What’s Mi­cro Hate Got To Do With It?

Tehelka - - 20 -

IT IS a tru­ism that the In­ter­net has col­lapsed our worlds; and I don’t mean it in a dra­matic end-of- all-bound­aries way, but in the sim­ple col­laps­ing of con­ver­sa­tions into tweets and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion into the press of a like but­ton. It is, there­fore, sur­pris­ing that we have not evolved a new im­proved minia­ture lan­guage for our favourite emo­tions. Love and hate — those strong pas­sions take far too much time and en­ergy in the post-140-char­ac­ter world, and what we need is an un­der­stand­ing of mi­cro hate and mi­cro love.

A ‘mi­cro hate’ would cover so many prac­ti­cal as­pects of our lives — we don’t want to incite ha­tred against a com­mu­nity and we cer­tainly don’t want to pro­voke ri­ots, but we may none­the­less want to reg­is­ter our an­noy­ance and ir­ri­ta­tion. And since the dra­co­nian laws in In­dia cover al­most ev­ery as­pect of speech acts within the gen­er­ous net of ‘hate speech’, we may, per­haps, be spared of the in­evitable le­gal ac­tion that can be taken against us.

Would the ex­is­tence of a ‘mi­cro hate’ cat­e­gory have spared Sha­heen Dhada from be­ing ar­rested and charged with the vi­o­la­tion of Sec­tion 505 of the In­dian Pe­nal Code ( IPC) for won­der­ing whether the shut­ting down of a city was called for when Bal Thack­eray passed away, or S Ravi from be­ing ar­rested for vi­o­la­tion of Sec­tion 66A of the In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy ( IT) Act for spec­u­lat­ing about Karti Chi­dambaram’s wealth? Both th­ese cases seem to sug­gest that the length of one’s post or its in­nocu­ous­ness does not mat­ter when mea­sured with the long tape of the law. (Just for the record, Sec­tion 66A of the IT Act con­sists of 1,069 characters and Sec­tion 505 of the IPC has 2,100 characters — no tweet­ing of th­ese laws, at least.)

So, I per­son­ally don’t think that us­ing a cat­e­gory such as ‘mi­cro hate’ will help our sit­u­a­tion; we will only see an in­crease in ‘mi­cro hate’ crimes. But I still find it use­ful as a ped­a­gogic de­vice to in­struct the pow­ers that be on the ba­sics of emo­tions, and since it doesn’t yet ex­ist in our oth­er­wise re­li­able Ox­ford

To vent their mi­nor ir­ri­ta­tions, or­di­nary ci­ti­zens need a more nu­anced form of free speech

English Dic­tionary, here goes: ‘mi­cro hate’ = mere an­noy­ance, gen­tle ex­pres­sion of a state of ir­ri­ta­tion, ex­pres­sion of frus­tra­tion bor­der­ing on anger.

Thus, for in­stance, if some­one won­ders about whether a city must come to a stand­still when a leader dies, they may be ex­press­ing any of the above states of be­ing with­out in­tend­ing to hurt any­one, let alone incite ha­tred or phys­i­cal harm. This is what or­di­nary com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­sists of and this is what or­di­nary ci­ti­zens do when they feel this way. It is only when the government and po­lice ar­rest or­di­nary peo­ple for th­ese ac­tions that their speech be­comes a heroic act, and the vic­tims (yes, that’s what they are) be­come mar­tyrs to the cause of free­dom of speech and ex­pres­sion.

But just as hate speech is too large a cat­e­gory to cap­ture some­thing as small as a ‘mi­cro hate’, free speech is too large a cause to cap­ture our or­di­nary ba­nal opin­ions. No, we are not un­der any il­lu­sion that the In­ter­net trans­forms ev­ery or­di­nary cit­i­zen into a pow­er­ful news broad­caster, though af­ter be­ing treated as dis­ci­plined stu­dents of one-way me­dia for a long time, we do want to pre­tend it is true. But, per­haps, we have been mis­taken all along in our pre­sump­tion that we were at least en­ti­tled to or­di­nary views and con­cerns.

Af­ter all, we as­sumed that the big busi­ness of hate, which usu­ally in­volves be­ing in pol­i­tics or hav­ing a lot of mus­cle­men to act on what you say, is way out of our league. Bal Thack­eray in 1992, Varun Gandhi in 2009 and Pravin To­ga­dia al­most ev­ery sec­ond year, have all been charged with hate speech. That’s a se­ri­ous big boys’ club. What do the Sha­heens and Ravis of the world have to do with this? Let us and our mi­cro havens where we en­gage in our mi­cro hate be, and if you really want some dirt, go play in the cor­ner with the big boys.

(The views ex­pressed in this col­umn are the writ­ers’ own)

• Anti-so­cial? Sha­heen Dhada (le) in cus­tody

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