Tag Archives: censorship

The Theory of Hurt Sentiments

“Hurt sentiments” are a strange thing. X decides he does not like what Y has written, or said, or done, and then goes to court about it. It’s not as if he was thrashed by Y; more like he thrashed himself and then held Y responsible for his own actions. The idea of libel/slander/defamation, and (nearly) all censorship is based on this ridiculous notion. The Americans are the only people in the world who, thanks to the first-rate minds behind the First Amendment, enjoy some measure of protection under law when it comes to censorship; even they are not immune from persecution for libel. The rest of humanity is at the mercy of lunatics and barbarians.

The comment by a judge of the Delhi HC warning Google and Facebook that the judiciary would “go China” on them unless they get their act together is par for the course as far as India is concerned. Politicians and judges indulge in this behavior only because the majority of people in the country are in favor of such enforcement.

Mencken was right.

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The land of the free

From an Ars interview with a US Congresswoman-

You know, these guys in the content industry, they came to us when I was in the Congress when we did the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They wanted to go farther; at one point, the original draft outlawed Web browsing, which I thought was interesting.

We did the bill, and they’re complaining. It’s what they wanted, but it’s not enough. Now they want to do something else, which is really pretty draconian, and I think out of step with the American tradition of due process. They’re not using the remedies available to them right now, and if this passes, in a couple years they’ll come back with something even more draconian. I don’t have a lot of patience for that, really.

I found this clip from a Marx Brothers film thanks to a quote on this website that covers censorship news from that fount of all things insane: the UK-

You can read the lyrics at the end of this page.

Annoyance

The Indian IT Act of 2000/2008 already prescribes punishment for causing “annoyance” via electronic means. According to new rules prescribed under the act, which is being seen as a “blogger control act,” now “intermediaries” are required to take “due diligence” and see to it that their users (bloggers/commenters etc) fall in line by warning them against publishing/storing/etc etc information which:

is harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, blasphemous, objectionable, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever;

or

causes annoyance or inconvenience or deceives or misleads the addressee about the origin of such messages or communicates any information which is grossly offensive or menacing in nature;

or

threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or or public order or causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence or prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any other nation.

etc etc etc.

I would have been surprised had I been under the illusion that the constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights, or that we were a civilized country. Since none of the above is true and similar language can be found in nearly every act passed by the Indian parliament, the “rules,” the secretions of an authoritarian mind, are simply business as usual.

Mothership

Pritish Nandy’s got it the beginning wrong while writing about bans-

India’s a great democracy, give or take a few aberrations. We have a free vote, a media that largely speaks its mind. Top politicians still get caught out for their indiscretions, so do leading businessmen. And yes, we read what we want to, watch what we choose, say what we desire without being unduly worried. But will it stay this way forever? One’s beginning to have serious doubts.

The reason’s simple. Our leaders are always looking for a quick fix, even when it compromises on our most basic freedoms, as enshrined in the Constitution.

When the constitution itself is a compromise, how can anyone compromise on anything in it? If one forgets India’s pre-English history, and takes a look at countries that have followed the English “interpretation” when it comes to rights and freedom (Canada and Australia) they are eons away from the American “interpretation” of such concepts. Thus, while the English bloc relies on “society” to decide what is permissible and not, the US has its First Amendment. Its the idea that matters. And the English idea sucks.


Dasgupta swallows Mukherjee’s most important line when he writes this-

On November 28, 2007, Pranab Mukherjee had assured the Lok Sabha that “India has never refused shelter to those who had come and sought our protection…This civilizational heritage, which is now the government’s policy, will continue, and India will provide shelter to Ms Nasreen.”

Mukherjee is a politician. And here’s the relevant part of the statement

Throughout history, India has never refused shelter to those who have come and sought our protection. This civilizational heritage, which is now government policy, will continue, and India will provide shelter to Ms. Nasreen. Those who have been granted shelter here have always undertaken to eschew political activities in India or any actions which may harm India’s relations with friendly countries. It is also expected that the guests will refrain from activities and expressions that may hurt the sentiments of our people.

I know this because I’ve written about it previously

Taslima Nasreen has accepted defeat. The Government of India (through Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee) issued a veiled warning to her – India has never turned back people who have sought shelter with it. And in return, these ‘guests’ have always taken care not to hurt the sentiments of the people or India’s relations with other countries. Not his exact words, but this is more or less what he has said.

An “assurance” it was not.

Censorship, limited liability etc

The censorship-as-trade-barrier argument is a consequentialist one, a very slippery slope, and an insult to the idea of freedom. Unfortunately, Google plans to paint China into a corner by joining hands with people who have no great respect for freedom—the governments of the USA and those of many European countries—and who think this is a brilliant defense of freedom-

Robert Boorstin, Google’s director of corporate and policy communications, said the company is working with the Office of the US Trade Representative, the State Department, Commerce Department and European officials to build a case to take to the World Trade Organization.

Such a case could help US tech companies seeking greater access to Chinese consumers while furthering the US government’s human rights agenda.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her technology advisers have promoted Internet freedom as a basic human right.

“Google believes very strongly, as do other companies, that censorship is a trade barrier,” Boorstin said…

Clinton can tell those dying on the streets of Tehran that freedom is all about a trade dispute-

The leaders of the so-called Green Movement — the former presidential candidates Mir Hussein Moussavi, a former prime minister, and Mehdi Karroubi, a former speaker of Parliament — have not dropped their demands for more political freedom. But they have dropped their policy of direct confrontation with the government, saying it is not worth the price in blood and heavy prison terms, and canceled demonstrations planned for Saturday after failing to receive a permit.

The security services made clear in the days leading to the anniversary that anyone taking to the streets would be dealt with harshly. On Friday, people in Tehran reported receiving a threatening text message on their cellphones.

“Dear citizen, you have been tricked by the foreign media and you are working on their behalf,” the message read. “If you do this again, you will be dealt with according to Islamic law.”

Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah must be rotfl-ing.

The oil spill is evoking comparisons to the Bhopal gas leak, as it should. There is a lot in common.

The NYT is debating the US government’s plan to force BP to skip its dividend payout. There are a couple of libertarians in the debate who are against such an action. I don’t support their view. I don’t support the planned action either.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the concept of a limited liability company and the protection such an entity receives under the law. Of course such an entity could tie its clients, suppliers etc down into contracts with a limited liability clause. But it cannot limit its liability to third parties this way. And neither should governments do so. That’s why the cap that the US government has in place for various disasters such as nuclear meltdown, or an oil spill, and the one that the Indian government is considering, is bad law.

In an ideal situation, BP would be allowed to pay out the dividend as and when it wanted. But its shareholders would be responsible for every last penny that the company is unable to shell out when the time comes to pay the compensation. Bankruptcy will not be an option.

And this is why the Indian government’s action in the Bhopal case is unforgivable. Instead of investigating the incident and fixing responsibilities, it became a party to the dispute by taking over the power to settle on behalf of the dead and injured. After making a bad settlement and screwing up on the distribution front, and failing miserably on the investigation front, its hunting for a unicorn. As if hanging Anderson will make its sins go away. Bharat Desai describes an interesting sequence on his TOI blog-

Being in such august company, it was easy for me to know what had happened. Chief minister Arjun Singh had apparently not consulted the caretaker Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi before ordering the arrest of Anderson on December 7. After the arrest, Rajiv Gandhi’s powerful aide and cousin, Arun Nehru, telephoned Arjun Singh and told him that US President Ronald Regan had called up the Indian PM and ‘requested’ him to release Anderson immediately. Now, Rajiv Gandhi was an Indian Airlines pilot, accustomed to taking only orders from air traffic control. The job of prime minister was thrust upon him because of his mother’s assassination just one month before the gas disaster. He couldn’t have resisted the top man in the White House.

Having spent many years in Congress politics trying to cultivate a relationship with Indira Gandhi, Singh gave ground easily because the orders were obviously coming from a new leadership. A wily politician, often called Chanakya in Madhya Pradesh, he was quick to understand that his survival in the uncertain world of politics depended on his serving his new political masters, rather than upholding Indian law in a city strewn with thousands of human corpses. Instead of cross-checking with Rajiv Gandhi on such an important issue, lest he upsets Arun Nehru in the process, he passed on the order to the then chief secretary Brahm Swaroop. The bureaucracy’s head told the Bhopal district magistrate Moti Singh to release Anderson and even escort him to a waiting state government aircraft which flew him to New Delhi. Superintendent of police Swaraj Puri obediently helped Moti Singh carry out the orders. Arjun Singh had failed the Indian Civil Services examination before turning a politician but he knew how to have a firm grip over the bureaucracy.

There are times when I envision “Congress ka haath” as a hand with its middle finger pointed towards the citizenry.

[Sauvik has written quite a few posts on why torts and not criminal cases are the way to go in such cases. Read them.]