Tag Archives: Johann Hari

Ayn Rand, the anarcho-capitalist

I’m not saying it, Johann Hari is

But Rand’s rabid anarcho-capitalism has clearly tapped into something primal in American conservatism: it is revealing that she is almost invariably described as an “idealist”, rather than a maniac. She appeals to the ugliest side of Americanism (contrasting with its many, many strengths): a fear and hatred of the state, even in its most democratic form, and of wider collective action. Rand has only one conception of liberty -freedom from government. As one of her heroes, Howard Roark, says, “The only good which men can do to one another and the only statement of their proper relationship is – hands off!” Like most of the American right, she has no conception of positive liberty. When asked how free a man in Harlem with no healthcare insurance and a kid with cancer is, she has no answer. She cannot see when hands have been kept too far off.

For those who are not aware of what anarcho-capitalism is, it is a libertarian political philosophy invented by Murray Rothbard. To say that Rand hated statism is one thing (and is correct). To say that she demanded the elimination of government – anarchy – is a) a big lie, or b) insufficient research. And yes, Rand did not believe in the so-called “positive liberty”. If you want positive liberty, stick to people like Rawls. As for “how free a man in Harlem with no healthcare insurance and a kid with cancer is” she did not believe that X’s misfortunes gave X the right to demand that Y support him. See, she did have an answer.

There are more such outlandish statements in the article (and Hari uses “in fact” where there are no facts). Anyone who knows Rand and is familiar with her works will burst out laughing on reading it. While Rand was not “perfect” or “absolutely right” on every issue she spoke on, her ethics are on pretty solid ground. All people have to do is go and read. But then, nothing can convince a man who does not want to be convinced – particularly a left-leaning intellectual who is for “positive liberty”, socialism and a re-distributive state.

If you missed the riots in Calcutta in Feb ’09 thanks to an all-India media blackout, you should know that Hari’s article on Islam triggered it.

[Found the link to the article here. I am surprised that I didn’t see it earlier. Seems none of the bloggers/ sites I follow like The Huffington Post.]

Wimps

That’s what they are – the Indian media. Its been three days since the “secular” communist government of West Bengal arrested (and then released on bail) the editor and publisher of “The Statesman” because of “Muslim anger,” and barring very very very few exceptions, the whole Indian media is absolutely silent – as if nothing has happened at all. 20 people barged into a bar, and the Hindu Taliban is born; 4000 people riot in Calcutta and everyone behaves as if nothing has happened. Why is the Indian media silent?

Some decent “Indian” coverage from-

Johann Hari, the man whose article made the mob go crazy for its Prophet, says he stands by his article

A religious idea is just an idea somebody had a long time ago, and claimed to have received from God. It does not have a different status to other ideas; it is not surrounded by an electric fence none of us can pass.

That’s why I wrote: “All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don’t respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a “Prophet” who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him. I don’t respect the idea that the West Bank was handed to Jews by God and the Palestinians should be bombed or bullied into surrendering it. I don’t respect the idea that we may have lived before as goats, and could live again as woodlice. When you demand “respect”, you are demanding we lie to you. I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade.”

An Indian newspaper called The Statesman – one of the oldest and most venerable dailies in the country – thought this accorded with the rich Indian tradition of secularism, and reprinted the article. That night, four thousand Islamic fundamentalists began to riot outside their offices, calling for me, the editor, and the publisher to be arrested – or worse. They brought Central Calcutta to a standstill. A typical supporter of the riots, Abdus Subhan, said he was “prepared to lay down his life, if necessary, to protect the honour of the Prophet” and I should be sent “to hell if he chooses not to respect any religion or religious symbol? He has no liberty to vilify or blaspheme any religion or its icons on grounds of freedom of speech.”

Then, two days ago, the editor and publisher were indeed arrested. They have been charged – in the world’s largest democracy, with a constitution supposedly guaranteeing a right to free speech – with “deliberately acting with malicious intent to outrage religious feelings”. I am told I too will be arrested if I go to Calcutta.

The foreign media has covered it pretty decently (see my original post) and this is from The Telegraph (Britain)

Religious leaders – often self-appointed – are easily outraged and mobs easily incited into action that sees them torch public transport, block crucial nerve centres of already chaotic traffic systems and even bring about total city shutdowns (locally called bandhs).

But does that mean bowing before the diktats of a handful of fundamentalists at the cost of curbing free speech?

[…]

This was the first time that an editor of a respected daily was arrested for “outraging religious feelings”, which incidentally is an offence under the Indian Penal Code.

When I called The Statesman, they did not seem very keen to discuss the matter and pointed me to their and the Independent’s website.

But a former colleague at a senior editorial position of another city English daily (who wished not to be named) provided some insight. Despite “liking the logic of the article”, he admitted that his paper (with a significantly higher circulation than The Statesman’s) would not have reproduced it because it was simply “not worth getting into the trouble”. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for press freedom. But when you know the possible outcome, it’s best to be practical and avoid these situations.”

He also assured me that very few if any at all among the protesters had bothered to read the original article or were expressing anger they genuinely felt. That job was left to the religious bosses who pulled their strings. The demonstrations had only started after local Urdu papers picked up the issue and urged fellow Muslims to take action over it. The result – protests, clashes with the police and the subsequent arrests of the Statesman duo.

“Practical.” Figures. I am waiting to see what MJ Akbar’s take on the issue is – in tomorrow’s Times of India is – if he bothers to touch it. The next time an Indian newspaper or television channel editor talks about “the freedom of the press,” spit on his face.

“The Statesman” editor, publisher arrested for “hurting religious feelings” of Muslims

Damn it! Had barely finished my last post when I read this post from Sans Serif.

“The Statesman” republished an op-ed from “The Independent,” Britain – “Why should I respect these oppressive religions?”. Some Muslims in Calcutta went berserk like they did in the case of Taslima Nasreen. A case was filed against editor – Ravindra Kumar, and the publisher – Anand Sinha, and they were arrested and lated released on bail. Read more about it here and here.

I never heard about it before; I don’t think the Times of India even mentioned the story. They wrote pages when their Ahmedabad editor was charged with sedition for writing about the city police commissioner. And the Indian media is absolutely silent with even The Hindu issuing a terse two paragraph announcement. But I don’t expect too much from them – its each man for himself, ideology be damned. Rats, all of them!

I am linking to this article again (I did it in my previous post, at the very end) because it is incredibly well written, and talks about the same thing that Kumar is being punished for – the criminalizing of opinion – “hate speech.”

If a State doesn’t allow you to hold an opinion without throwing you in jail, the laws of the State deserves no respect. Compliance maybe – you comply with a thief who points a gun at you – but no respect. And that is my position on the Indian ‘Justice’ System.