Law of Social Censorship

The Icon­o­clast has pro­posed McCullagh’s Law:

As the cer­tain­ty that leg­is­la­tion vio­lates the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion increas­es, so does the prob­a­bil­i­ty of pre­dic­tions that severe harm or death will come to Amer­i­cans if the pro­pos­al is not swift­ly enact­ed.

I pro­pose the corol­lary in the Indi­an con­text as the Law of Social Cen­sor­ship:

The extent to which {something} exemplifies individual freedom, determines the extent to which it will be opposed on ‘moral’ grounds.

The only pre­req­ui­site to oppose some­thing on such grounds is that someone’s sen­ti­ments must be affect­ed. Exam­ples:

  • India was the first coun­try to ban Rushdie’s Satan­ic Vers­es. The ban is still in force, even after many oth­er coun­tries have repealed their bans.
  • Major­i­ty of state gov­ern­ments have banned sex edu­ca­tion in schools.
  • For­get gay mar­riage. Being a homo­sex­u­al is a crim­i­nal offense in India.
  • There have been wide­spread attempts to ban Google’s Orkut — the most pop­u­lar social net­work­ing site.
  • M. F. Hussain’s paint­ings — India’s high­est paid painter — have often caused con­tro­ver­sies lead­ing to his house being destroyed by a mob.
  • There are many, many exam­ples. This Hin­du op-ed dis­cuss­es the social cen­sor­ship scene in India with many more exam­ples.
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  • same is hap­pen­ing with the POSCO deal, Reliance fresh etc. etc.
    india is a true anar­chy

  • @ Mahen­dra: Good post. The real­i­ty how­ev­er sug­gests that indi­vid­ual free­dom wins even if by stealth.

    Banned or not, I bought a copy of the Satan­ic Vers­es not on the pave­ment but in a shop in Ban­ga­lore last year (to replace mine, which has gone miss­ing).

    Ban­ning sex edu­ca­tion does not keep peo­ple from learn­ing to repro­duce. I wish it would!

    The UK only repealed the homo­sex­u­al­i­ty-is-a-crime thing in 1958 (I think). Since this is a lega­cy of the British, and they are gone, we have to do our own work now…

    MF Hussain’s paint­ings are con­tro­ver­sial not for social cen­sor­ship rea­sons but also for dual stan­dards of his fel­low Mus­lims. Much might have been for­giv­en if he were Hin­du — hypo­thet­i­cal but I would put mon­ey on it.

    @ Ankur: The con­cept of ‘organ­ised anar­chies’ bet­ter describes India. It is a legit­i­mate and wide­ly stud­ied con­cept in deci­sion sci­ences in man­age­ment stud­ies 🙂

  • Mahendra’s Law sounds good. Con­grat­u­la­tions. You just made his­to­ry!

  • Like She­faly points out laws in India exist only to be flout­ed. 🙂
    prob­lem is that being a democ­ra­cy we have to ban and please and scrape and bow and ofcourse…deal. try to deal with the Rights and man­age their wrongs, deal with Left­ists and bear their wrongs.

  • nice corol­lary.

  • //Being a homo­sex­u­al is a crim­i­nal offense in India

    Dude, slight cor­rec­tion: IPC 377 clas­si­fies unnat­ur­al sex as a crime. 377 is a ‘broad pic­ture’ law under which “all car­nal inter­course against the order of nature” are banned. That includes oral sex, sodomy, bes­tial­i­ty among oth­ers — some­thing that is applic­a­ble to het­ero­sex­u­als as well.
    So, (unlike Iran,) being a homo­sex­u­al is not a crime in India.

    I like your Law, it puts in one sen­tence what I’d take a para­graph to express! India was such open coun­try until some hun­dred years ago. What went wrong?

  • Priyank,
    Nehru and Indi­ra Gand­hi hap­pened.

  • Oh and I for­got to say, please do copy­right this law 🙂

  • Ankur: Thanks. Yes…it does seem so indeed!

    She­faly: Thanks. Even though indi­vid­ual free­dom may get through via ille­gal means, that doesn’t make me proud about India at all.

    //Banning sex edu­ca­tion does not keep peo­ple from learn­ing to repro­duce. I wish it would! //
    True. But the lack of sex edu­ca­tion is lead­ing to many young girls being naive enough to be abused, many cou­ples who actu­al­ly do not know what sex is all about, and the increased trans­mis­sion of dis­eases like AIDS.

    //MF Hussain’s paint­ings are con­tro­ver­sial not for social cen­sor­ship rea­sons but also for dual stan­dards of his fel­low Mus­lims. Much might have been for­giv­en if he were Hin­du — hypo­thet­i­cal but I would put mon­ey on it.//
    Inter­est­ing thought. It was the Bajrang Dal who destroyed his home with the sup­port of the Shiv Sena. They have been known to act vio­lent­ly irre­spec­tive of the dual stan­dards of Mus­lims. Take the van­dal­ism and car­nage per­pe­trat­ed on the Bhan­dark­ar Ori­en­tal Research Insti­tute (BORI). Where were dual stan­dards of fel­low Mus­lims involved?

    //The UK only repealed the homo­sex­u­al­i­ty-is-a-crime thing in 1958 (I think). Since this is a lega­cy of the British, and they are gone, we have to do our own work now…//
    Yes, and no one in Gov­ern­ment seems to think so.

    //Organized anarchies//
    😀 Very interesting…thanks!

    //Oh and I for­got to say, please do copy­right this law //
    🙂 Thank you, She­faly!

  • Nita: I agree that it is coali­tion pol­i­tics that is increas­ing the fre­quen­cy of social cen­sor­ship. But that’s not true at all times. The Shiv Sena has car­ried out social cen­sor­ship irre­spec­tive of whether it is in pow­er or not. We can­not blame the whole state of affairs on just democ­ra­cy and coali­tion pol­i­tics. There’s much more out there that lies out­side these bound­aries and can be tack­led if only there were leg­is­la­tion against it.

    I was remind­ed of your dis­cus­sion with She­faly on your Gan­pati immer­sion and ensu­ing chem­i­cal pol­lu­tion post, where you were say­ing that hav­ing laws is the first step towards con­trol­ling some­thing, even if laws may be rou­tine­ly flout­ed in India. I find myself in the same posi­tion here! 🙂

    Ram­bodoc, Dot­Mom: Thank you!

  • Priyank: You are cor­rect in quot­ing IPC 377, but how does that make homo­sex­u­al­i­ty legal and not a crime? Var­i­ous NGOs in India have tried repeat­ed­ly to repeal 377, in vain. The last occa­sion I know of was in Feb 2006.

    The rea­son I sin­gled out sodomy and homo­sex­u­al­i­ty in the post is because men­tions of oral sex do not seem to offend our moral activists as much as homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, and bes­tial­i­ty is too uncom­mon in sta­tis­ti­cal terms to come under pub­lic dis­cus­sion.

    And regard­ing sodomy being a crim­i­nal offense and homo­sex­u­al­i­ty not being one: it is like say­ing Hin­duism is legal until and unless you do not go to any tem­ple or per­form any poo­ja. A some­what inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion of the law is here.

    //I like your Law, it puts in one sen­tence what I’d take a para­graph to express!//
    Thank you! 🙂

    //India was such open coun­try until some hun­dred years ago. What went wrong?//
    Among oth­er things, what Ram­bodoc has sug­gest­ed! 🙂 It was inter­est­ing to read Nehru, Indi­ra Gand­hi, and Priyank(a) in the same breath! 🙂

  • I think that’s pret­ty much a uni­ver­sal law, Mahen­dra. It could just as eas­i­ly apply to the US as to India.

    I live in the same city as is head­quar­ters to Focus on the Fam­i­ly, which employs 3,000 peo­ple in its effort to reverse any sex­u­al free­doms that have been gained in this coun­try since the 1960’s — and almost every argu­ment it makes for revers­ing those free­doms is made on alleged­ly moral grounds.

  • Paul: Thank you. I was just wait­ing to see when some­one would point out the uni­ver­sal­i­ty of this law! 🙂

    But India takes the lead in its imple­men­ta­tion — folks who oppose on moral grounds feel free to break all the oth­er laws in the coun­try! They’ll resort to mob vio­lence and threats on life. Recent­ly, a right-wing group put a price on the head of a politi­cian because he refut­ed the exis­tence of Lord Ram in pub­lic. At least that doesn’t hap­pen in the US.

  • //it is like say­ing Hin­duism is legal until and unless you do not go to any tem­ple or per­form any poo­ja.

    Ha ha, yes in the prac­ti­cal sense. But this sub­tle­ness or (loop)hole in the law is what keeps us (homo­sex­u­als) hope­ful. I can stand on the street and say I’m gay with­out being arrest­ed, you know what I mean? 🙂

  • PS: If we *are* even­tu­al­ly going to be loaded with anoth­er per­son from the dynasty, my choice would be Priyan­ka :p

  • Priyank: Stand­ing on the street and declar­ing you are gay would be fine; not many folks are like­ly to do much about it.

    But try doing the same in an Indi­an talk show on tele­vi­sion, and you’ll know what I’m talk­ing about! 🙂

    I’m not as hope­ful as you.

    Even Pak­istan has had a trans­sex­u­al on TV, but we do not have any such thing in India.

  • I am com­ing a bit late to this post.… and I would agree with a lot of com­ments and your law… sad­ly, the famous fig­ures (read politi­cians, not social work­ers) leave no oppor­tu­ni­ty to increase their vote­bank, be it the mat­ter of cen­sor­ship.… the most basic of free­dom of speech is giv­en caste/communal colour and then banned… either every­thing is ok or noth­ing is.

  • Oemar: thanks. Yes, what you say is very true. It’s sad that that’s how things are in India.

  • trisha

    am almost five months late to the post,but wd like to add this anyway,lets leave aside sex and sodomy-just think if I went the mahab­harat way and fol­lowed Kun­ti and Madri’s suit and had five sons from five maharathhis(and why shd­nt I be able to decide the inher­i­tance of my own child if my rights as a nor­mal het­ero woman is secure?)what then?and IVF is design­er idea in med­ical sci­ence and legal right? orga­nized anar­chy?! we are so pre­ten­tious here.na ghar­ka na ghat­ka.

  • so we need our Gokul till Kan­sha is slain. 😉