Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Counter-productive comments

I am currently doing some research on public discourses around sexual violence in India, reading, for the moment, newspaper articles online and articles on websites such as BBC, CNN, etc. Something that confounds me is the incongruity of the comments posted in response to the articles. I find that the predominant tendency is to contradict and dismiss, often without any substantive counter-argument; the basis for contradiction or dismissal is almost never spelt out, with vague general statements standing in for a reasoned rebuttal. The urge to contradict isn't perturbing in and or itself, it is contradiction for the sake of contradiction that perturbs. I suspect a large part of it has to do with the subject at hand. Because it is a sensitive topic, no analysis is deemed 'complete' or comprehensive enough. Most writers focus on a few select points (depending on their understanding of the topic), which leaves readers, invariably, 'dissatisfied' with the 'effectiveness' of their arguments. This approach is logically unsound and terribly self-satisfying. No analysis can possibly aim to address the entirety of a topic, particularly a topic such as this, at one go. Each commenter assumes that their contribution is more 'nuanced', when in fact most are utterly vague and incoherent.

All of this is besides the fact that a lot of the comments on websites like CNN seem to contain either abject 'apologies' for the state of sexual crimes in India, or (defensive) assertions of the fact that 'crimes like rape take place in other countries as well'. Several comments on CNN, seemingly posted by men and women of 'South Asian origin based in the US', point out that 'racism is a serious problem in America'. While racism may be a serious problem in America, this does not mean American views on sexual crimes in India are somehow all motivated by an urge to 'tarnish' India's 'image'. The sense of shame or, worse, defensiveness, pervading these discussions is obviously counter-productive.

I think the first observation (vague comments, contradiction for the sake of contradiction) applies exclusively to Indian readers of articles on Indian news sites, while the second applies to readers of international news sites.

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