It is now all too common: mediapersons demanding that “abusive” right wingers on Twitter and other social media platforms be crucified by the law.
For the sake of this post, I will ignore the double standards of Lutyensites on abuse, depending on who it comes from. It would be boring and uninteresting to dig through Twitter and find Congi and AAP handles (including some sensitive celebrities) spouting the vilest abuses. That would be too easy.
No, I want to address the more difficult and fundamental issues around the legal and moral aspects of “abuse” and ask the uncomfortable questions.
First, let me say two things very clearly:
(A) I try not to use abusive language on this blog and request commenters not to use abusive language.
(B) I am a huge fan of abusive language and strongly wish to use abusive language.
Huh? Contradiction, no?
Let me explain. I strongly believe that the so called abusive language, except in cases where it meets a very narrowly tailored definition of clear, imminent and plausible threats of violence, should totally be protected by free speech laws. In fact, abusive language and threats of violence have nothing to do with each other. One can easily make clear threats of imminent violence without any use of the so called “abusive language”. And I will go over and above supporting the right to abusive language, I will in fact go ahead and wish that everyone used it. Why? Because I believe that abusive language is a very powerful and honest form of self expression. You can see here the legendary George Carlin expose the social hypocrisy on abusive language in his famous monologue called : “Seven dirty words you can’t say on TV”
The high point of this bit is when Carlin lists all the euphemisms we have for abusive language :
“We have more ways to describe the dirty words that we have actual dirty words..Someone was quite interested in these words. They kept referring to them: they called them bad, dirty, filthy, foul, vile, vulgar, coarse, in poor taste, unseemly, street talk, gutter talk, locker room language, barracks talk, bawdy, naughty, saucy, raunchy, rude, crude, lewd, lascivious, indecent, profane, obscene, blue, off-color, risqué, suggestive, cursing, cussing, swearing.. ”
So, yeah, I do not have one bit of patience nor respect for the politeness police and regard them essentially as fascists. I do not regard anyone as one bit superior for not using abusive language. I know they are thinking it. I won’t respect them for covering up their true feelings.
That said, let me come back to my point (A) where I said that I try not to use abusive language on my blog and request commenters not to use it either. Because I am scared. I am scared because I live in a nation without solid protections for free speech. I am scared that if I use abusive language, I will be dragged to jail due to some silly fascist law. And I am a common man without the contacts and resources to fight the system. This is the one and only reason I shut up.
I don’t want to threaten anyone with violence. I just wish to express my political beliefs and opinions about certain people in the language of my choice. But every single day I am forced to bite my lip and shut up. Because I am not rich. Because I have no contacts. Because I am scared. If there is even one honest Lutyensite left, tell me how you square this with your liberal principles? No, you can’t, because you Lutyenistes are happy with the establishment. It works for you. You want people like me to shut up.
You Lutyensites will probably tell me that abusive language is not “essential”. That I can express myself just as well without abusive language. So what? Or as Mani Shankar Aiyar would have said, so bloody what? Why should I have to change my choice of words because YOU don’t happen to like it? I could easily argue that beef is not “essential” to survive. That you could survive just as well without eating beef, or even live on vegetarian food. But I respect YOUR choice to eat beef. Why should you not respect MY choice to talk the way I want? I have a choice not to join you in eating beef. YOU have a choice not to listen to me abusing you. Choice for everyone! Why bring in the force of law and the state?
Finally, I want to consider one specific word that a lot of Lutyensites seem to get very riled up about. The word is “presstitute”. I want to ask you some questions regarding this word and why so many of you seem to find it “abusive”. In life as on the internet, almost any word could be used as abuse: you will find words like “Indian”, “Pakistani”, “gay”, “Jew” all used for the purposes of abuse. But, whether these words actually feel like abuses to the person receiving them clearly depends on how this person perceives the group in question. For instance, a Pakistani could try to abuse me online by calling me an “Indian”. It wouldn’t bother me at all. Someone might try to abuse me by calling me a “gay” or a “Jew”. Again, these wouldn’t bother me at all, because I have no negative feelings either towards gays or Jews. On the other hand, if someone called me a “Pakistani”, I would be riled up! Similarly, I can understand that a Pakistani person might feel that the word “Indian” is an abuse.
So, let us dissect the word “Presstitute”. It seems to me an amalgamation of two words : “Press” and “Prostitute”. If you find the word “presstitute” abusive, it means that you have negative feelings either towards the “press” or towards “prostitutes”.
Now, if you feel that being called a “presswallah” is an insult, I can understand. My sympathies are with you. No other profession in India is as lowly and disreputable as the press 🙂 🙂
But if you are enraged about the “prostitute” part, I have to ask you an uncomfortable question. What exactly is wrong with prostitutes? They are in a profession like anyone else. I thought all of you Lutyensites are progressive feminists living 2-3 centuries ahead of us. Isn’t it a patriarchal notion to think of a prostitute as a fallen woman or someone unworthy of respect? So why do you think that it is an insult to be compared to a prostitute? I wonder…
If in the writing of this post, I have managed to offend the feelings of any person, or group of persons or community or species, whether living on Planet Earth, Planet Lutyens or any other planet, I would like to extend an unconditional apology to all, from the virgins of jannat to the demons of hell. I hope you can find it in your heart(s) to not have me dragged to jail. Thanks in advance.
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