In response to my post on Indian government’s ban of blogs, a friend wrote the following (edited by me only to preserve context, and protect identity):
I…always thought govt. should block all blogs and I think it’s a move in the right direction. It may be because my understanding of blogs was/is still wrong. I don’t think our free speech will be discouraged if we publish our feelings/opinion in books/magazines/newspapers etc… It’s just that government wants us to take ownership of our opinion. A blog is something anybody can write (badmouth) anonymously (hence no responsibility) and that’s only as good (and desirable) as the person writing it. It appeared all freedom and no accountability to me. I prefer no responsibility, no freedom deal. I fully support the move.
btw.. is my understanding of how blogs work wrong? please enlighten.
My response below:
I think the points you raise are exactly what have been raised elsewhere, most notably the government publications, and MSM journalists. It is exactly this justification used by Government when they deny information regarding their actions/inaction to the public at large. Either this or a version of this along the lines of “sensitive” information(1)(2).
I think the issue here is of freedom…without freedom of speech, there’s no freedom of thought…and without freedom of thought, a people can’t be free…as a result when governments usurp this freedom, they strip their people of the basic human right required for a functioning democracy.
As Voltaire said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. That was the foundation of ALL democracies.
However, if we do not want a real democracy, but only want to keep a pretence of a sham democracy, then “some curbs” in the name of “sensitivities” will be justified.
Further, nothing stops someone from expressing their opinion anonymously in mainstream media (or MSM as the bloggers call it). We have a myth of “source-verification” as a proxy for “fact-validation” (essentially, the mistaken belief that anonymous opinions are somehow less trustworthy than those for which the source can be verified).
In cases of dictatorial regimes(3), the reality is exactly the opposite. Note for example the case of Solzhenitsyn being more trustworthy than Pravda, even though almost all of his works were published anonymously intially, and even later when they were published under his name, most people in the western world had no clue who the guy was (which is not hard to understand given the fact that he’d spent 17 years in exile within Soviet Union prior to publication).
Further, don’t you think it’s better to let someone publish their thoughts and let the people decide what they want to believe. If, as you argue, anonymous speech is less trustworthy than the source-verified one, shouldn’t we let the people decide that for themselves? Or, like most intellectuals, do you believe in the sham democracy where only people of a certain strata (age/gender/religion/class/economic status/educational status/physical attributes) should be allowed to think for themselves?(4)
Further, regarding how blogs work, please note that the Blogosphere so far has proved to be a remarkablyefficient self-regulating place. Members who report stories without due investigation/verification get refuted almost instantaneously. Further the only currency of the blogs is their trustworthiness (the same currency that any other media deals in). It takes a while for you to gain that currency, and but a couple of shoddy posts to destroy it. Whether yo write anonymously, under a pen-name, or under your own name, you still have to be responsible & coherent(5).
(1) Another example in this era of google maps, is the Indian Government’s refusal to allow you to photograph any dam, power station, and bridge, most of which are built with foreign collaboration anyway!
2) Notice also the government’s response to this issue which is demonstrated by 2 stements: “We would like those people to come forward who access these (the 12) radical websites and please explain to us what are they missing from their lives in the absence of these sites.” & “Somebody must have blocked some sites. What is your problem?”
(3) And let’s not harbour any illusions, all governments have delusions of grandeur leading to displays of dictatorial tendencies.
(4) It is indeed interesting that Indians can choose their rulers on a five-year basis, but cannot choose which film to watch, which book to read, and which sites to see on the internet. The argument somehow is always one of “sensitivities” or “cultural corruption”. However, that is a topic in itself, and i’ll tackle that later.
(5) Which is probably why blogs like mine which deal with individualistic rants have vieewership in low 50’s while well-researched & much better-written Amit Verma & Falstaff have an audience of thousands! 😉