If there is anything worse than censorship, it is censorship done incompetently.
Like those DD2 movies they showed late at night where a random mammary would occasionally pop out of the scratched-out (yes sometimes not even pixellated) areas sending frustrated teenagers like me into paroxysms of forbidden joy, in the process rupturing my moral fabric forever.
The government’s list of hate-sites is another such example.
For starters, there are a number of defunct websites on that list—-which just goes to show that the GOI is adept at reading between the lines…even of a 404 message.
Then there are the surrogate bans—-a situation that is aptly described by the song: “Kaheen pe nigahen, kaheen pe nishana”. (English translation: Look where you pee)
As Curiousgawker, India’s most vitriolic blogger on international politics points out, three of the government’s “worst of the web” s namely pajamaeditors.blogspot.com, exposingtheleft.blogspot.com and mypetjava.mu.nu are in all probability cases of “mistaken identities”. The sites the government actually wanted to ban are the popular left-bashing (and we are talking about bashing US left/liberals) blogs: http://pajamasmedia.com, http://exposetheleft.com and http://mypetjawa.mu.nu (aka the Jawa Report)
In other words, GOI, in another display of blinding competence, banned the wrong sites.
In my opinion, censorship (except in some very specific situations: like protecting underage children from online predators) is wrong. However, if censorship is going to be in effect, then it should be strictly “equal-opportunities”. But then why is http://www.hinduhumanrights.org (a website that details human rights abuses against Hindus) considered a “hate site” while http://www.ihrc.org/ (Islamic Human Rights Commission) an identically themed site (with one crucial difference) remains accessible (and it has topics titled: “State Sponsored Terrorism in India”, “Hindutva bans freedom of religion in India”)
What’s alarming about the selection of websites that have been banned is that most of them are not hate sites at all. (In this context, I want to define hate sites as those which incite people to violence and which use foul language against groups of people).
Okay Hinduunity is a hate-site. So was Dalistan (which has been off-air for some time now).
But what about the US liberal-baiting blogs (which incidentally had nothing to do with India) that were sought to be banned? Yes they express strong opinions against leftists. So? There are equally virulent liberal blogs that express strong sentiments against non-leftists. Why are they being allowed to pass unmolested?
[Note: I am not saying they should. I am just asking for equal treatment.]
Similarly, I find nothing “hate-inducing” in talking about persecution of Hindus (if that’s the only thing they do—I have not gone through everything in that site) just as there is nothing “hate-inducing” in a similarly themed website for Muslims. We may not agree with their point of view—which may be extreme, sensational and sometimes even false. However that is no reason to ban them as long as there are no exhortations to violence or use of racial/communal slurs.
So here’s the point I am getting at.
What the government is actually doing is imposing idealogical censorship.
Under the guise of filtering out hate speech, they are imposing their politics on Indian netizens. If this is taken to extremes, any blogger who disagrees with the prevailing politics of the ruling junta may soon find himself/herself on a hit list.
And since the process of selecting hate-sites is totally ad-hoc and the government does not deem it worthwhile to explain why these sites were banned (for instance citing offending passages), there is a real threat of dissenting voices being silently silenced, without explanation or due process, through such censorship efforts.
In other words, if you disagree with our politics, you are considered to be engaging in hate speech. We might ban the wrong website but you get the message.
Again we come back to the incompetence part. While relatively benign left-wing blogs get into the black book of GOI, Anne Coulter, a person who actually engages in hate speech, is not blocked. (I am not saying she should). Yes bloodspot.com, a medical lab is blocked perhaps because its a Beckman Coulter company.
However Anne and Beckman have nothing to do with each other.
Similarly, Michelle Malkin, the Anne-Coulter-wannabe, is not blocked but that is perhaps because the present government infrastructure is afraid of anyone who calls herself “malkin” as it reminds them of one “madam”.
In conclusion, maybe the day is not far off when I wake up and see that Bongopundit has been blocked by Indian ISPs because of government orders.
It will certainly send a chill down my spine. And possibly Desipundit‘s.