Saturday, June 02, 2007

Of Free Speech & Bloggers

A very lazy vacation has meant some heavy philosophical theorising, and some blog-debates tht can only be considered splitting dead hairs (Don't tell me that I'm mixing metaphors, I know what I'm writing). For the benefit of the uninitiated, a short recap, in the order of chronology.

It began in all seriousness, with blogger no.1 calling the events in Baroda fascism, using the Wikipedia description of the term.

Sandeep naturally took offence, and took the fight to him. He replied with a post questioning Amit's choice of terms, and also the basic logic behind his(Amit's) criticism of the Baroda events. A lively discussion ensued in the comments section.

As that discussion was getting a little overlong, Sandeep continued that debate on another post of his blog. Here, crash- bang- drumroll, yours truly made an entry. Proving that we're all argumentative Indians, that debate reached 144 comments. Yessir, a dozen dozens. And it had already acquired philosophical nuances, with people questioning the basic notions of free speech and of freedom itself.

Gaurav then riled about how people should stop mangling quotes from his fave comic book. (Dude, Spidey? Seriously? ) He also did a little pattern finding, and found similiarities between Sandeep and D-cube.

D-cube then joined the fray, using the crutches of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who had once declared that freedom of speech did not include the right to scream fire in a crowded theatre. There was some action in the comments section.

Our man Amit then posted a rejoinder describing how the above formulation was flawed and how every human right must be seen as a property right. True to a phenomenon that I can only call libertarian link-o-mania, he invoked Murray Rothbard.

Blogger no.1 was not done yet. He then expanded on his views further, and claimed that all rights should derive from self-ownership, which at its heart is itself a property right.

And then, it happened. Nilu puked. Not that he hasn't puked on Amit before, but this time his puke just added clarified butter to the fire (Yes I translate from Hindi. Yes I am a vernie. Yes the specific 'clarified butter' is a billion times cooler than the genric, unimaginative 'fuel'. Yes Nilu pukes clarified butter.) Much to Nilu's chagrin, this fire was not in a crowded theatre that Amit sat in, but spread to his own comments section.

And then the unthinkable happened. After having chastised Amit for taking himself too seriously, Nilu, for a change, took himself seriously. This resulted. An excellent mix of oblique abstractions, pseud-effect and deep philosophy, Nilu even ended his post with a QED. I love QED.

Amit came back, armed with latin phrases of his own. And then much fun was had in the comments section. Avatram's venerable grandfather was discussed, as was Ronald Coase.

Neha Vishwanathan stumbled upon the entire episode and found it "incredibly amusing and interesting". Desipundit link was duly established. She mentioned Amit Varma, Recursive Hypocrisy, 54 comments and even Avatram's grandfather, but failed to take cognizance of the man who had in no small measure helped in taking that discussion to 54 comments. Rookie bloggers get no respect. Blogging superstardom thus still eludes me.

theothernilu, however, was suitably impressed. She made it a point to compliment my absolute mastery of propositional logic, though in a backhanded manner. I say I like backhands. (Much to Gasquetfan's chagrin, Federer easily has the best backhand.) A weekly Brahmeboodha Suryanarayana Iyer memorial coloumn was also established over at Recursive Hyposcrisy.

Last heard, Gaurav and Amit were furiously discussing over e-mail how best to cover up for Rothbard's theoretical holes when they next present the 'free speech as a property right' angle to the rest of us. D-cube had managed to find examples of speech that could be considered 'criminal intent to intimidate', reminding us of another boundary of 'free'.

The rest of the world, in the meanwhile, found time to do the usual things. Like getting laid. Bleh. I say discussing the philosophical origin of human rights is much more fun.


Gaurav said...

Since this is all about splitting hair, please point out to me where I said Spidey is my favourite comic book. Favourite superhero maybe (though I did not say so in the post). But favourite comic book? No way!

Gaurav said...

And again, nowhere in the comments did I say I agreed with "free speech as property rights" argument. I know I arrived towards comment 60 or so, but still, you should read em.

Ritwik said...

Ohh dear, splitting hairs alright. OK, agreed. I extended ferom 'one of my favorites' to just favorite. And yes, you did not agree with the free speech as property right argument, but did I say so? ;) I just said that you and Amit will jointly present a case in the future, I did not imply that you already agreed with that. You must allow me this much artistic license no. How else am I to get famous?

On a serious note, I read what you wrote, and sort of agree with it, especially the two questions you posed to Amit towards the end. Keep coming back - it will be fun to discuss free speech in the future too, preferably after I've done some philosophical reading of my own.

Akash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Akash said...

Hello zen babu!
Linking to your blog... :)

neha vish said...

Oh dear!

Ritwik said...

Oh my god! Look who's here. Now I should be getting DP links. Blogdom, here I come.

~A said...

What about this?,1,696682.story

PS: You shouldn't force us to have account with google!!

I said...

try getting laid, no.

Jai_Choorakkot said...

Hello Zen Babu,

Had seen some of your comments on Dilip's blog and liked some of your discussion on Sandeepweb as Ritwik Priya. Had no idea they were the same person.

Good blog. Am browsing your archives when I get some more time.


Ritwik said...


Wikipedia is more fun than trying to get laid.


Well yeah, Ritwik Priya = Zen Babu. I think you're also aware of some of my discussions on caste over at Shivam Vij's blog. I've seen your sporadic comments over at numerous blogs - you're a great fan of civility in debate and thats an admirable thing. Also, you can call me Ritwik.