Thursday, October 28, 2010

“The Harm Principle”

First - some must read links that counter Arundhati Roy's arguments

By Faking News -

By Great Bong -
By Offstumped -
By Kanchan Gupta -

This post however is not about Arundhati Roy and her rants/ramblings/literature/rhetoric etc. The above 4 posts sum up the feelings of "millions" of people aptly (given that "millions" is a word that can be used freely, am taking that liberty too!).

Given her penchant to associate herself with "movements" that are "anti-India", her joining the chorus of "azaadi" seekers came as no surprise/shock to anybody. However, the media's attempts to view her comments in isolation and not as a continuation of her past rhetoric on other violent agitations in the country is very disturbing. The media has once again been succesfull in trivialising this entire issue and also in diverting it from the madness of Arundhati Roy. TV media had debates on whether the debate over Arundhati was an over-reaction! CNN-IBN's Sagarika Ghose went ahead and classified Arundhati's utterances as "creative freedom" that are being curbed by the state! Ofcourse, when asked by what stretch of imagination do her remarks constitute "creative freedom", we get no answer!

And then we have this editorial by The Hindu. Sample this line (emphasis mine):

"In his classic defence of free speech, On Liberty, John Stuart Mill laid down what is known as the 'harm principle.' It postulates that the only justification for silencing a person against his will is to prevent him from causing harm to others."

Small deviation - The emphasised line is common sense. Calling it "harm principle" to make it sound theoritically uplifting and supremely intellectual sounds somewhat funny.

Anyways, let's come back to the emphasis. So The Hindu quotes some author, who says a person can be silenced if his/her utterances are causing harm to others. Now, let's understand this statement in the context of A.Roy's statements. She has been a strong vocal supporter (CNN-IBN has a list of some her statements) of the Maoists - the same guys who go about blasting school buildings, government offices, railway tracks and also occasionally kill policemen. In my, and surely yours, dictionary, these constitute "harm". Now, are we to believe that these thugs are not emboldened by the support receieved by the likes of Arundhati Roy? By so strongly advocating their murderous cause, isn't Arundhati Roy causing "harm" to the civil society? Is it so unreasonable to assume that by her constant complaints against the "Indian Democracy", she is not causing "harm" to the system? By openly encouraging the stone pelters in Kashmir, she is not causing "harm"? In her fetish to write prose, she talks about "graves of Dalit Jawans", as if the other graves are of less significance. Is this not causing "harm" to the families of those who sacrificied their lives for this country? If not, what would you classify as "harm", Mr. N.Ram? If yes, should Arundhati Roy be "silenced", Mr. N.Ram ?

I do not wish to get into your bashing of the BJP and quoting of non-existence of some laws in certain countries (am quite used to both these styles of yours, and hence don't see a need to seek a clarification from you).

My next grouse is the quality of letters you published in your news paper today. Incidentally, none of them criticize your editorial. Most of them glorify Arundhati Roy. Those which don't are way too mild in their criticsim (if it can be called that). Are we to assume that your newspaper has recieved no sane criticism of either Roy or your editorial? Or have they not been published because they might cause "harm" to the newspaper?

Particularly, the 8th letter in this link is very disturbing. The writer (who is from Hyderabad) compares the beauty of Srinagar's natural wonders in the 1950's to the dirtiness surrounding them now, and reaches a conclusion that this "indifference" by the Indian state is the reason for the anger. Seriously Mr. N.Ram - that logic is what you found worth publishing in the newspaper? Shall I now try and compare Hyderabad of the 1950's to the Hyderabad of now, rue about the "indifference" and throw stones on the secretariat? Which Indian city has retained it's beauty from the 1950's? So, now all metros should start agitations I guess.

Freedom of Speech - the one that you so passionately espouse - is complete only when you publish alternate views and clarify your ambivalent stands. Else, it will "harm" the reputation of your newspaper.



Anonymous said...

Conpletely agree with your view that Arundhati Roy is causing harm by saying what she does- about the Naxal situation, also about the situation in Kashmir.

I am not so sure that silencing her would be advised, though. Her statement issued from Kashmir makes one think that she wants to be arrested, so she can become a martyr.

CodeNameV said...

Superbly written! Compelling and very wise. There is a definite need for The Hindu and Mr.N.Ram to introspect about their priorities. Does National Interest feature in The Hindu at all is the question he and his associate editors must answer with diligence, if they want to have any credibility in their point of view. Otherwise, history will view them as detractors of India's freedom, federal integrity and sovereignty.

Excellent piece sir. Take a bow.

prashhanthkpp said...

Cannot Agree more. N.Ram too, amongst the Barkhas and Sagarikas, postulates his own highly imaginative and illogical conclusions on issues that go way beyond his comprehension. It is only senseless cowards like N. Ram who can and will hug the butts of the likes of Arundathi Roys and others as above. He has this senseless flirtation with words failing to understand its significance befalling a subject especially when it is as sensitive as a case of sedition. These are the people who incur more HARM to society than anybody else. Punished, they should be for their stupidities.

Well done Sudheerji.

Thyagarajan said...

It would do a world of good to replace the A.Roy's name and replace it with Vaiko (for his pro eelam stace) or Varun Gandhi's stupid utterings and juxtapose the Harm Principle of Ram to find out if their actions have been justified or censured by him. Obviously you cannot have different standards for different individuals and nuance your editorials by adopting different benchmarks. If it is A. Roy, it is Harm principle and if it is somebody, Ram disagrees with, then some other principle be applied to criticize their actions. Hail the True champion of Freedom of Speech.

Aravindan said...

Look at the guy who talks about alternate views! You always jump the gun to criticize Congress or The Hindu and its editors. You have never yourself criticized BJP or RSS. You are just a shameless hypocrite as the people whom you criticize.And daily pioneer(the link you have posted)isn't any neutral/independent publication either (their political slant is obvious to any reader) and look at their comments section to understand if they have even remotely heard of anything called "alternate views".And no newspaper in the world would post abusive "rants"(the kind comments that you expect).Its just plain "common sense".

Sudhir said...

@Thyagarajan - I tried to dig up stuff on Vaiko, haven't been lucky so far. Good points you make.

@Manju, @Prashanth @CodeNameV - thanks guys :)

@Aravindan - ahh,the dissenting opinion. Sadly, your comment does not discuss the merit/demerit of the specific arguments I make in the blog piece. Instead, you launch a personal rhetoric which does not fit into any sensible mode of argument. From when did linking a newspaper article mean endorsing the newspaper as a whole. 90% of all my links in this blog are from Hindu - what should one deduce from that then? The Daily Pioneer article made sense to me, and hence I linked it. Obviously, you havent had the patience to read through my other blogs to check how many articles from The Hindu, I have linked.

Secondly, the very fact that your "alternate view" has been published on the blog without any moderation speaks about "freedom of speech". That is the same thing missing in the newspaper, and that's what I pointed out. If you think the above post of mine is a "abusive rant", then all I can pray is for you to get well soon.

Thirdly, the editor of Daily Pioneer is a member of the BJP, so to expect it to be unbiased is a tad foolish. Ask Hindu/NDTV etc to openly declare their bias and I will shut up.

Lastly, am just wondering - from when did having a political inclination translate to being "shameless hypocrite"? Wonder what that makes you, then?

In your quest to vent your unwanted frustration, you have resorted to some cheap name calling and I will leave it your conscience to decide whether it was warranted. I also challenge you to carry forward this debate, and I am willing to engage in a civil manner.

- Sudhir

Dirt Digger said...

there is a larger nexus between Islamic militancy, the NGO's and the media. Each funding the other other covertly to further their agendas of breaking up India. That is the the end game which should be exposed. Let us ask for audits of the NGO's, phone taps on Arundhati Roy and see who's been funding her. That will expose her real agenda.

Thyagarajan said...

Talking of Freedom of Press and Harm Principle, I would like to know on what basis, did LIC press for defamation suit against the IE and others, early this year, when they ran an expose of the family infighting to gain control of the Publications. Does anyone know the present status of the suit?

Sudhir said...

DD - today's pic of Arundhati Roy's home in The Hindu - it is anything but middle class! - speaks volumes about the need to see where she gets her funding from!

Thyagarajan - N.Ram has been consistently avoiding answering questions that relate to his flaky editorial policy. The previous readers editor did that, and he was asked to leave promptly! And we all know what the current RE does!


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