So much has been written on Gurmehar Kaur's video and the subsequent hyper-nationalistic outburst, that another piece on it will simply drown in the septic tank that is Indian social media.
Besides, trying to inject any reason and nuance at this point is akin to pouring water on a duck that has already been snuffed out by injecting a lethal dose of Patrionium (a new radioactive element extracted from a mine in Haryana, and hasn't been assigned a place in the Periodic Table as yet).
Freedom of expression on social media can be well summarised by treating speech like a turd... [But] your right to make turds doesn't mean I am obligated by law to take a whiff.
However, as I sit here offshore, several nautical miles away from the mainland, watching folks throw the acronyms FoE (freedom of expression) and FoS (freedom of speech) at each other with blatant disregard to meaning and context, I feel a tutorial explaining free speech is warranted.
Disclaimer: Certain analogies used below may be distasteful, but were required to maintain the flavour of our current discourse on this topic. May induce barfing.
- Trolling someone on Twitter with placards and base humour is permissible under FoE.
- If the said troll has millions of Twitter followers, and knows full well that the troops will descend upon his hapless not-as-famous target, he is a bit of a douche, but his douchebaggery is still protected under the aegis of free speech.
- When folks call out the said troll and his Bollywood sidekick for being douchebags and bullies, the latter's FoE is not being violated; irrespective of whether you feel the charge is warranted or not. Those folks are also exercising their FoE.
- In the midst of this mudslinging fiesta, if the little minion trolls—with eggs for display pictures and a grand following of three other eggs—decide to jump in and get blocked or muted as a result, it is not a violation of the eggs' FoE. It just means the target of their trolling doesn't want a turd in their notifications. Do not confuse your obnoxious sense of entitlement with free speech violation.
- In fact, FoE on social media can be well summarised by treating speech exactly like a turd. The State allows you to eject as many as you want in the comforts of your lavatory, even looks the other way when you leave it out in the open. You may spend your whole day enjoying enemas. You may package it in whatever form that pleases you (so long as you label it clearly and don't force others to ingest it). But please don't leave it at my door every morning. Your right to make turds doesn't mean I am obligated by law to take a whiff.
Me using the delete key to flush your turd from the comment section on my own post doesn't amount to persecution. That's just you being a whiny troll.
- Avoid leaving your turd on any sacred paraphernalia with the intention of starting a communal riot. Especially the "one who must never be named" (no, not Voldemort) . In fact, even without any nefarious intent, you might get locked up under 295A (blasphemy). As a nation, we have a long way before we are intellectually evolved enough to stop taking our fairytales literally. But that should be amply clear to anyone witnessing the level of our discourse on social media.
- Speech is free so long as it doesn't call for violence. Many countries include libel, sedition and blasphemy in the rider, but those places aren't exactly safe havens for free expression.
- Shutting someone up by threatening rape and murder isn't FoE. It is a violation of their rights.
- If your turd passes muster on the above mentioned points, and the State still plugs your rear orifice, or a bunch of zealots burn down your lavatory, then your FoE is being violated.
- Me using the delete key to flush your turd from the comment section on my own post doesn't amount to persecution. That's just you being a whiny troll. And it means your grasp of your own rights is about as good as your understanding of patriotism.
Now I must get back to my patriotic duty of drilling for hydrocarbons to fuel our freshly demonetised and renewed economy (wink wink).
PS: I always stand up and sing the National Anthem when I hit a large pocket of natural gas, so please don't come after me.