And this latest assault comes from two of our own kind in the Indian Blogdom and not from establishment figures like Barkha Dutt, Sagarika Ghose et al who bemoan that the “irresponsible” masses are speaking their mind bypassing their
propoganda machinery editorial process. Or I &B Minister Priyaranjan Dasmushi who considers himself the sole “moral” authority in what is to be broadcast or not by the TV channels. Or the Shivsena which routinely takes to the streets seeking ban on this or that.
The said two bloggers both went ballistic in the same week because they came across points of view opposite to their own which they found “offensive”.
One of them even sought a ban on what he considered as a “hate website”.The other questioned the motives of a prominent Indian News portal for giving people whom he considered as “hate mongers” and “fascists” a platform to express their opinion.
They both tried to justify their stand by using the same tired old vacuous argument used by many establishment crusaders all over the world to stifle dissent, that the Freedom of Speech should come with some kind of “responsibility”.
But the paradox is who gets to define what is responsible and what is not? Who gets to define what is hate speech and what is not? Since everyone carries his or her own prejudices, opinions and points of view. Everyone is therefore at sometime or the other going to ‘feel’ offended by something or someone.
None of us are therefore qualified to sit in the judgement of Others. Which is why the founding fathers of the US constitution who must surely be one of the wisest bunch of thinkers and visionaries ever assembled in one room for a common purpose put in provisions to constitutionally protect all kinds of Speech including ones that would be considered as hate speech.Even organisations that are obvious hate groups have the right to this constitutional protection.
Why did they do so? Especially when what passed for political debate in their own time was largely verbal and physical assaults, namecalling and worse. The reason is that they understood perfectly the concept of the slippery slope. Once one starts down a path there is no telling where things would end up. They knew that the first step towards tyranny is silencing dissent. And very often the would be tyrants would test the waters by seeking to ban what they claim as “hate speech” and imprisoning “hate mongers” and “fascists”. Thereafter it won’t be long before they start “finding” “hate speech” and “hate mongers” everywhere.Even among those who cheered them on or remained silent when they were taking down the so called “fascists”.
Alas! our own founding fathers were not as wise. As soon as the constitution was adopted with the guarantee to the right of freedom of speech many ifs and buts got inserted to control it. Many old colonial era laws also continued to hang onto the statute books. And to this day every two bit politician with an agenda and some hired thugs can go on the streets create a ruckus and unfortunately very often get his way. Books, movies, plays and TV channels get banned because they “offend” someone or the other or are accused of spreading hate among communities or being too steamy. The right to Information act passed after much struggle is sought to be diluted.
It is disheartening to see fellow bloggers go down the same path followed by the likes of mainstream media talking heads and politicians. They need to realise that if they condone midnight knocks for someone else just because they have a difference of Opinion with them and consider them as “fascists”. It won’t be long before that midnight knock comes around to their own doorstep after having finished with the others.
Once that “hate website” is pulled down the next target could well be your own “holier than thou website”. Once rediff is silenced it could be your chance next. That is the concept of the Slippery slope.And one is well advised to not go down that lane.