Barkha Dutt, in her
rant op-ed piece in Hindustan Times titled Everyman’s Story on 30 Dec 2006 writes about her views on the New Media, whose rise to prominence was also celebrated by the Time Magazine at the end of 2006 by terming it and everyone involved with it as its’ Person of the Year.
She starts her article with the obligatory platitudes to the “faceless multitudes” who according to her are now taking interest in the collection and dissemination of information and are also making their opinion on various issues of public interest known.
And then she goes on to make a startling claim that “popular opinion is often bigoted, blasphemous and banal”. But neglects to mention from whose viewpoint is that so.
Surprisingly, she a prominent journalist who owes her job to the constitutional guarantee of Freedom of speech seems to plump for censorship when she says.
Thankfully, we can screen and censor these messages most of the time(except when they are going on ‘live’).
Before one wonders what’s going on. She makes it clear where she is coming from.
Even So, there is always the danger that majority opinion can steamroll enlightened thought, and we, in the media, must be mindful of that.
So this is where the mask slips off. She is fine with the concept of freedom of speech as long as it gives her and people like her, who share her views the right to freedom of speech. The moment someone with an opposing viewpoint comes forward, somehow that same freedom of speech is not so sacrosanct for her anymore.
But the agonising question which has exercised even the greatest of great minds for millenia is who gets to decide who is “enlightened” and who is not? Is it the tenured bureaucrat sitting in Shastri bhavan, the politician, the media anchor in the studio, the various upholders of public morality who demand censorship of movies, books, plays and festivities which they do not like?
How is her views any different from that of the many authoritarian governments across the world who regularly censor the media and restrict access to the Internet by giving the same reasons that she is espousing- i.e., to uphold public morality or to moderate and mediate public opinion which according to them might be “bigoted”, “blasphemous” and “banal” ?
She is on a very slippery slope here and probably knows it which is why she then tries to make her case by ranting against a now defunct blog called Warfornews which had a bunch of her fellow professional journalists who published leaked emails and publicised office gossip from the news media and tries to extrapolate it to include all the bloggers from various backgrounds and blogging on almost every other topic under the sun in the same tent, which is much more ludicrous than it seems.
She thus fails in her misguided attempt to strike a blow against Liberty. Her inane logic and reasoning fails to convince that Freedom of speech should have ‘caveats’ introduced by a bunch of “enlightened thinkers”. This is a line of reasoning which very soon leads to subsequent censorship and oppression in the name of the common good, public morality and/or mediation- The control of the masses by the “enlightened few”.