On exclusion, elitism etc.

Since I've decided to delete comments (not moderate) regularly, I might as well make an explanatory post on it instead of stretching the discussion elsewhere. Since the exchange is pretty long, I'll just post them as comments -- as they appeared in the previous post.

20 comments:

Sathya said...

Why have you become so conservative with comments lately? I wasn't sure if I should say anything because I don't know what a rediff like comment is. Even if they are bad, why can't you let them be? You don't believe in freedom of expression anymore?

Suresh said...

Sathya,

Freedom of expression is a complicated idea. The least I can tell you is that it's not just in being able to say whatever you want wherever you want. Apart from its political dimensions, there's also something called standard. Peer reviewed journals to Wikipedia, everyone must try to maintain one.

I don't want to have comments that sidestep from the main issue under discussion or detract a possible, meaningful debate.

'rediff comments' is what I call something that is all too common even in places other than rediff's 'Discussion Board.' Generally, they have the following characteristics:
1. Little relevance to the article.
2. Lack of adequate comprehension of what's written.
3. Lack of logical flow in what they want to say.
4. Using moulded phrases and pointers like automatons. Ex: "What about the Kashmiri pundits?"
5. Questioning author's intentions from a completely skewed perspective.
6. Outright inability to understand certain ideas. Ex: My dismissal of an essentialist national identity.

Their presence brings down the overall quality of the discussions here. When I allow this place to host unintelligent material, I indirectly encourage their reproduction.

Many comments make me go, "you need a 30 day lesson in reading comprehension." Usually I don't reply them, and sometimes I delete them (depending on how bad they are). Because, I cannot break down what I've written over and over. I may have the time but not the patience or the interest -- not always.

It's a useless exercise anyway. Generally, only between friends do you find that genuine willingness to correct oneself. Where there is minimal ego involved.

There's also a general unwillingness to read. I don't know; given how well they seem to understand some of the simple stuff I write here, I wonder if reading will help them in anyway.

Rudolf said...

Comment 1: Your reasons for posting your first comment... Been a while since I read such elitist stuff.

Reply (Suresh): Define elitist (deleted); You'll know what's actually elitist when you read enough.

Comment 2: Then again, I probably belong to that group that has 'outright inability to understand certain ideas'. I'll never know, will I? At least until one day I manage to decode a little of the 'simple stuff' you write here. Maybe then I will have read 'enough'. Just curious... but why did you delete your 'Define elitist' comment. Was it because you figured I, who has not read enough, will only lengthen the conversation with incorrect definitions?

Reply (Suresh): Yes, it will only lengthen the conversation because of your definition of what's elitist -- which I may not agree with. If you have 'read enough' (enough according to you) and you still think my reasoning was elitist, so be it. So it's a moot question.

Sathya said...

I understand your reasoning. I agree that many times the comments hijack the conversation completely. But do you really think people are incapable of understanding something? They shouldn't say anything until then? What's the point of having a blog if you deny people the chance to talk? What if they are not wrong and you are?

Besides, you could have simply enabled moderation if you wanted to avoid trolls. Why a drama with posting and deleting?

Suresh said...

Sathya,

I'll try to address these questions once for all. Excuse my lengthy response. I'm just trying to make it clear for future references as well.

About moderating comments: This blog doesn't have a very consistent theme -- not yet. I write some 'serious' stuff and I also indulge in frivolousness. Enabling comment-moderation for all the posts isn't necessary. I just want some of my 'serious' posts to remain 'clean.' I'll let in all comments, give them a certain shelf life and remove them if they are detractive. Of course, I make these judgments. And it's not hard to show me that I'm wrong without being stupid.

It all seems a bit silly and childish right now, even for me. But over the next few/several posts, this practice will become more refined and all the 'drama' will be reduced too. The 'terms' will become more clear if not acceptable. Meanwhile, those who are pissed off by my perceived arrogance or 'elitism' would have probably stopped commenting (or coming here).

By virtue of being a predominantly-in-English blog it's already 'elitist.' I don't care if it becomes more so because I call call some idiots and delete their crap.

About the terms:

I think I was pretty clear with them. But I'll go over it one more time. All forms of communication -- through books, TV or any media -- aim, among other things, to start or continue a conversation. But it doesn't mean the same medium should host it too. People write books, they don't release their drafts, get comments and publish the final copy with the comments, do they? The book exists as a separate entity and if people find it worthwhile, they write reviews on it elsewhere. If the author is interested he/she writes back. Blogs are somewhat like that. Only here the author becomes the host as well. Hence the question of arrogance, elitism and all that.

Publishing opposing views that doesn't convince the author one bit only undermines his/her book. Even worse, when the author decides to publish stuff like "don't write books on movies, just enjoy them and walk about of theatres." It's not even an opposing view, it's plain stupid. No author should be magnanimous to enough to put that in her space.

About understanding: Yes we are all 'outright' incapable of understanding certain things at a certain point. And this statement wouldn't be so hard to digest if this were a science blog. I used to follow a few blogs on neuroscience and some of them were quite advanced; in that they were littered with terms that can only be understood by people in the field. As it turned out, the people who were leaving comments were grad students and researchers. The onus was on me to read on related things to understand what they were saying. After sometime, I got tired and I stopped following them. I don't know what kind of response I would have gotten had I complained that were being 'elitist.'

Forget about neuroscience. I myself was unable to understand anything when I sat in a course called 'Qualitative Research - Feminist Studies' three years ago. I made a fool of myself in the first 2 classes in our 'discussions.' I was 'reading' the week's readings but still didn't get it. Luckily I had a very good colleague who went over them with me and I gradually picked up.

It also reminds me of what Kutty Revathi said in one of her interviews (quoting roughly):
Q: Why do you use such complex words in your poetry? If the average reader cannot understand what you're saying, what's the use of poetry? Isn't this elitist?
A: If I'm passionate about cars and I want to repair cars as a hobby I'll have to learn about a car, don't I? I have to know what a carburetor is, what a fuel injector is, where the spark plug fits and everything. Would you then say that becoming a car mechanic is for elites? So if the average reader wants to know about my poems he will have to get around the Tami words or whatever he needs to equip himself. If we did it the other way round, poetry wouldn't even exist.

Suresh said...

And just so we are super clear: I'm not equating my stuff with neuroscience or poetry. They are just examples.

Durga (Mrs.ILoveIndia) said...

Oh Suresh, so u've changed.
U no longer are all "free speech on my blog...laaadiidaaa".
When it suits u, annoys u personally...things change...
or is it that your blog is now an Academic Journal of sorts?
whatever, its totally natural and so it should be.
Anyway,
what I have thought all along is...
a blog is someone's home (of sorts) for their thoughts....and the owner has the right to publish whatever they like and also to not let dimwits and their rubbish enter (the house of sorts). Hence, moderating/deleting comments is completely fine.
There is no need to "respect free speech" on a blog...nor is necessary the right of those who comment to have their drivel to be published.
If u think the comment is crap or it pisses u off...u don't need to explain to the loser who posted it why it was edited/deleted....they can just go get stuffed.
You don't owe them the courtesy that they so obviously lack in regards to your thoughts and life.

Suresh said...

Durga,

I don't remember being all out in favour of 'freedom of speech no matter what.'

Take these two posts: Post 1; Post 2. They give you an idea on where I stood about this issue a year ago.

We'll talk about other things a bit later.

rama said...

Your decision is a good turn for different things :). Hope you will never stop sharing "Mayirandi" to "ism".

Sudhir said...

Haha @ Mayirandi. Yeah, I've noticed that usage too. Usage of such words is what defines a Tamilian, doesn't it? :P

Anonymous said...

"only between friends do you find that genuine willingness to correct oneself. Where there is minimal ego involved"
Oho! seri, assuming above, a couple of comments -

1. as you are well aware, bollywood movies are a soft target, not really worthy of your intellectual ammunition. speaking purely from direct experience, the process roughly works like this - the initial 'idea' for any Bolly movie comes from previously made foreign films, movie stars, news tidbits, and local flavor, in that exact order. You then hire the scriptwriter for a fixed fee and he "develops" the idea, adds characters that local populace will identify with, and then substabtial improvisation takes place on the set with stars' wishes given precedence over all else, and end result is what you see. Nowhere in the process do things like logic, probability of occurence, reason etc. figure. Like Ameer and Vivek have opined in the prev videos, its out and out a business venture catering to the local audience's tastes.
The name of the game then is to identify if there is a large enough niche that will empathize with somebody's pet theme. Like say Katradhu Tamil - I first saw a mallu version & instantly knew it will take off if remade in in tamil, kannada etc. It was only a matter of time before somebody remade it. Because the local populace feels marginalized by the newly minted IT gods, so some movie that gives vent to those feelings will hit it off. Doesn't matter if it is reasonable or not. Similarly, local mumbai populace definitely feels like the common man of Wednesday. Once you get the pulse of the audience so precisely, the movie automatically works. To analyze it beyond that is really futile. In fact, to subject it to any sort of analysis beside "Like it/Hate it" is futile. What is Terrible is not a Wednesday but a sociologist freezing his butt off in Toronto, so to speak:) With your level of intellectual sophistication & competence, you should be taking on targets with more heft - people who have actually done some real research and reached completely bogus and erroneous conclusions, like say a Vivek Wadhwa, or a Tom Friedman, not some Bollywood airagaira who has done zero research and is simply serving movies like omelettes so they can be consumed with relish by local populace who are mostly sitting in the AC theatre to escape the 50 degree heat and dust outside. The Pandavas refused to fight with Karna because he was not a prince. You are a prince, you pick other princes and fight their ideas. Mediawalas are plain paupers, both intellectually and financially, who are out to turn a quick buck by doing whatever their audience wants them to do. Picking on such weaklings doesn't do you any good.
k

Suresh said...

K,

We've had this conversation so many times -- over the phone, in chat, in mail exchanges, and in this blog. You and I just don't look at things the same way when it comes to 'social commentary' or anything that has to do with public discourse. There's been an irreconcilable difference in that area.

About who I 'take on': There are a few things you need to understand. I didn't write about A Wednesday because the director is some intellectual, but because it's been lauded by many reviewers and movie-goers alike. So it's a matter of public perception that I wanted to write about, not so much the intellect behind the product. Anyway, this is all I wanted to say: this 'pulse' is a paranoiac construct of the media and small-talk among middle class Hindus.

It's not a big deal. I didn't spend weeks to write it. It took less than 40 minutes. That's what you have blogs for. So that you can react to trivial nonsense and throw in your share of bullshit. But then all bullshit is not equal. Some are more equal than others. Hence moderation, deletion, mental masturbation and what have you.

Forget about blogs. In the paper I'm going to present (hopefully) in about a month, I'm going to talk about Tamil movies from the 90s. You think they were conceived and produced by 'princes'? That's simply not the point. But as I said before, you and I have different views on, products, product consumption, social change and a whole of host of things. Trying to make you understand that (or vice versa), now that is futile. (Ego has nothing to do with it either.)

Rudolf said...

Hmm... Maybe the people in that Neuroscience blog won't belittle people so much. Maybe. Maybe they will understand that other people cannot relate to their lingo not because of their incapability, but because of their different past. Maybe will not say 'Wow, the dickwads need a thirty day lesson in reading comprehension'. Maybe. Maybe they will understand that many people only have to do that which is necessary to become capable. Maybe they will even help them to do that is necessary. Maybe they will cut them some slack. Maybe.
Then again, I may be wrong. Maybe the neuroscience people will be like you say they may be. Maybe people like me need to become less-sensitive. And stop whining.

Suresh said...

If you are one, whine. If you're not, don't.

Rudolf said...

That helped.

mrcritic said...

A Wednesday can be equated to Shankar's fantasy movie exploiting emotions of "common man".

Alright what about Firaaq, it might suite your extreme left-liberal thoughts.

Sudhir said...

Actually, when you think about it, everybody is in a way elitist. I don't see why it's wrong.
P.S.: Your template. Wow!

Anonymous said...

Hi suresh,

I was hoping that you would do a podcast on naan kadavul. what do you think about the movie? If you cannot do a podcast at least write about it...thank you.

Anonymous said...

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" - Voltaire

Suresh said...

Bala,

I haven't seen the movie.

Sudhir ,

True, but the question is whether it's deliberate or incidental. This distinction is crucial to problematize it accordingly. Also, exclusion and elitism are two different things. This is where I think that I have to state why I've decided to exclude certain comments; even though this is 'my blog' and I can simply remove them. The latter logic follows a capitalistic idea, almost akin to yelling, "step out of my property!"

I chose this template mostly because of the font. I think it makes for a much easy read than the one before. I still need to customize it, though.

Anon1,

I did want to do a podcast, but now I've lost the interest. Especially after reading a couple of blogposts that had exhausted a lot of what I wanted to talk about. I'll probably link them in a separate post (and have some discussion here, perhaps).

Anon2,

It's not Voltaire who said it -- at least not the exact quote.

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