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.