Monday, October 24, 2011

An open letter - A need to moderate extremists on the forum

Dear Friends,

I hope this post finds you all in good health.

I am writing to you to draw your attention towards what I feel are the falling standards on the forum. I am sure you are well aware of some of these things but I fear the magnitude of this problem is poorly understood.

My sense of discomfort with this reached a peak with that behead4peace list that a poster put up. I watched in great dismay that so many people actually added names to the list and patted each other on the back before finally *one* member said something bad about it. This is where the forum is now.

Scarcely a day goes by without a serving or retired government official being abused on the forum. Even those in the highest offices of the land are accused of all manner of treachery without a shred of proof. The most common norms of decency and decorum are completely rejected in favour of passion and vituperation.

The exact posters who persist in such bad habits are well known. They have made a name for themselves by politisising debate on key issues pertaining to national security. Everything is being turned into a Congress v/s BJP drama, and frankly people like me don't care for that.

To sensible people, the forum is a place to come and read interesting tidbits of news -  a place to come and learn, possibly have an interesting discussion on matters of a topical nature. It is also a place to come a celebrate the act of being Indian. There are very few places left where this can be done now - the destructive media culture in India has wiped most of the places out. And so that is why - the forum to most of us is such a vital space.

Having the malcontent keep talking is always a good idea - that way if something utterly nasty is boiling underneath - we can first hear it from the horse's mouth - and I understand that point of view.

However allowing a form of destructive debate to dominate the forum, indeed force sensible posters to leave is not a good idea. It creates a situation where the lunatics are given the key to the asylum. (copyright Dilbert)

We in India are a very liberal people - we tolerate all manner of misbehaviour - but we all understand when someone goes too far.

Allow me to briefly recall the case of the assembly elections in Punjab in 1990. As I am sure you remember the GoI had declared a general amnesty and terrorists, criminals and history sheeters roamed the streets canvassing for votes and demanding all manner of money from ordinary people. Prior to the election the levels of violence reached truly staggering levels and the GoI was forced to cancel the election because too many candidates were killed by extremists. At that point in time, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, instructed the relevant secretaries of the cabinet to take whatever action was necessary to prevent a repeat of the cancellation. Not long after Sri. K P. S. Gill was given a green light to undertake police operations necessary to reduce violent crime in the region.

I think we are at a similar point on the forum. A clean up is overdue. Too many good posters have been driven off by a steady stream of nonsense from the extremists and the idea of keeping the extremists talking has reached the end of its utility.

Balance has to be restored.

To borrow the phrase of Inspector Pandit in the movie Maqbool... "Shakti ka santulan avashyak hain sansar mein... aag ko pani ka dar bane rehna chahiye..."

Jai Hind,


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