Censorship Done Wrong

80 Comments

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.

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80 thoughts on “Censorship Done Wrong

  1. Excellent rant! Truly we do not understand the implications of such ideological policing popularly known as moral policing. If you ask a man on the street, he will probably favor banning such sites and perhaps, the majority might agree. But at a time when racial discrimation was not opposed by a majority of the american population, the courts intervened with Brown v. Board of Education and clamped down on racial discrimination. And now the majority has come around.

  2. “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)”

    Hilarious! And yes, this government’s incompetence is only exceeded by its imbecility.

  3. In my humble opinion, most bloggers have gone overboard in their reactions to this whole thing. OK – GoI made a mistake; big deal; they made a fool of themselves; big deal – when was the last time they displayed their smartness anyways? I think this whole ISP blocking Blogger is being done to death now, and everyone seriously needs to move on.

    Coming to the core issue of “Censorship” I find it laffable when half the desi blogger claim nothing should be censored and so on – hardly the stuff they actually preach :). Greatbong, to that effect, I hardly see you censoring comments, thus YOU, I would say do what you preach.

    Even site like Desipundit, Boingboing, Instapundit etc is very likely to censor out “objectionable” content, comments or not even link posts that they don’t agree with themselves; the rationale being – “does not adhere to our policies and standards”. Well, that is a form of moral censorship in itself – afterall they are censoring stuff which others may have wanted to read :). If the internet is free, and there should be no censorship, I would love to see every blogger accepting the flak they get openly, without censoring it 🙂

    The point is – Censorship only makes sense when you can preach it yourself – sadly half the desi blogosphere doesnt (And you are not one of them (at least thats what it looks like here)) – hence they should just accept it and move on :).

    Suyog

  4. Now Now Greatbong, you don’t want to cheese off the GOI and get yourself blocked would you?? Great research by the way. Me still cheesed off at GOI. No one thinks it is a big deal though. Outside the blogging community whoever I spoke to about this thinks it is not a big deal and will be relaxed soon.

    @Suyog: What we have is a democracy (if that is what it is called) and its obvious denial of right to information. Comparing blogs to democracy is as idiotic as GOI’s ideas.

  5. @Patrix: I doubt whether the average man would support the banning of anti-Left websites (They would of course support the banning of hate-India stuff). Purely political compulsion behind that one.

    @Purush: True.

    @Suyog: Countering your points:

    1. Desipundit: DP linking to posts it likes and not to others is not censorship. It’s DP’s prerogative ! For instance, I have never written a post on rugby. Why? Don’t find it interesting. So am I censoring rugby? I dont think so. If you love rugby and are disappointed I never cover it, why go to a rugby blog !

    DP is ultimately a blog that represents the opinions of its writers. Hence it will be mirrored in what gets linked in it and what not. ( Remember: DP is not an official site bound by laws of “fairness”).

    However it would be exercising censorship if it prevented you from reading blogs that fall foul of its sensibilities. (by say launching a packet flood attack on those they didnt like).

    2. Bloggers who don’t allow comments or moderate them. Do they perform censorship? Absolutely. But theirs is different from what the government is doing.

    Let me explain. A blog is like someone’s house. Whom they allow in it and who they allow to keep their footprints is the blogowner’s decision. Fact to remember: the blogger owns the blog.

    However the government does not own our minds. It does not have the responsibility to oversee what we read and what we do not. By blocking my access to Blog A, it s infringing on my rights and Blog A’s—none of which it owns.

    Repeating, a blog is like the blogger’s home. He/she has the rights to open the door for some people and not others.

    And what is the government doing? It is acting like the local mohalla bully and standing in front of someone else’s house and telling a person that wants to enter: “No you cannot cause I say so”. (In the case of GOI, they are also standing in front of the wrong door)
    Therein lies the difference.

    @Aravind: First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the Communists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left
    to speak out for me.

    The reason most people arent bothered is because they dont read blogs and it doesnt “concern” them.

  6. I agree with Suyog… the blocking was a reaction to the terrorists attacks, whether that is justified or not is another matter altogether, but we should not doubt the Government’s intentions in blocking this. It was definitely a step taken to prevent violence after the attacks. Yes, it is totally a dubious matter whether such a ban achieves anything, but from information coming out, this ban will be lifted in a few days. We should definitely move on, this was a reaction (albeit stupid and erroneous) to avoid voilence, and I would say jumping the gun on this one makes us no different from those human rights doofs who jump everytime a terrorist is killed.

  7. @Anon: Yes I understand. There was imminent danger of Leftists creating communal disturbances. Incidentally, I fail to see where you agree with Suyog. All Suyog says is that all bloggers exercise censorship so we should not be holier-than-thou. You say something totally different.

  8. Well-written. If we trust our people to elect governments, we must also trust them not to be incited by hate speech. If they do take actions based on the incitements, there will be consequences. That is the only way to deal with it. Also as you said, almost none of the lists blocked seems to exercise hate speech.

    Now eagerly waiting for Soubhagya to start using examples of McCarthyism to defend actions of a government that includes the left parties. The irony of it boggles the mind.

  9. @Greatbong: No, I was not talking about DP or Boingboing’s principle of linking per se. Nor am I referring to whether bloggers should censor their comments or not. They chose what is best for them to display which is their own choice.

    But that same argument holds for the government too – we elected them remember to govern us in the best they can 😀 – They didnt chose themselves did they? – so if the Government deemed it necessary to ban blogs and display their “so-called technical knowledge” we have to take it with a bit of objectivity. Certain reaction to their steps is of course necessary, and I too am of opinion that what they did was really stupid, but equating their stupidity to China’s self imposed censorship is quite amaeturish(pretty much same as bloggers censoring themselves.)

    And just for a moment assume that Government with all its intelligence had got at least one website right – something they and we bloggers would have felt was not right (Of course I am not saying terrorists are that dumb)? Would we complain then? Or would we still complain about censorship?

    Suyog

    PS: I am not supporting govt’s move here by any chance though 🙂

  10. move on but just learn someting from this.
    1.dont lets sit back saying we are in a democracy.we as a country lack initiative. we wait to be spoon fed.
    2.know the limitations of the ruling class, most of them are technically wanting. their competence is pathetically low.
    3.we need to send responsible people in to the goverment.

    what can we do
    1.spread awareness thru blogs
    2.be responsible citizens ourselves
    3.get involved

  11. Those who think the ban is no big deal come from a simplistic point of view: The country is under threat, govt does something; right or wrong, let us not get too angry about it as it was done with the best intentions.

    The answer is that those best intentions are questionable and suspicious; Indian governments have always exhibited a tendency towards censorship of view against their own and have been guilty of mind control before; idiocy with the best of intentions is still idiocy and can set precedents that are in the long run, dangerous. Also, it holds up a mirror to the dazzling brilliance of the minds that govern us.

    What use protecting the land, if those residing in that land live live under a thought-taliban.

  12. Dear GB,

    Following with interest your posts on banning of blogs by Indian Government. The Internet is a free domain, and everybody wants the internet to remain this way. However, the governing bodies do have to step in some times, to control, internet being a communication medium, and with its potential to cause harm. Going by the rights logic, government should not be allowed to track cell-phone conversations too. Why is that not a right? Taking further your example of blogs being houses, please remember government can (and does) break into, and seal off houses within their territory which carries out anti-national activities.

    The banning of wrong website would happen what with the huge government machinery, “chinese whisper” and all. As for the anti-left website banning, it is the same with all the governing bodies world over. The people in power will, at least try to, stifle the voice of dissent. Remember Tahalka?

    Just move on. This topic is stale now, better subjects are waiting for your attention

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  14. Shouldn’t we give a big round of applause to our so called liberal Prime Minister – Manmohan Singh and his “Madam” – Sonia Gandhi?

    There is nothing unusual about it. This tendency of Censorship (and many-a-times dictatorial) behaviour is deep rooted in the ranks of ruling Congress party. And don’t forget they have learnt some good lessons from their firangi predecessors – Britishers.

    So don’t be amazed when they try to divide the nation using Reservations or try to generate vote bank by Minority appeasement… And when somebody speaks against them they have to use Censorship, just like blocking the bloggers/websites.

    Pretty straight forward.

  15. Great Bong,

    I am sorry to see some people advocating a move on.
    Government “governs” the nation it doesn’t “own” its citizens. And this is not about “blogs”, this is about freedom of speech.

    Regards

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  17. GB, very well written but the actual poem is a bit different in the 1st para…here it is..

    “Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Kommunist.”

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.

    although it does not matter, but we always expect perfect stuff from GB. thats why !

  18. For the first time I was a bit hopeful (pun intended) about our Congress leaders, that they are trying to take their politics a step further by curbing ideology instead of their usual arm-twisting or minority-kissing vote bank policies. But alas my joy was short-lived. The ban thing was something aimed more at pleasing certain persons/parties who holds the key to power in Delhi although they goofed up while trying to implement. Since Indira Gandhi Congress politics has never been anything about ideology but ass kissing and remains to be so. But certain things still worries me like is Arjun Singh’s vendetta against RSS/VHP something personal or party sponsored? Fighting one ideology with another ideology can be good as it allows the people to choose sides. But curbing the opposition’s right to express is sheer dictatorship. That’s why the ban on the websites is ethically wrong and that should be resisted at all cost. But ethics and politics have never been comfortable bed-partners and we continue to live under the Big Brother’s surveillance.

  19. YOURFAN writes:
    @ Suyog, SM, anonymous and to all commenters who espouse to move on:

    I agree that everybody should have the mental set up to move on from whatever be the issue – personal, social, governmental, religious etc etc. But the main point is that we should protest enough within the framework of civility and of course law before we decide to move on so that the govt or concerned authority takes note of dissent. I think that the reactions to the ban on blog notwithstanding GOI’s “explanation” created the environment where the govt official took notice and were compelled to take actions.

    Look at the amendments to RTI act which the govt is going to present in the parliament. It is a shame because it dilutes the Act as RTI will not be applicable to the notes written by officials and a host of other clauses. The explanation given by the govt is they want to protect govt officials, bureaucrats from being harassed!! The bottom line is no party wants to give the common man the right to take away the politicians’ right of nepotism etc. We all know that majority of the bureaucrats are there in the office not to improve the lot of our people/nation but just to get their salary and perks and thus abide by their netas order. The newspaper has written about it. But there is not much hue and cry about it. I think the reason is that in this age we give more importance to the visual programs on TV than to the print media. Sadly no TV coverage is there on this topic (at least I have not seen them). I have a hunch that the electronic media which has far greater impact compared to the print media will sleep over the amendment till it is too late like so many other issues.

    What I am trying to point out is that we should not be complacent about anything that the govt does otherwise it might be too late like the comment made by GB to @Aravind.

    @GB: Reading your reply to Suyog (about the differences between DP or any personal blog and the govt) made me think that you would be a good lawyer too.

  20. I think this whole episode was a brilliant smoke screen put up by the Government. The real objectives of this smoke screen and which are the blogs/sites that were really banned/block, we might never know. Do you really think that smart people in the CERTi-IN, DoT and leading ISPs would try to block ‘imagesearchyahoo.com’ ?

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  22. @SM,

    GB has said that censoring should be avoided as far as possible, but when it is absolutely necessary then it should be homogenous.
    By the example you have given, the government is sealing off houses, but only of those people who don’t fill the party coffers. This does happen, but it is still WRONG. One cannot take a laidback attitude towards imposition of dictatorial moves without adequate justification, and when such moves are imposed, it is the minimum resposibility of the enforcing authority to see that they are being applied correctly.

    Yes, hopefully the ban will be lifted in a few days, but at the same time it is important for us as the public to convey that we are accepting these things only because it is critical for the nation in the real sense, and not that we are ready to accept any BS under the garb of ‘national interest’. The GOI is being judged because the day it was formed, it was an implicit contract that each and every action of theirs will be open to judgement by the one billion people whose lives it is here to facilitate..not rule.

  23. To Suyog: “…we elected them..”. “They didnt chose themselves did they?”.
    This thing is often said by many people.

    Firstly, the MPs who form the government probably don’t even represent a majority of the people (by the votes they get).
    Governments are often coalitions. Alliances are often formed after the elections. The politicians are surely making a choice there, which may not be what ‘people’ want. Public opinion is not static. It is dynamic. You cannot expect it to stay the same for five years and irrespective of government’s policies.
    Does the number of seats that a political party has at a given point of time reflect the current public opinion, or that of 1,2,3,4,5 years back?

    We have sons and daughters and wives of politicians entering politics. ‘People’ never wanted them to. Even those in a given political party who have worked hard for their party are not given a ticket to fight elections. But their tickets are instead given to these sons, ds, ws.

    The PM is chosen by madam, not by ‘people’. CMs in the states are decided by ‘high commands’ (not just congress, even BJP and other parties). Then there is a farce, where the members of the ruling party /coalition ‘elect’ their CM.

    This being comments section, I stop here.

  24. We need to move on.Yes,very much true.But what we really need to do,is to take a leaf out of the ruckus of the last couple of days.
    What worries me all the more is that suppose all these pajamas and lungis who are banned open up a new blog….which am sure is just on the cards…and copy paste all their contents.Next.our vigilant babus on the front sends a gag order against them.And…fot the sake of suchnsuch.blogspot.com all bloggers are punished all over again.Just imagine,this process repeating itself every 3 months……

    Sometimes I wander,if GoI were really serious in implementing POTA they might have even banned Rendezvous with SIMI garewal…!!And boy,call that a technical glitch..

  25. @Daaku – when circumstances demand, it is better to take action, then to wait for a national consensus to imerge before you can stop two suspect anti-nationals from communicating. “…, but only of those people who don’t fill the party coffers.” Banning of web sites that are not filling party coffers? Have the non banned sites nominated the Indian National Congress as the beneficiary of their Google Adsense? I am confused.

    @Sriram – Terribly sorry to disappoint, but my humble opinion …

  26. Guys! The GOI has lifted the ban. Lets move on…

    The issue is freedom of speech vs the responsibility of the government to prevent spreading of ‘hateful ideologies’. The debate can continue for a hundred years without convincing either group.

    There are pros and cons of each side, with the balance of the merits and misuses tilting with each individual occasion.

    Now that freedom of speech has won this battle, let us wait to see the next skirmish. Can’t promise you that I will be on the same side.

    However, GB, great post!. At least nobody can accuse you of not enunciating a clear point of view (something that the GOI cannot, or is incapable of doing!).

  27. The more I think upon it, the more convinced I am that it is indeed a ploy to get the tourists to the islands… no right-thinking person can possibly be reasoning along any of those other lines. Surely even our government couldn’t be quite so stupid? Stupid yes, but to this degree?

  28. At the risk of sounding cynical, (which I am, so an affordable risk)….A governement which is basically looking at ways of coming back to power (pink floyd style?? :)) the next time there are elections will actually get away with all this since none of the objective arguments will work when they say we gave jobs to so many people and GDP was so much…..(the fact that most of us “objective people” do not vote helps a little bit)

    As far as I know, NONE of the political parties were against(or spoke against it) this blog blocking and censorship….I wonder why. They were debating how much money do you need to make on the side to call it an office of profit….!!

  29. Good write up as usual. Internet in general and blogging in particular is the tool available to the non celebrity individual which provides access to mass media. So it would not be suprising if the govt actually does what you have been suggesting on a regular basis. The govt does not want to give up status quo- lack of accountability to anyone.

    You had better watch out then. With your prodigious writing talent, you, more than anyone else represnt the pen being powerful than the sword syndrome and would be the first on the hit list. I think a lits of the potential terrorists should be made- at least everybody new to the blogoshpere will know which the best blogs are.

    Jokes apart, the govt should be made to explain why it did what it did and how not to let it happen in the future?

  30. Hindu (http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/001200607210314.htm)reports:

    The DoT, in its letter issued to all the ISPs has mentioned that it had come to notice that in some cases the parent website had been blocked in contravention to what was stated in its earlier order dated 13th July 2006, whereby it ordered the ISPs to block certain websites/WebPages. As such the DoT has now directed all the ISPs to strictly comply with the order dated 13th July 2006 and provide unhindered access to Internet except for the websites/WebPages, which have been specifically mentioned in its orders issued from time to time.The DoT has further sought an explanation from the erring ISPs, as to why action be not taken against them for blocking unintended websites/WebPages

  31. This is so kiddish. I do not know whose idea it was to block entire domains blogpost, typepad domains etc. The government’s or the ISPs’. Even if I assume it was a blunder, I really dont mind it. I do not mind that slight bit of “inconvenience” of not being able to access these sites. What is the big deal? It is really not as if they banned these sites forever. A couple of days of these restrictions and everybody is out on the street, shouting about our freedom of speech of being jeopardised and all that blah?? All I know is that it was meant for my own security.

  32. Greatbong,

    First of all let me begin by putting forth my stance on this: I am against this ban! In an ideal world I would have banged my head against the wall in protest or set myself on fire like morally committed protectors of South Vietnam but this is reality. 😀

    Yes the Indian Govt didn’t take a good decision by this kind blanket banning, but lets not beat this issue to death now. Time to move on with our lives and live with the decisions made by our elected representatives (for now anyway..)

    Now with regard to your argument..

    Philosophically speaking, no one owns anything.
    Technically speaking, even the blogger dudes dont own the blog, Google does! Google can just as easily remove some blog tomorrow, if they dont deem it fit. Or for that matter censor a blog because the Communist regime of Timbuktu wants it that way!

    The point is that censorship sucks in any form. Whether the Govt censors some content, whether the Govt gets the “real” site owners to censor some content, or even whether greatbong himself deletes other people comments because they don’t suit his ego! 🙂

    Nice Guy!

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  34. Arnab, when were they showing late-night movies on DD2? Is this a recent thing, or are you perchance referring to the series of award-winning movies they used to show late at night on DD1?

    I think they were too lazy to pixilate mammaries, in reality whole scenes used to get chopped out. That’s how they mutilated Fassbinder’s “Marriage of Maria Braun”, which I finally got to see in its entirety a few months ago.

    By the way, there are numerous reports that the ban was an “error” and will be “reversed”. However, all of this can be traced back to one email sent out by an official in the Indian consulate in New York, who apparently isn’t even authorized to speak to the press. The poor fellow perhaps decided to initiate some damage control on his own, given that the government seems completely oblivious to the universal flack it’s receiving in world media.

    Nearly a week after the story hit front page, we have yet to hear an official statement from the Government of India. I don’t think they were so utterly imperious even during the implementation of the Satanic Verses ban, when government officials did explain to the media what had been banned and why.

  35. @GG: Perhaps it did.

    @Dipanjan: Why just Soubhagya? As Sneha says: “its for ze national security Herr Fuhrer”….

    @Suyog: We elected them to “govern” us. Not to regulate what we see and hear–just because it is against the government’s idealogy (socialism-communism).

    @Anonymous: If there is anything that history teaches us, is that “moving on” is equivalent to “burying your head in sand”. It is because we ‘move on” after Pakistan-engineered bomb blasts and start playing cricket and exchanging hugs, that we are perceived as a soft state and get attacked again and again. It is because people like you “move on” that the government can slowly and surely keep on chipping away at our rights.

    @Matt: Agree.

    @SM: The left-bashing blogs were not even talking about India…so why did GOI attempt to “break into them’ and “bash them”…what national interests were being compromised?

    Do you know that telephone operators in India are trying to get Skype banned? One of the reasons: national security ! It’s a very easy bogey to raise to cover your idealogical intractability or an inefficiency.

    And the topic is not stale…it maybe to you but for me no. When the government tries to stop what I can see and hear just because it does not agree with its viewpoint, a line for me has been crossed.

    @AKP: I have really been disappointed by Dr. Singh—-I had much higher expectations from him.

    @Sriram: Mm

    @Gaurav: Well at least we see how the government is able to continue doing what it has been doing.

    @Indranil: Just used what was here. http://www.telisphere.com/~cearley/sean/camps/first.html.

    But you are right.

    This is the correct version.

    First they came for the Communists,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Communist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Jew.
    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
    Then they came for me,
    and by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me.

    @Bishu: I cannot agree more about the fact that this ban was supposed to mollify certain persons/parties who hold the key to power in Delhi. Cant agree more.

    @Yourfan: Agree. Its been a worrying trend—the setting up of regulatory bodies like the BRAI and the making of “sting operations” illegal unless it is in the national (read government’s interpretation of national interests).

    @Jacob: Ah well.

    @Daaku: The ban on these websites will stay, its only the blanket block of Blogspot and Typepad that will be lifted.

    @Aby: Aah. Hope not.

    @Yossarian: The point is that even if they were “genuinely” chosen, they still dont have the right to act as our collective nannies.

    @Arnab: Now that the technical infrastructure is in place, I hope that wont happen.

    @Sayon: No it hasnt ! Not on these websites I mentioned.

    @Sue: Of course not. There is a PhD at the helm. How could it be stupid? Okay maybe not at the helm…theres a doubtful graduate there.

    @Gourav: All parties stand united on censorship. It’s good for political parties. Simple.

    @Hiren: Exactly. The government should say why the left-bashing websites have been banned —what were the passages that they consider as constituting “hate speech”.

    @Sneha: Totally agree. So kiddish this is. (Actually it has banned these sites forever…but lets not let facts cloud our judgement). As you say its our national security at risk here—from blogsites that hardly ever talk about India and a site that highlights human rights abuses against Hindus. These things, if read, could really “rock your body” (with apologies to Justin Timberlake) and endanger the populace.

    @ I am a nice guy, so dont delete me or the man who is using the same IP as JEDi:

    Did I doubt you are a nice guy? Have I ever deleted you? Then why this “dont martyr me” thing…think it makes you look good at my expense? Its strange that for someone who has allowed a lot of freedom of speech on my space, even I get accused.

    And yes philosophically, I own this domain name. I own this webspace cause I paid money for it.

    As to Google, yes it can. Cause it owns blogspot. The government does not. End of story.

    And oh, you can get down from your cross if you want to.:-)

    @Thalassa: I am referring to the late night movies (which were hardly award-winning) that used to be shown on DD2 (DD Metro) during its inception (the time when Superhit Muqabla was the toast of the nation). I myself have seen at least two such movies where things were “greyed” out but offending body parts kept jumping out of the “grey areas”. Names? I dont remember. (Sound was off you see !) By today’s standards, extremely tame….but in those days…

  36. Man,we are stuck in a situation where both the main parties suck.Atleast BJP was the lesser of 2 evils.

    Lok Paritrana,where are you when we need you

  37. GB, Sorry, didn’t check out the sites. You’re right. The GOI has always had the ‘We know what’s best for you,’ attitude. Comes with being a Mai-baap sarkaar, you see.

    Don’t blame the communists for this (even though they may have a finger in the pie. The Congress was brought up on ideas of Soviet models of goverment. Even now, with the soviet model dead and discredited, the Congress still harks back to the good old days, when there was no opposition to speak of and no coalition partners to worry about.

    I’m seeing this as part of the bigger picture – removal of non-committed members of so called ‘autonomous’ institutions, forcing through reservations, in colleges (and likely) in private organisations, turning the clock back 20 years to bring 364 drugs under crippling price control…Why, even GOI ministries and bureaucrats are advising against these rash moves, but the GOI is adamant.

    The frustrating part of this is that you may raise hell on your blogs, mobilise the media, hold hungerstrikes, lobby with the ministry, make representations, in short, use all the tools available to the middle class. The clear and unambiguous reply essentially translates to “F-off. You don’t vote anyway, and even if you do, your vote is miniscule compared to our committed votebanks. You don’t matter, and we’re no longer trying to pretend that you do. If you don’t like it, immigrate to another country.’

    Maybe we’re sticking our head in the sand, pretending that it is still worth living in this country. Some of us still hope to make some difference. But the government is making it clear – we do not matter.

    I wonder why we still care…

  38. Move on..yes we should move on now…

    What can they do? Ban some more sites, block technology that they cant make head or tail of, ask us not to ask questions? So what…We should move on..

    Yes, GB find something else to blog about, we will laugh and then ask you to move on…
    Dammn, only for once if we stop and make enough noise about something instead of moving on…

    HP

  39. GB,

    I didnt mean that the websites were actually the problem or risking our security. All I am saying is that the it really isnt any government official’s dream to block all blogspot etc sites. They might have taken some action against it only when they saw something happening there right? It might have been their mistake. Agreed. But so what? It really wasnt a big deal that it is made out to be.

    On a different note, do not underestimate the extent of impact that a bhashan or a piece of text can cause. Ever got a chance to hear umabharati’s insane “hindism=hate muslim” bhashans? or those venom spitting fatwa pamphlets?

  40. @Vikram: Last heard, Lokparitrana with its 5 members were already fighting among themselves and the “party” was going to split.

    @Sayon: I think by being aware, we do make a difference. Not much. Just a little.

    @HP: If only some people “got” it.

    @Sneha: I am not underestimating it. However what steps has anyone taken to actual hate speech—have any of the real rabblerousers ever been “banned” or “served time”? No. But left-bashing blogs (and really how many people who will go and riot read blogs !) have been blocked.

    Truth is that this “banning hatespeech thing” is a smokescreen—-these sites are not engaging in hate speech and GOI knows it. The reason they are blocked is because they offended some govt babu’s political sensibilities.

  41. Its true that theres no apparent reason why *some* of these sites were banned. for instance mackers..these are totally outside the periphery of indian politics. but more bad has been banned than benign. & the benigns collateral damage. its probably due to overzealous officers.

    I am happier with overzealous steps. i dont see any *harm* done out of the sites banned. They arent suppressing dissenting voices, these voices are on american politics which is totally different domain.

    yes, the media/parliament should grill the govt on clarifying the stand on such seemingly benign sites. As for all the extrapolation done, its paranoia.

    and for the belief that readers of sites/blogs wouldnt likely convert to rioteers on the streets – indeed, i think so too. however, some of these could get moved to donate money/other resources & that fuels rioteers.

    I would like to see truly benign sites cleared. But, right now, i want answers to matters of higher priorities:

    Hows the govt doing with international diplomacy on terrorism? What measures have been taken to improve security on the ground? Are the injured given all that was promised? Where do the investigations stand? Are we getting the evidence to slap on musharrafs face? There were reports of intelligence flaws, are the guilty punished? Are improvements brought up?

    As much as the govt needs to be grilled, its for the non-blog-media && the parliament to do that..we *should* go after the MPs and the media…we should be making sure that they are after the right targets….like someone elsewhere had done, send faxes around and the works.

    That is *clearly* higher priority to me than some random website that fell as collateral damage. you can quote whoever and keep the paranoia on. to each his/her own.

  42. Greatbong,
    or the person who uses the same IP as greatbong 😛 You need to get over this IP fixation man hehe It started right from the post about the B’lore riots.

    First about the topic. You didn’t really get my point (wont be for the first time) and therefore there’s no point beating about the bush.

    Now, about your unsubstantiated claim that I’m trying to be the ‘martyr’ or have some ulterior motive in claiming you deleted my comment. What would I gain from that? That is a preposterous idea. And if my objective really WAS rising up the charts of popularity as you so sweetly imply, why would I leave an anonymous comment?

    Now about the comment itself, that you deleted It was on the post “When I die” About the death of Mahajan’s secretary or some such thing. While most of your Yes Men where going gaga as usual, I wrote some unflattering remark. Nothing nasty or bad, but somewhat critical. Next day I found the comment deleted.

    Now you are perfectly entitled to do that. Why not? Something hurt your ego, you deleted the comment. Its “your” space as you pointed out. From that post onwards until today I never wrote another comment on ur blog again and neither visited it (unless accidentally). You can run IP checks on you WordPress database again to see that! LOL!!
    It’s a shame because I for the most part like what you write and used to visit and comment regularly. Anyhow, as I said I refrained from doing so after that comment deletion episode. Somehow came across this thread today and couldn’t resist but comment.

    However, I must thank you for not deleting my previous comment and hopefully this one will meet the same fate.

    And oh, you can come down from that cross too now 🙂

    Chop Chop

  43. some of my comments went through after moderation. oh and some will ask how i know that, well quite simply – i was told on submission that it was awaiting moderation.

    hey, its your life and blog. if you want only the yes men to comment here, so be it! but outright claiming that you dont moderate, nah thts not good.

  44. @Rajeev: Waiting for the next part…the grooming tips for men. Could sure use that. Incidentally, this seemed to be a PR exercise for those lingerie stores.

    @Soubhagya: Thanks for getting rid of the paranoia which I am trying to fan. And nice speech. I wish I had some spare change.
    @Still the Nice Guy:

    a) I have said it before. I will say it again. I am not obsessed with IP addresses. WP is. It puts the IP address right next to your grand name and bingo. Your past identity (no matter how much you deny it) is revealed. If you are not jEDI I apologize. But again IPs….
    b) As to deleting your comment, I have done no such thing. There are some comments (which especially if you put links in them) that get caught by Akismet spam blocker and get deleted if I dont take action for some time. If that has happened I apologize.

    Again the comments I have deleted have been abusive….I hope Suyog’s comments above and of many others should have convinced you that there is no censorship here.

    In conclusion, I have knowingly deleted no comment. Even Akash Sen’s abusive comments are still up. However if unintentionally, or due to some technical error, your comment got deleted, I apologize.

    However I have never willingly deleted any negative comment. Now its upto my readers to believe whether Anon here is to be trusted or me.

    And with respect to hurting my ego, the very fact that these comments of yours are still “up” show that I have no problems with people spitting at my ego….I have enough “yes men” to compensate for that—isnt it?

    And no putting yourself on a cross doesnt mean popularity for your blog (it means prominence for your comment)—the anonymity is of course a mark of cowardice…but then I am the coward here…I forgot.

    Its also a coincidence isnt it that after all these days, you just had to visit today. Its okay…hanging around and not commenting doesnt make you an yes man. 🙂

    As to me not getting your point like always, perhaps the fault may be with you for not making a coherent point? Have you ever considered that fact?

    Suppose not.

    @Soubhagya: Thats because you may have multiple links in your post. And if you keep on commenting one after another, it is considered to be troll/spammer behavior. Not off the mark though. So come on. get on the cross—-there’s room for more. Incidentally, I do not recollect having moderated any of your comments….is there any which you submitted and it didnt show up?
    Incidentally where there any parts of your comment did I moderate?

    Also, all of yourfan’s comments get moderated……because she shares some IP space with Raj Mehta who was a troll here.

    And If I wanted “yes men” here…how come you are allowed to keep on commenting on this blog…look at the number of comments you have put on my last post. Its amusing that despite having so much dislike for me (of course being a govt agent I dont expect much better), how often you choose to hang around here.

  45. @gb: ah, the ingenuous offer of spare change…oh did i peeve you poor little thing? i cant pretend to be a yes man any more i guess..but i hope some come by and help you out of this…

    if you cant handle it, stick to silly movie reviews.

    keep the spare change, and let me know if you need bills. i wouldnt mind throwing some at you.

  46. @Soubhagya: Please do. I would like to get back some of my tax money.

    Now it seems you are peeved.

    If it helps you go to sleep….I cant handle you my man…your intellect blinds me….but again I still wonder why you have to keep coming back here again and again when you can see that you bring me to my knees.

    Have mercy on me oh Government lord and do what Her Majestyship pays you to do.

  47. hehe.

    ok, i agree i was peeved at your ingenuous offer.

    & as for me coming back, stick to your bounds with movie reviews and i will be just fine. or use what you have been carrying around on your shoulders, and *appreciate* a discussion -outside the poohpoohs of the yesmen.

    you mess with serious issues and i will sure-as-hell come back!

  48. you said: “Its amusing that despite having so much dislike for me (of course being a govt agent I dont expect much better), how often you choose to hang around here.”

    i have no dislike for you. i am just speaking my own mind. and its very bright to consider someone a “govt agent” – just because the person uses facts & logic that doesnt suit your tastes and that person is standing up for what has no means of defending itself here.

    and as for *hanging* around here: sorry, but i am no regular visitor here. only because you were spreading what was factually wrong, did i stay around, doing what anybody not-carried-away should. my only other comment was on that himmesh resh..post.

    Are you basically telling us that ppl who dont poohpooh you shouldnt be coming to your blog? no, i have no problem sleeping.

  49. @kaunteya: hehehe!!!! you are sso smart!!

    but c’mmon…what did you mean???…not all who come here have to be chatterjees / bannerjees/ etc… 😉

  50. well. before this spirals into a long bash-him session (i hope it doesnt) – i want to re-iterate that I derive no fun from generally-bashing-someone. my only point was in my first comment on this post…and i hold absolutely no grudge against anyone here..and no, i *really* dont work/havent ever worked for GOI, i dont even work in India. i am a software dev (surprise?!!) working for a company thats rooted in the US.

    All but my 1st comment were in response to GBs response to my 1st comment.

    As for tolerance of dissenting voice on this blog: “@Dipanjan: Why just Soubhagya? As Sneha says: “its for ze national security Herr Fuhrer”….”

    Wheres the room for a sane discussion, gb?

    irony is that the comments section is clearly against the principle the post tries to exalt., but well, not my problem and does not bother me.

  51. Censorship in India is inconsistent and haphazard to say the least.

    Local and Central governments will ban/reject a book/film on the pretext that it will be dangerous to religious sentiments or social harmony. Examples are the James Laine book – An Epic on Shivaji, books by Salman Rushdie, the Peter Seller’s comedy ‘The Party’, and even the innocuous (though a bit silly) documentaries made by Louis Malle in the late 60’s.

    Most of the Anand Patwardhan documentaries [patwardhan.com] were banned/not cleared and his battles with the Indian censor boards show the tolerance level for the overlords are very low. One of the documentaries (‘Father, Son and Holy War’) had footage of the chief minister of the state of Maharashtra and later the speaker of Lok Sabha – Manohar Joshi extolling Hindu women during a rally in a remote Maharashtrian town to give birth to more children to offset the rise in Muslim population (typical FUD by hardliners). If such utterances can be made at a political rally, I have no idea what banning the documentary will prove.

    Infact ‘Father, son and holy war’ has an episode where a Muslim cleric is asking believers not to indulge in masturbation.

    On the other end of the spectrum you have Christians (only priests, real Christians will have no problems and are cynical to the establishment which represents them) in India feeling ‘uneasy’ with films like ‘Da Vinci Code’ or ‘sexploitation’ flicks like ‘SINS’ which had a Christian priest getting into an affair. The so-called ‘controversy’ would have benefited the Producers as free publicity.

    The same time, the most vulgar, sexist and reactionary Hindi (Bollywood for you), Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam or other popular cinema pass the censors with absolutely no problem.

    Also the Indian Government is yet to relax its hold on radio and licenses to operate a station which actually reach the 100% of the Indian population (compared to 10-20% reach of the mostly urban satellite/cable.)

  52. Interestingly, what has made the greatest impression on me in this whole “blockspot” fiasco is Sneha’s comment (and those by others saying ‘it’s not a big deal’). I find that even more disturbing than the blocking. I’d forgotten how many (if not most) people actually prefer to live under a nanny state.

    Yes, dammit, it is a big deal. Ever heard of the expression ‘thin end of the wedge?’

    Although in reality I don’t really think this was an Orwellian attempt to infringe upon our freedom of speech (our babus are too dumb to think in those terms), I’m guessing some opportunistic bureaucrat decided ‘What can I do to look cool and tech-savvy without going to too much trouble? Um… let’s block these blogs or whatever they’re called.’ Brownie points!

    After all, curbing the rivers of hate spewed in Madrassas all over the country would be just too hard, wouldn’t it?

  53. whether censorship is justified or not is one thing but eventually whether it achieves the desired effect is quite another matter bcos its done so arbitrarily.somewhere somebody does not like bar girls, someone doesnt like couples sitting in each others personal spaces or talking about premarital sex.
    ur opening para is too too much.
    ur translation of Hindi is so brilliant that its forever changed my view of Bongs not knowing Hindi.

  54. Dear GB
    I do not even dream that you stop seeing and hearing, or for that matter blogging, anything. My humble request is to check out your previous two blogs (and the comments) and try to identify the logic of one Ms. Arundhati Roy.
    Uff, another interesting BLOG goes off the list. Sob, sob …

  55. First Things First – Great Post.
    My take is a little different though. This is not a classic case of censorship gone wrong per se. Yes they made a huge mess of things by blocking the wrong sites – but the blocking of the blogspot, geocities and typepad domains (in hindsight) was actually inteligent potlics(my speculation and I’m definetly not endorsing it). Just hear me out. There would have been no coverage if the government had just banned a few sites(the 3 or 4 mentioned). Maybe some blogger would have unearthed it and probably sparked of a huge rage in blogosphere but it would never have got this kind of coverage in the MSM(there is no such thing as bad press). So the intent not being prevention of hate propagation but getting some air time on how the govt is going about its “sceularization”. Since the actual number of people affected is insignificant, the GOI runs no risk of alientating its vote base but actually, like you put it, catered to it.

    P.S – I havent read all the comments – so in case someone has already rattled out any of the above sorry for the redundancy.

  56. Have you thought about one thing – that assuming that the fiasco is due to the GOI’s incompetence, and not a deliberate attempt to muzzle freedom, the effect is not very different from what a seriously evil government would start off by doing?

    This way, when a tyrant does take over, we will not be able to distinguish between an incompetent government, and a tyrannical one.

    Just the right atmosphere for a takeover by a dictatorial group (it can be anything of course, in name – Communist, Fascist, Hindutva, Islamist, anything…The actions and effects will be similar) Of course they will not masquerade as dictatorial – only as a party that is patriotic and believes in a strong and powerful state which is good for the people.

    The only way this can be fought is by the government following a strictly liberal (doesn’t it sound contradictary?) and secular policy, and actually proving that it is doing good for the people.

    But then, if it was capable of it, we wouldn’t be in this shit, would we?

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  58. Dear Sayon,

    I guess the old adage still holds good– we get the rulers we deserve.

    No wonder in India, ‘politican’ equals criminal and ‘bureaucrat’ is synonymous with inept, bumbling and plain lazy good-for-nothings-but-taking-bribes.

    What happens to those ‘brilliant’ people who crack the IAS exams? Don’t we have a cousin and her husband in that hallowed brigade?

    Maybe, like that physist’s cat, an honest politician and a competant bureaucrat are theotitically and practically impossible?

    Please, now will some poitician and bureaucrats write in?

    I am getting tired of that one lone Dash fighting against ‘shaat german shathhey’

  59. I was never commenting on this blocking bussiness. The farce that this blocking is, achieves nothing at all. It was just too silly on the govt’s part. I was just commenting on the frequently used argument that ‘we’ have chosen them.

  60. oh! what a relief.

    you see, i am not computer or net savvy at all. i just happen to use the thing.

    so when my inane two-bits disappeared from the screen, i was highly agitated– was it big brother, was it a techno-neta (ghost of pramod?) or was it an irate govt.net?

    maybe it was you? maybe you have legions of friends-and-relatives who are hardworking honest officials in the GOI? maybe you plan to run in the next election?

    for the catch22 person
    as for ‘us’ electing ‘them’, i thought that ‘they’ pretty much manipulate themselves into power and we are always pretty much agitated and helpless about it.

  61. @swati:
    ‘We get the rulers we deserve’

    Its quite possible that there is a political equivalent of Gresham’s law – “Bad politicians drive out the good”

    the trouble with governance is that it takes a legion of good leaders and administrators to make it run well, and with the inefficiency in the system goes up exponentially with the complexity, requiring more honest and efficient people to run it.

    Even a handful of good IAS/ IES/ IFS officers or ministers cannot undo the bad done by the handful of bad ones in an environment full of mediocre people. Mediocrity makes it impossible to weed out the bad ones.

    I remember witnessing a case when I saw a state party chief pressurising a junior IAS officer to sanction funds for a non-existant project. The best the IAS officer, who is one of the clean, efficient officers in the system, could do was to say, ‘I will not sanction the money – talk to my Joint Secretary.’

    I don’t know what happenned later – but if the JS had been corruptible, the money would have been sanctioned, all set to be siphoned off into party pockets, despite the honest IAS officer in charge of the sanctioning.

    This money was for the upliftment of poor rural people in the North-East. If the money is siphoned off, and much of it is, the people who it is for will be neglected to the point that they will feel alienated from the state – and with a bit of rabble-rousing, can turn into tomorrow’s terrorist. For illustration, look at Punjab, Kashmir, NE states, Maoists etc.

    Why am i discussing this in this forum. Because i firmly believe that the type of propoganda the government is trying to ban will not work unless the people targeted are alienated from the state in the first place.

    That will happen, despite many many good officers – it will happen as long as there is a preponderance of mediocre/ inefficient administrators whose inefficiency hide the bad apples.

    The GOI, in its most bumbling way seeks to block the propaganda, and not reverse the alienation. Do we have a hope that it will be more effective than it has been before?

  62. @ sayon
    There is a temple in China which venerates an honest efficient administrator of some bygone age.(He was responsible for some vast dam cum irrigation project and did not line his pockets)

    I mean, look you, if imperial china with one of the most organised bureaucracy could only produce ONE such person in about 3000 odd years, who are we to complain?

    Anyway, even the cultural revolution and the excesses of the gang of four left that temple untouched.

    Sapienti sat!

  63. @Arnab and others:

    I tend to think that asking us to move on is triviliasing the issue. The issue is not blogs. Frankly, blogs are as yet not very relevant to the country in any significant way. The issue is bigger – it is the freedom of expression and the government’s right to stifle what it does not like.

    In countries with wimpy, easily-swayed, reacitonary, and majorly-illiterate populations like India, ever government does that, albeit in different forms. Some do it by changing textbooks and “saffronizing” them. Other “detoxify” the same. Some hound media houses till they shut down (Tehelka). Others ban blogs. (Incidentally, whoever said the ban is lifted is incorrect. I can’t access a single blogspot site still.)

    The latest is an attempt to censot ALL ‘A’ rated movies on TV. All these movies will be snipped by the TV censor board and converted to ‘U’ ratings before being shown on TV. Get it? The censor board will actually edit for content. There will be no late night relaxations etc.

    This ideological stifling is dangerous and we have to be concerned. So I’m sorry but it’s not possible or desirable that we just “move on” because what the heck, a few blogs have been blocked!

    @Soubhagya Dash:
    You talk bloody too much. That’s the basic problem. Not your arguments, but the endless mind-numbingly boring repetition, and the unquenchable desire to get a last word in…uff

  64. I copletely agree that it is a case of censorship done wrong. I was laughing my guts out when I started visiting the list of banned sites. As I said on my blog:
    “Indian government banning a few websites on the grounds of bad graphics, annoying animated GIFs and unbalanced HTML tags. (After visiting the sites I couldn’t think of any other reason).” I really didn’t understand the rationale.

    Good post… hope you won’t be next on the list 😦

  65. Nice post. Very clearly, San Sonia and her cohorts are out to turn India into a communofascst state. BTW, don’t know if you have been following the action on the media bill – which gives any joker govt. oficial the right to censor TV channels. For all you know, this act of censorship og insignificant blogs is a curtain raiser – aimed at sending a message to MSM to toe the line and sing the praises of San Sonia and her leftist troup … or face the music.

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