you might find it interesting reading - "The vulgar spirit of blogging" - when I was reading this article, I rememebred your post...

  6. charu said...

    oops, I forgot to give the link
    http://www.doostdar.com/articles/vsob.pdf
    Lesson learnt - the preview buton is there for a purpose...

  7. Gaurav said...

    My only -- and rather limited -- point here is about the language

    Rather limited? Extremely limited! Profusely limited. In fact,

    lim -> 0

    Personally, I would much rather prefer that a blogger is honest and forthcoming about his opinion like Sandeep, rather than spend hours thinking of a roundabout way of conveying it (Hmmmm.....I think this Sandeep guy is bull shit...total BS.....hmmmm.....how do I call him that without contradicting my own language hang-ups?.... B....ahha...B for Blogger..... S....S..... Blogger Sandeep...? nope.....too tame....Blogger Supercilious....?....nope, shouldn't call him a word which can be used against me..... EUREKA....Blogger Serious.....Serious Blogger....BS....I love myself!!!)

    Too much work. Call Bidwai as RI or Pure-fool is a lot more honest and forthright.

  8. Abi said...

    Oops, that 'unknown' between the two comments by 'pennathur' is me, Abi! I have no idea how blogger blew me away...

    Well, Gaurav, all that reasoning that you dished out didn't enter my mind at all! The most obvious abbreviation was SS, and in the context of what I was writing, I thought its use would be the kind of stuff that I was against! So, I just tried something else, for which BS was a good enough approximation. All of it took less than a couple of minutes, actually...

    Shiva, my post is about blogs that express extreme views using extreme words. You are for diversity of views (including extreme views), and I am too. What I have said here is that I am against the use of incendiary words -- I don't think they are 'colourful'! -- such as 'Denigrator of Indian Culture', where the author simply means 'this work is worse than pathetic'. Certain words (that have to do with one's culture, language, country, region, religion ...) evoke visceral reactions, whether we like it or not. When a blogger uses such words, there is no way any decent discussion could take place. It is not a blog (at least not my conception of a blog, anyway) any more, but a conclave of the converted, or the general council of a fundamentalist party (which reminds me: the recent CPM Meeting that elected Karat, in which the backdrop had the pictures of Lenin and Stalin. Lenin seems understandable, but Stalin?)

    Well, the others you mention: Bidwai, Roy, et al. They write in print media (some of which have an online presence), but not in blogs. Should blogs be like the print media, in the sense that the Hindu publishes Roy, while Pioneer publishes Gurumurthy, and each talks past the other? Or, columnists in Rediff, who represent the entire spectrum, don't talk to each other, but each talks only to the reader? Why have a comments section then, where some live -- and lively -- discussion could take place (but for the incendiary tone established in the main post)?

  9. Nitin said...

    Abi,

    You assume that the blogger intends to use his blog as a public space for discussion. What if it is a channel for the blogger to simply express his opinion?

    If you agree that Praful Bidwai and Arundhati Roy have the right to say things they say in the manner they say it, so does someone like Sandeep. Why, the writings/utterances of Bidwai and Roy can be interpreted as in bad taste by some.

  10. Abi said...

    Nitin, I entirely agree with you; I have no problem if someone decides to use a blog as a placeholder -- and a private space -- for his/her views, including extreme views. In such a blog, what is the use of the comments section if the commenters just echo and amplify the thoughts of the blogger? There is no value addition in this model of blogging, is there? I mean, if people cannot visit your blog for a nice, wide-ranging but well-meaning bull session (that might, just might, end up educating people in a calm and possibly friendly environment -- a la Crooked Timber -- what good is it?

    Because the examples I have chosen here are from the right, there seems to be a misconception that I am against right wing views. No! I mean, I don't share those views, but I am not against them, per se. What I am against is the use of incendiary language in blogs with comments. I haven't (so far) found any Indian left wing blog that is in the same league, for example, as the the rude pundit, whose byline reads 'proudly lowering the level of political discourse'! If you know of any that belongs to this category, leave the URL in the comments.

    And, Nitin, thanks for establishing the equivalence between Sandeep's writings and those of Bidwai, Roy, et al. ;-) Now you know why I love comments!

  11. amit varma said...

    Abi

    I have no issue with your getting affronted by the use of intemperate language by other bloggers. But I find it odd when you write: "In such a blog, what is the use of the comments section if the commenters just echo and amplify the thoughts of the blogger? There is no value addition in this model of blogging, is there?

    Now, who are you to decide whether such a blog should have comments or not, and whether it adds value (for readers; if it doesn't add value for you, don't go there)? The blogosphere is not socialist, thankfully, that an enlightened central politburo, consisting no doubt of wise liberals, will decide whether blogs can have comments and what kind of language is permissable. All bloggers have the right to use whatever language they want in their personal space, and to have comments or not; and their readers can decide for themselves if these bloggers are credible and worthy of respect.

    You insult the readers, and condescend to them, by assuming that they are not intelligent and discerning enough to decide these matters for themselves.

    In an earlier comment, you bring about the subject of what blogs "should" be. Again, that is not for you to decide. If you feel blogs "should" be a certain way, then by all means let your own blog be that way. What gives you the right to tell others how their blogs "should" be?

    Again, I am not suggesting that you should not feel offended by "incendiary language". I don't use it myself on my blog (and neither does Secular-Right, frankly, unless you quote him out of context), but if Sandeep wishes to use it, that is entirely his call, and a risk he takes. Any sanctimony on the issue is misplaced.

  12. Laks said...

    Praful Bidwai called our IT-pros "cyber coolies". He claims to speak for the Leftists who is supposed to speak-up for any labourer. He calls anyone who criticizes as "neo-McCarthyist" or something. He constantly denigrates our nuke program (even for power generation).

  13. Abi said...

    This comment is going to give "self-referential" a bad name ;-). Just did a search for "should" on this post, particularly in my comments: I found three:

    1. Would I say he should not say things that I disagree with? No, not at all.

    2. Shouldn't the blogger try to be civil, at least to start things off?

    3. Should blogs be like the print media, in the sense that the Hindu publishes Roy, while Pioneer publishes Gurumurthy, and each talks past the other? Or, columnists in Rediff, who represent the entire spectrum, don't talk to each other, but each talks only to the reader?

    Now, which part of it is 'condescending', Amit?

    Read the question that you quoted again: "There is no value addition in this model of blogging, is there?". What do *you* use the tag question for, Amit? To condescend?

    Who said only Politburo-approved socialists alone can run blogs and moderate the comments thread. I didn't! Why, I am actually quite happy with Yazad's blog! I really, really, like it there ;-)

    As for incendiary words in blogs that this post started with: just as some have pointed out that Bidwai, Roy et al use hateful words, I pointed out in the post that at least two blogs use words that are designed to muzzle debate. If "denigrator of Indian culture" is not cultural policing, what is? I was hoping that you, who was rankled enough (by certain advocates of moral policing in Mumbai) that you chose to use a fairly high-powered "T" word against them, had a chance here to raise your voice against perpetrators of cultural policing, too. And, what do you do? Just say that [the use of incendiary language] is "his call, and a risk he takes"

    "Any sanctimony on the issue is misplaced".

    I entirely agree.

  14. amit varma said...

    Abi

    The "shoulds" have to do not with being condescending, but with being sanctimonious. By asking "Should blogs be like the print media", you are effectively saying "they should not", which is where the sanctimony comes from.

    Also, by implying that the readers need you to point all of this out, the things that happen in the blogosphere that "should" not, you are being condescending towards them.

    It so happens that I don't know enough about Mr Karnad to know if he is a "denigrator of Indian culture", but it would count as "cultural policing" only if Sandeep demanded that Mr Karnad stop writing and performing. (If he did so, I would not hesitate to call that Talibanesque, or T-wordesque, if you prefer). The only attempted policing I see here is on your part, by saying that these people tone down their strident rhetoric, by ruling that this is not how blogs "should" be. Boss, let them be, and if you don't like them, reason enough to not waste so much time over them. Readers aren't stupid.

    And a request: please read Secular-Right India carefully. It states much that you may not agree with - indeed, I have had my share of disagreements with Primary Red - but it does so in a reasoned manner. I think you do it an injustice.

  15. Abi said...

    Sorry to intrude again. This just in. RS have responded with, among other things, this:

    [begin quote] As we see it, our dispute is with liberal ideas that have, paraphrasing Dante, led India into a dark wood, for the right way has been lost; our dispute is (by & large) not with individual liberals (some of whom we've called white-hats and to whom we've been respectful at a personal level.) Regrettably, some liberals still find it necessary to spew personal vitriol at us, instead of debating the merits of our arguments. [end quote]

    So, let's just get this straight here, shall we.

    RS just want to debate ideas (and perhaps once in a while they use quaint terms like 'white-hats' at pepole that they respect). How do the liberals (their link is to this post, in case you didn't notice it) respond? "Spew personal vitriol", that's how. Gosh, that *is* a terrible thing to do, no?

    It is all very touching. I don't know about you, it brought tears to my eyes.

    Really, ... seriously, ... (Ummm, secularly, rightly ....)

  16. Anonymous said...

    The only good thing that your post has brought out for me is that it has directed me towards a better blog (BS;RS i have already been lucky to know about it) which is free to publish its feelings and not to search for euphemisms or worse still, try to find a moral high ground where none exists.

    Commenting om someone's choice of language!! I use that language tens of times a day and so do many others. The only thing which I feel after reading your blog is that you do not respect someone's honest feelings.

  17. Dilip D'Souza said...

    Abi, I notice you're running up against the old motto: if I broadly agree with you, you're arguing reasonably (even if I sometimes have my disagreements with you); if I don't agree with you, you're spewing vitriol.

    Hope that helps.

  18. amit varma said...

    Dilip, well stated. Except that Abi isn't running up against the old motto, but is following it. After all, he himself has, in the past, approved of terms like "congenital idiot" being used for people whose views he does not agree with. Read here.

    What's "vitriol" for others is "hard-hitting" when you agree with it, eh Abi? Nice one.

  19. Dilip D'Souza said...

    Abi, I read Primary Red/Secular Right's response to this post of yours. I was alarmed by his claim that you "spew vitriol" at him/them. Alarmed enough to go back to this post of yours and looked for this vitriol spewed at PR/SR.

    I found three phrases you used that might have prompted PR/SR to say you "spew vitriol": one, "awsome twosome"; two, "absolutely convinced about the rightness of, well, their 'right'ness"; three, "hurled terms".

    Please do correct me if I'm wrong, Abi and/or PR/SR; but I'm unable to find any other phrase directed at PR/SR in this post that qualifies as "spewing vitriol." (Frankly, I'm not even sure about these three).

    Here are some phrases from PR/SR's own writings (in particular, since I participated in these exchanges, here, here and here):

    "offensive argument"; "revel in taking potshots at our boys"; "such obscenity"; "any other attitude [than ours] insults the memory of our amar jawans"; "If Indian liberals were to have a theme song, my country, always wrong would be its name"; "[Liberals] dilute our nationalist pride ... construct a parade of horribles ... this is a profoundly subversive act"; "subterfuge"; "drip-drip of India-bashing"; "equating India with the gutter of our neighbourhood"; [liberals] seek to pull us down in their mire"; "anti-nationalists".

    This is "reasoned argument", I believe (was that the phrase?). Not vitriol.

    And Charu, thank you for your pointer to the vulgar spirit of blogging.

  20. RR said...

    Kallu driver called government officials, Digvijay Singh and Umabharati: "maaderc**d". Meaning, "motherf*****s".

    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=32&ItemID=5903

    Arundhati Roy reported this. She basically agrees with kallu driver in the matter of sprewing vitriol on bad people.

    What's "maaderc**d" to "Resident Idiot"? And Sandeep hasn't even hooked a Booker.

  21. pennathur said...

    TAB,
    The Pioneer and The Hindu are not opposite and equal. The Hindu has quite some time ago from around the time of the Tian-an-Men massacre become a paid (maybe gratis) bootlicker of the Chinese establishment. Read The Hindu's recent edits on the Chinese goondagardi and thuggery directed against Japanese economic and diplomatic entities in China and let me know if you have found a more anti-Japanese and pro-Chinese point of view anywhere outside China. The Hindu probably revealing a Jungian slip in an editorial on the Taiwan question recently used the word "splittist" something that is pure Hsinhua Chinese-English.

    The Pioneer while making no pretence about its political and economic line continues to be a forum for some diversity of views. Every recent issue - AMU, Sonia, BJP 25th anniversary convention, NDA antics, Hindu orthodoxy has seen some strident writing from both sides.

    It must have taken Siddharth Varadarajan some blaseness to visit Bangladesh and come away without a word about the violence against the minorities - maybe that can happen only in The Hindu.

    Blogs in India are the only outlet where you can find a counterpoint to the smug ostrichlike pronouncements (I wonder how one can talk with their head in the sand!) that have come to dominate the papers these days in India.

  22. Anonymous said...

    The professor disdain for the "right wing" blogs is similar to the disdain of the aristocrats towards the newly moneyed class.