One has reasons to be concerned over the ill-concealed irrationality of a small number of people, who have been exploiting the advantages of anonymity and wide dissemination for irrational and venomous thoughts provided by the Internet, to indulge in a vicious campaign against those with whom they are in disagreement.
2. One could see from the nature of the campaign and the language used by those engaged in spreading venom that they are or must be from the right of the political spectrum. They do have a legitimate grievance that the traditional Indian print and electronic media does not give them time and space for giving vent to their point of view. One could understand their attempts to use the Internet to propagate their point of view and to counter that of those who, according to them, monopolise attention in the traditional media.
3. While one cannot object to the attempts of the rational elements on the right of the political spectrum to use the Internet for propagating their ideology, one has to be seriously concerned over the emergence of a group of apparently irrational elements on the right of the political spectrum, which is seeking to distort and venomise the political debate by using language, arguments and tactics, which are not dissimilar from those used in the past by irrational elements such as the Nazis and the Fascists.
4. Their language, arguments and tactics are also not dissimilar from those used by some of the contemporary irrationals such as the jihadi extremists and the right-wing extremists and the Neo-Nazis of Europe.
5.These irrational Indian elements belonging to the right of the political spectrum, whose hatred of anybody whom they don’t like, has to be seen, read and felt to be believed, have been misusing the Internet for carrying on an indecent and vicious campaign against certain individuals whom they do not like such as Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress ( I ), Barkha Dutt and Sagarika Ghose, the TV journalists, and others.
6. The worrisome depth to which their campaign has sunk has become evident from the vicious comments and wishes being disseminated by these elements through the Internet following reports that Sonia Gandhi has been taken by her family to the US for medical treatment. They do not conceal a certain venomous glee over the indisposition of Sonia Gandhi.
7. Their obnoxious campaign is directed not only against Sonia Gandhi, but also against Barkha Dutt for favouring the right to privacy of Sonia Gandhi and her family in the matter of her indisposition. Some might rationally disagree with Barkha on this point, but what one has been seeing is not a rational disagreement, but an irrational wave of attacks on her, including expression of wishes or curses that Barkha herself should develop the same illness as Sonia Gandhi for defending the latter’s right to privacy.
8.Obviously, people, who are indulging in the spread of hatred and venom, constitute a small minority, but that is not a valid argument for ignoring their activities. As I had argued on many occasions in my past articles, history is replete with instances when irrational minorities prevailed over rational or moderate majorities because of the failure of the majority to confront the irrationals with determination and solidarity. We saw such instances in Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan and Mao’s China.
9. The antidote to this lies not in imposing curbs on the use of the Internet in order to prevent these elements from misusing the Internet, but in exposing the activities of these elements, in standing in solidarity with their targeted victims and in finding ways of using existing laws against hate-mongering through the conventional media against those indulging in hate-mongering through the new media of the Internet. (5-8-11)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter @SORBONNE75 )