India, Cartoons And Censorship

Long, but an interesting conversation I’m playing in the background.

Groundviews is freaking out about an admittedly cartoon of Indian Prime Minister Manomohan Singh looking up Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalithaa’s sari. They’re calling for the paper, Lakbima News, to be reported to the Press Complaints Commission and seconding a tweet from someone calling for the cartoonist to be fired. I mean, really? The cartoon is tasteless and – worst of all – not funny. I don’t get it and it’s just unsavory. But to say this is out of the bounds of free expression is just wrong.

I’m watching a panel with Christopher Hitchens and Shashi Tharoor now. Shashi is saying you shouldn’t inflame people, and Hitchens is saying you can’t let (in that case) violent naysayers dictate the bounds of free speech. And Hitchens talks about how the biggest censoring pressure comes not from governments but from communities. Which is true in this case, as well.

In this case there isn’t a complaint from any government, it’s an echo chamber of Groundviews and various people who don’t like Sri Lanka anyways, including people calling for its boycott and supporting kicking Sri Lankan school kids out of India.

Meanwhile, India has actually jailed a cartoonist for criticizing the government by depicting Parliament as a toilet, etc. Which is the sort of thing we should be incensed about.

The Jayalithaa cartoon is offensive. It’s kinda gross to look at and, worst of all, it doesn’t make sense. Why is he looking up her sari? What possible metaphor is that. Gah, I just thought about that. So it’s a horrible cartoon. Perhaps the cartoonist should be fired for being not funny, but I don’t know if he’s always unfunny or not. Is the cartoon worth all the indignation? I don’t think so. It’s something to be tacked onto the agendas people have anyways (Sri Lanka Bad), even if they have to jettison the usual principles of free speech in the process.

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2012-09-11 12:47:53

What I find most amusing about this affair is how Sanjana Hattotuwa and his cabal at Groundviews jumped on the issue, moaning and groaning like someone suffering from an acute case of piles. Cardboard heroes of “media freedom” screaming for blood, calling for censorship and demanding the sacking of the cartoonist – could it get any more farcical? Charlatans like Sanjana Hattotuwa ought to be ashamed of themselves and their blatant hypocrisy, but it’s clear that with an ego of Himalayan proportions and lacking any integrity at all, this would a nigh impossible task for them to accomplish. It’s clear that on the internet and among the Sri Lankan blogosphere, Sanjana has the habit of flourishing (or prostituting?) Groundviews to evident satisfaction.

2012-09-11 12:52:47

“echo chamber of Groundviews and various people who don’t like Sri Lanka”
I’d say that a more correct statement would be “Groundviews are various people who don’t like Sri Lanka”. They’re essentially regurgitating all the tweets from pro-LTTE personalities.

That said, this issue is only going to make a few waves in the pro-LTTE community. Most Sri Lankans won’t be bothered about it, the ‘international community’ won’t understand any of it, and it won’t make any difference to anything in reality. The cartoonist should be warned, but not fired. There have been much worse things.

2012-09-11 14:27:42

Think you have misread the GV piece, it is a collection of miscellaneous tweets and opinions, don’t think GV has endorsed any of the sentiments, merely reproducing the commentary.

2012-09-11 15:04:38

Wrong on that, Jack. Half the tweets are by GV, at least one agreeing that the cartoonist should be sacked, and the newspaper brought under legal action. I can post the quotes if you like. Sanjana is also blocking comments that point out his stupidity. He has also told one commentator to go look up his mother’s sari when that individual called him on his comments.

2012-09-11 18:11:12

Sanjana is all about free speech until that free speech is not to his liking. He has displayed this again and again. You can’t even debate him because once he knows he has lost he hides in obfuscation and personal insults.

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2012-09-12 14:56:44

I don’t think Sanjana’s being stupid, or being inconsistent. As far as I know, Sanjana didn’t call for the government to do the sacking. He wanted the newspaper to do it, as a matter of journalistic ethics. When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut, there was outrage, and sponsors of his show started to pull out. That’s how you counter unethical journalism. No one called for the government to do anything about it.

My stand on this was pretty clearly stated. I think the cartoon was vulgar, and artless, but think it’s mostly harmless, and certainly don’t want the cartoonist sacked.

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2012-09-11 16:04:23

Clearly you have missed reading Groundviews’ twitter feed. Sanjana Hattotuwa was engaged in an orgy of outrage, popping off tweets like a fat turd turtle necking in and out of an anus.

2012-09-11 20:56:14


1) Cartoons do not have to be funny, as such (though obviously it helps, &c.).

2) The suggestion that a cartoonist be fired for being unamusing – in particular, or in general – is a) too obviously subjective to warrant discussion; b) kind of the point, especially if you’re on the receiving end of the cartoon; and c) itself all-too-often fallen back on by those who pride themselves on being liberal minded and anti-censorship but then discover they have a problem with a particular example.

2012-09-13 10:33:52

I didn’t say that he called on the GoSL to sack anyone. Technically, the GoSL can’t even do that. But he called for the cartoonist (or whoever was responsible for the publishing of the cartoon) to be sacked. The whole post calls for self-censorship on the grounds of “taste”, “good of the country”, and all the other rubbish we’ve heard from the GoSL when it was in the line of fire. And as Realist says, Sanjana insists on having the last word — not by winning the debate, but by deleting the comments of the opponent after he has had his say. He has also now deleted the comment to Dhammika concerning his mother — another characteristic of his personality, no apology; just a covering of his arse. A little man with an over-inflated ego.

2012-09-13 16:16:08

If Sanjana is doing things like deleting other people’s comments (assuming that those comments are relevant to the discussion and are not filthy and offensive), I’m not going to defend that.

But you cannot attack Sanjana for simply saying something we’ve heard from the GoSL as well. The world’s stupidest person may say that the sun exists. That doesn’t make the sun black out. The GoSL also believes that 2 + 2 = 4. That doesn’t mean 2 + 2 != 4.

There is a very clear difference between a government censoring free speech, and a newspaper censoring itself. I don’t think I have to explain that difference to you. As an educated person, you must know that political philosophers have written billions of words on the role of government and nature of free speech.

There are two ways to counter unethical journalism. One is legislation. If Jayalalitha was not a public figure, but a child, or just some innocent stay-at-home wife, whom some cartoonist decided to attack with a vulgar cartoon simply because she’s someone’s wife, even I would support laws against that sort of things. Most countries do recognize a difference between public figures and ordinary citizens. But we cannot have laws for everything. The fewer the laws the better. So the other way to counter unethical journalism is public outrage. If some newspaper start publishing shit, you simply stop buying the it, and stop buying the stuff of their sponsors, and attack the newspaper in online forums like groundviews. That’s what Sanjana did.

It’s that simple. There’s a huge difference between GoSL censoring something on the grounds of taste, and Sanjana calling for the newspaper to censor itself on the grounds of taste.

2012-09-14 11:57:26

“But you cannot attack Sanjana for simply saying something we’ve heard from the GoSL as well.”

I can if he has attacked the GoSL reasoning he himself is now using. This too was pointed out to him, and that point too was deleted.

“There is a very clear difference between a government censoring free speech, and a newspaper censoring itself.”

In the context of SL, where self-censorship is practiced either for self-preservation, or because of particular agendum, there my be a technical difference, but no more than that — one’s as bad as the other.

“That’s what Sanjana did.”

Rubbish. Firstly, it is a subjective opinion whether it is “shit” or not; and frankly in comparison to the shit written regularly in newspapers (and on Groundviews) this is nothing but a minor fart. Secondly, it is a cartoon, not some libelous article, and should be treated as such, with the appropriate sense of irony and humour. Thirdly, Sanjana has called for the cartoonist to be sacked (not ignored, as you claim), and then attacked those who criticized him with the same levels of sexism, vulgarity, and tastelessness (suggesting one commentator go look up the saris of his mother, wife, and teenage daughter) that he was accusing Lakbima of. The fact that he subsequently deleted his comment (it’s still there via Google cache) indicates that he recognizes, in hindsight, his obvious lack of maturity — though he refuses to acknowledge or apologize for it. He has also now blocked several of the commentators (including myself) who pointed out the immaturity he displayed, more or less confirming our opinions of him :D

“There’s a huge difference between GoSL censoring something on the grounds of taste, and Sanjana calling for the newspaper to censor itself on the grounds of taste.”

The GoSL has regularly pointed out that the media should in fact censor itself, and has been criticized for that call by people like Sanjana. The debate isn’t about self-censorship, but rather who decides what is tasteful or not. No one has the right to make that call based on their own agendum, nor to suggest that those who don’t abide be sacked.

So yes, it is that simple.

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2012-09-14 22:09:43

Wow, look who comes crawling out of the woodwork to defend Sanjana Hattotuwa. Does being a sycophantic worm not bother you at all Sharanga?

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2012-09-13 10:53:25

[...] mean, my God. We were just talking about cartoons and how community outrage and offense can lead to the idea that violence is somehow justified. The [...]

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