Saturday, December 17, 2005

My gripe against the Libertarian stranglehold of the Indian blogosphere

Those of you coming to my blog curious about the long comment I posted on Shivam's blog and Desipundit, feel free to post your rants and raves here. I have defered to Shivam's request not to make the comment into a post and let it stand as what he characterises as the longest comment in the Indian blogosphere. Once again, my sincere apologies to those Libertarians I inadvertently offended and mischaracterised. I respect you guys and all of you are really intelligent, but I felt muffled on account of your extreme influence in the blogosphere and that kept me going and going and going.

P.S. Incidentally this will also mark as the smallest ever post on my own blog.

Update: There has been a nice back and forth going on about this topic here between me Ravikiran and Eswaran.

Update 2: This discussion has reached its end and it can be followed in its entirety through the 80 comments on Shivam's blog and 58 comments on Despundit. I enjoyed the interaction thoroughly and thank all those who participated. Also special thanks and admiration for the Libertarians, who took this so sportingly even though there was enough provocation.

Update 3:
Both the links, Desipundit as well as to Shivam's blog no longer exist. The original comment can be found here.

In the last several years since the comment, my views on the topics expressed therein have changed considerably. Some statements in that comment make me cringe and there are several views expressed in the comment which I no longer subscribe to.


Mridula said...

That long comment of yours, will be tough act to follow for anyone else :)

Shivam Vij said...

It indeed will be. Thanks so much for it, the blogosphere needed something like that. I am so kicked about it, and not just because you punch my libertarian freinds so hard!

Really cool blog design. You did it?

Chetan said...

Thank you so much.


Thanks so much yaar! You are the first person who has said anything about the design. I had spent weeks in photoshop and learning CSS to create the header image and the shadow effect, which took me a long time to figure out and getting the precise colour combination. I can't tell you how happy it made me feel that finally somebody took notice! As far as the post. Frankly I am a bit terrified. I realise now that in my zeal I might have mischaracterised some of the Libertarian bloggers. But I guess I will have to sort that out with them. And this post came out of months of observing the blogosphere attitude towards anyone not Libertarian and my personal agenda about insisting on having a diversity of opinions.

Dilip D'Souza said...

My first reaction, for now, is thanks. It needed to be said, and perhaps it needed to be said by you. I have some other thoughts, but I'll hold off for now.

My second reaction (which I swear I had before I read Shivam here) is: nice design. Something Tolkien-like about that header.

Suyog said...

I thought you posted the longest comment on my blog - but you have broken your own record yourself I think :P!

Man was the a comment or a thesis proposal - WHOA!!!! It will take me days to finish it - kidding - I must check out the original post of course!!!

Wow! - That is a LONGGGGG comment!


Suyog said...

Must tell you-

I just read your longest comment and must commend you on that!! And I completely AGREE with what you wrote there. Kudos!


Shivam Vij said...

I saw your debut post about diversity of opinions and can't agree more. But more than that you come across as so well read, so intellectually refreshing, that, hmm, what do I say? I'm just waiting to see what the libertarians will say to your Maha Comment. I just wish you had made not duplicated it on Desipundit and had let them link to it!!! :)

As for ideology, see the sub-title of Dilip's blog.

BD said...

LOL @ long comment. I guess we all are Chetan's victims :D

Pablo Ares said...

Great comment, and I think you have analysed the problem very well. As Dilip said, thank, " It needed to be said".


Amit Kulkarni said...

Hi Chetan, Mridula, Shivam, Suyog, Dilip!

I am finally glad I found a kindred set of souls! I posted a bit on the post called 'Tilling fields' by Amit Varma. And some others on the website

I will be a frequent visitor to your blogs. Keep them coming!


Referring to your comment below Chetan's long post on Shivam's blog...

I am thinking myself of not reading their blog posts. But I remember when I have made mistakes, I have been given chances by a lot of people. We should be giving them a chance, and hope they change a bit, and not be dismissive of dissenting opinions. Personally, I am holding off commenting there till I see a definite improvement in their level of sarcasm, and researching a bit before making outrageous claims/counter-claims when responding to dissenting opinions.

(doing a little dance number here!!!)

Kunal said...

Hi Chetan,
Wow, that was one mother of a comment! I've written academic papers (well, paper, actually) that were smaller than your one comment.

Responding to your one specific reference to my blog:

My criticism of Prof. Matthew had nothing to do with his being a leftist, it had to do with his making outrageous claims (eg, the Indian government is herding Nagas into concentration camps and carpet-bombing them) which he refused to respond to. In the comments, you saw some MICAns defending Prof. Matthew, but that does not mean that the entire student body there respects, or even supports what he did and said. I had spoken to some MICAns who were less than happy with what he says and does, and the way he treats any disagreement.

But again, as I requested the other commenters, if you can point out a specific instance of a mischaracterisation, or of an unfounded obnoxious statement, perhaps I can look into it.

PS: Are you a Punekar?

Chetan said...

Dilip D'Souza: Thanks for your compliments about the design and the comment. I like the way you refer to books/authors when talking about general things. It sounds so warm!

Suyog and BD: I think both of you shouldn't be too surprised about this long comment since you had the misfortune to bear it on your blogs.

Pablo Ares: Thanks

Amit Kulkarni: I used to follow your comments on the Indian Economy blog. The ones on the plastic bags post were really good. About the issue of sarcasm, I think that more than anything else prompted this post. They don't see their own condescendation at all while pointing to Leftist one. To be frank this is less of an argument against lassiez faire free markets and more for promotion of a variety of opinions in the blgosphere, which the cartel owing to their clout has managed to (inadventently probably) stifle. Tomorrow if there is an intelligent leftist blogger out there, he will think 100 times whether he should go against the prevailing mood in the blogosphere. He may have some wonderful points, which I might not agree with. But I don't want to miss out on them because of this Libertarian condercendation, their Black and White view on markets and no comment policies. I would however tend to disagree about the congregation of kindred souls. I for one seek out opinions from a wide spectrum, however radical, and think that blogosphere offers a wonderful chance to do that.

Kunal: You deserve more than an apology from my side. When I was writing that comment I was a bit (ok! more than a bit) charged. It was a 3 hour marathon and a lot of pent up frustration came out. I now realise (or to be honest knew this while I was writing but was just too angry to bother about being fair) that I should not have said that part about your and Gaurav's behaviour being appalling in the comments. Although not exactly exemplary your response to the comments was mature and responsible.

However please do not let my atrocious behaviour shift your attention from the basic point behind referrencing your post. I wanted to make the point that were it not for the comments section your readers and you would never have come to know the other side at all, which I think is important for anyone to make his/her own decision and come to his/her own conclusion. When your posts have an ideological bent/bias I think its common courtesy to allow others to differ because you (Libertarians who do not allow comments) do link to posts that oppose your point of view. Were this posted (hypothetically) on Gaurav's blog we as readers would have missed the other side altogether. Also readers would not have had to suffer reading my loooooong post had I had the opportunity to express my views about the individual posts then and there.

Gaurav said...

Have written an "interim" post here. :)

Amit Kulkarni said...

Hi Chetan,

Being birds of a feather doesn't also mean 'congregation of kindred souls' the way I described it on the site. Amit Varma probably did not read the websites I linked to, and instead counter-attacks with heavy sarcasm asking me the same questions he would have no need to ask, if he had read the websites, or did his own background research. I noticed he also asks the same type of question on Shivam's blog post about Microsoft. On why nobody is being forced to buy Microsoft products.

Free intellectual discussion should be the order of the day! I need to be sure, if I am visiting your blog and leaving comments, that my opinions are not trashtalked by the owners of that blog.

I will argue against you too if I don't agree with you, but I suspect from what little I have read, that you all won't trashtalk my opinions. I hope you all would dissect it nicely, and offer persuasive counter-arguments.

That is also something I meant but didn't mention. I actually don't think I was coherent enough in that post, it was written in a hurry.

Sam said...

So one of your BIG gripes is that some of these guys don't allow comments on their own blogs? You keep referring to that bit. Why is THAT such a big deal? Don't you have your own blog to write counter-arguments?

Suyog said...

Hey Amit,

Thanks a lot for commenting. No - as I said there too, I respect these individuals (Amit verma, Gaurav Sabnis et al) and their opinion of no comment policy.

Its just my personal taste that I dont like reading blogs which dont have comments turned on - nothing against any of the individuals. I think there are enough GREAT blogs in Indian blogosphere that I would miss anything hehehe!!

On that note, I Must check your blog out now :P!



Chetan said...

Sam: There are many gripes which I have listed in that comment and my coming back to this particular one has to do with the sentiments expressed by other commentators here and not with any heirarchical preference for one gripe over another. I think I have explained that bit about why I favour comments and diversity of opinion by giving an example of Kunal's post. Many of the dissenting MICA students didn't have their own blogs so they could not write a rebuttal. Plus even if they wrote it, it would have been difficult for me to keep track of it. When a blogger does not keep a comments section, there is hardly any incentive to revisit the post again and again as one does when comments are enabled. You will return to my post for reading my response. Ask yourself how many times you have visited Gaurav posts twice. Somebody might write a post/rebuttal on that topic few hours after I have read it. I would miss out on the trackback link altogether. And multiple posts makes it cumbersome to follow the debate for me as a reader. So what is wrong if I criticise this policy and seek a response. I am merely criticising it and rallying opinion around it. I am not asking for any regulations. Check this comment I wrote from a free market perspective on Shivam's blog regarding similar sentiments expressed there.

Rohit said...

Bravo. That was probably one of the best rejoinders to libertarian arguements that I have ever read.

Mayuresh said...

I initially was quite taken aback by the sheer size of it. A friend of mine specifically told me that it takes around 15-20 complete revolution of the mouse scroll wheel to get through your comment.

But extremely well quoted.

Manasi said...

Boss................... That post of yours is amazing! Very well written and thought out indeed.
I am not a great follower of either of the blogs and am new to the blogoshpere, but you guys seem to have some real fun out there. It was interesting and educative to read all that stuff by you and the others. Looking forward to more of such booooming debates.

PS: just a small advise...................... write smaller sentences which are less complex and easier to understand for the majority of the readers, as sometimes the finer meaning behind your words are lost in catching one's breath reading the sentences and you come across as someone totally influnced by the germans (goebbel, is he the one?) who have a penchant for writing huge sentences that can run for pages together! ;

Keep writing!

Chetan said...

LOL!!! That was fantastic Manasi. It took me a long time to figure out the sarcasm behind posting a long winded sentence criticising my penchat for resorting to the same. Good one.And welcome to the blogosphere. I am sure you will enjoy your time here.

Artful Dodger said...

Dear Chetan,

No words are enough for you for the way you have brought out the truth amongst all the maze here. I was spellbound for a full five minutes after reading your comment. It was so long, yet not a single sentence was reduntant. I will say this loud- You deserve nothing short of a gold medal for that comment of yours.

The person who has been hit most by that comment is noone but Amit Varma. Like you, I respect him too, but not his hard-headedness in seeing both sides of the story. Reliable sources inform me that Amit V has actually taken umbrage at your comment. It has hit him so hard that he completely broke down while sampling some great 'privately manufactured' coffee in a coffee shop in Mumbai. His 2 comrades GSabnis and RK Rao were with him. They tried to cheer him up by sound bytes like "Best Blogger" and "India's instapundit " etc. But he kept on sobbing and blabbered " I lost it, that long comment made me lose it ". An inquisitive lady who was passing by asked " What have you lost? "
Amit replied: "Straw men and other fallacies". :)))))

You literally spoke my mind when you said about that no comments thing. Now the question arises- how did your comment help? Imagine a 16- 17 old year boy who has access to Internet. He has no well formed opinion on economics etc. But he reads India Uncut day after day...he's getting influenced by what he reads. Imagine a scenario where comments are enabled on IU. Can u imagine how embarrasing that long comment of yours would have been to Amit Varma? And that 16 year old boy , indoctrinated by links specially selected by Amit for free market mantra brainwashing would exclaim " hey there are both sides of the story. And i was seeing only 1 side of this whole issue."

As you have said , no- comments " preclude any debate on their own blogs". Like Suyog, I personally dont like the no-comment thing and defenses for it have been weakened considerably after Blogger introduced the moderated comment thing. I used to read india uncut till Amit's mask fell off, and i got a bit disenchanted with his obviousisms like " and the blogosphere has responded - commemts not necessary" and i-am-holier- than -thou attitude. Any one who has provided him with cogent explanations was met with Type something arguments and other Wikipedia links (those links are actually a bit fishy , but i wont go into that).Suffice it to say that villain production is on the increase but mirror manufacture has slumped !!!! However hard as I try, 1 blog I cannot avoid despite no-comments is Gaurav Sabnis. He is just magnificent. Notice RKR and GS ackknowledged your comment, but not Amit Veram. :))

Personally I dont think that India uncut will ever have comments enabled. 3500 hits a day is good enough. thereby hangs a tale and a question. Some guys in the previous comment thread asked you " I dont know them from Adam's age, so why do I read them"? Hmmm.....I dont like Ravi Shastri's commentary either , but still I have to listen to him as others like Siva are not good enough. But i"ll show you one instance where Amit Veram was forced to enable comments. When Wicket to Wicket was launched on Cricinfo, they probably thought, comments were not necessary as the reader will read us like the Holy Bible. Result- hardly ever anyone read it. Why? Well Prem Panicker was there. So he HAD to enable comments in latest 23 yards. :) It is a different issue that not many bother to comment there though.:))

That is what I like. Might sound like Ad- hominem , I dont give a fig, but the reader is better served in knowing the inclination of the writer. Like...over the past few months it has been amply manifested that Cricinfo has a Anti Ganguly and pro Dravid agenda. Fine. But it helps if i am aware of it. Similarly with India Uncut. With the word spreading like wildfire about your landmark comment one will take further links to cafe hayek and amit's articles on economics with a pinch of salt, in fact bucketfuls of salt. And somehow, in an esoteric way you have actually empowered the readers of India Uncut.

i have observed another thing in the comments on the indian economy blog. People who are USA wannabes like Walmart, and see coffee shops as signs of liberalisation and think " The grass is so green on the other side. " But the people who actually live in USA oppose them. Read the classic response by a gentleman called Kya yaar tu Bhi on the post titled "Tilling Fields " on that particular blog.

That MICA thing was illuminating. If you had not pointed it out, I would have taken the words of the 'no-comments' bloggers as granted and generalised. It was really illuminating! When Australia toured India in 2001 , India met them eye to eye and fire was met with fire. No praise can be too high for Mridula too for the way she fought. Amit Kulkarni's arguments also deserve the highest praise.

Amit Varma will bring out quaint articles in support of global warming. When faced with proofs, he chickens out of discussions. Hah! Same with his support for Bush and support of the Iraq war.

"I would appreciate it if henceforth the Libertarians take a long hard look at their own double standards and no comments gag policies. "

fantastic. simply fantastic. Shabash!!! I am your lifelong fan from now on.

Chetan said...

Artful Dodger:
Hey, are you trying to compete with the length of my comment? Don't even think about it! Thanks for what you said. I don't think I had a conscious intention of going against Amit Varma. But if this has helped induce people to think critically I would really be happy. While pretending to be great worshippers of chaos, these guys absolutely hate choas in the marketplace of ideas. With their absolutist Black and White views they will try to stifle any dissenting opinion. I don't understand where their reverence for free marketplace of ideas vanshes suddenly when someone has a dissenting opinion? If they really had the faith in their own ideas and thought that their conception of truth is so crystal clear then they should have no problem linking to posts that go against their views. Because a person confident in his ideology would have faith in the reader realising the truth for himself. Why this propagandist approach, especially when they hate it when the other side indulges in it and make a moral issue about it?

Your comment about people in the US opposing radical reforms while Indians at home cheer hit the nail on the head. I understand why someone in India may think that the guy in US prevents him from enjoying the same things he benefits from in the US. It's but natural to be sceptical, as partly the concern rings true. Because of the kind of waste one person generates here, while leading a comfortable life, we get exposed to the charge of double standards when we cry foul about abuse of the environment in India. Therefore people tune off completely when someone in the US talks about caution. But this need not be so and I think sensible dialog in the blogosphere may change that. Like Amit Kulkarni says the guy in the US lives in a mature market in an imperfect free market state. He sees the early competition that fostered rapid growth degenrating into monopolies and huge companies taking over small ones over a period of time thus stifling competition. He watches with powerlessness the ensuing suffering of the consumer. Anyone who has ever called up a 1-800 number in the US knows about how bad the bureaucracy of a big company can really be. I think even BSNL may offer better service than Verizon and Comcast nowadays. And how I miss those friendly insurance agents rather than waiting for 30 minutes to get a quote. So the chap in the US does not share the Libertarian antipathy towards government bureaucracy as he has been at the receiving end of worse bureaucratic abuse by the big complanies. Regular listeners of NPR and PBS know that in a market situation these channels wont survive. And some of the problems with Wal-Mart are even acknowledged by conservatives. But instead of engaging someone who dissents and understand what he is saying, the guys simple throw the theories of choice and liberty at him. It reminds me of that telephone conversation which Saif Ali Khan has with Suchitra in Dil Chahta Hai. The dissenting commentators/commenters on those blogs go.... Arrey par.... Lekin main... suno tho... and so on and so forth with the other side never bothering to listen, instead telling them how in a perfect marketplace these problems wont arise. Arrey baba lekin even you acknowledge that perfect marketplace can never exist! Anyways, lets hope for now at least a minority in the blogosphere feels confident enough to take on their blind faith and intellectual arrogance. I request anyone having any questions about my agenda to read this post of mine. It ought to clarify many things.

Yazad said...

Thanks for the flattery. I had no idea that the Indian blogistan was under a libertarian 'stranglehold'.

Chetan said...

Yazad: That was not flattery. Probably a sincere, but backhanded compliment. In a way you guys should be proud. You have managed to influence a lot of guys (note the insistence on guys).

Gaurav said...

Is your Pune house actually IN Sadashiv Peth, or at least very close to it? ;-)

Mridula said...

Chetan, where were you hiding all these days? You are a much needed influence in the Indian blogsphere. Particularly because you argue in a cool, sane headed manner, lack of which can be noticed in me significantly. But I am trying to learn. And I came back gushing because of the debate going between you and gaurav at Desipundit.

And you do not sound like a 'dude' at all. If my sis and brother-in-law you sound very well read.

And if are trying to see this as flattery it could have been, if it was insincere :)

Mridula said...

In the above comment I meant to say, if my sis and brother-in-law are to be believed, you sound very well read. The impatient me, can't even complete a sentence properly.

Chetan said...

I am still laughing at that one about Sadashiv Peth. That was so out of turn, Oh my God! How dare you insinuate that. I have 'jajwalya abhimaan' about where I stay so backhanded compliments aren't taken kindly. But the answer to your question(unfortunately I think) is no. However I suspect going by Manasi's comment that she is from Sadashiv Peth or at least from Pune.

Mridula: Thanks for the sincere flattery :)

To all readers: Please refrain from making ad hominem attacks and statements in bad taste about anyone here. I let the one on Amit Varma by Artful Dodger slip through and am not moderating it because I had not warned about this earlier.

Amit Kulkarni said...

Dear Mridula,

Your brother-in-law is no slouch himself when it comes to long comments! I would ideally desire something like he points out.

The idea is not about who is right and who is wrong, the idea is about the power to express; the idea is about debate

I was shocked to see Ravikiran
being condescending. Rather try to deal me and the others who argue contrarily, a death of a thousand cuts, if you can. That is much appreciated.

Mridula said...

Amit K, I personally do not give a damn about Ravikirian when I discovered this South Indian stuff. Not worth your thought.

Amit Kulkarni said...


Thanks for the pointer.

Ravages said...

Ok! I don't have the patience nor the inclination to read all the comments here, (have people taken a leaf out your book and are leaving 1 page long comments btw?) so apologies to anyone whose sentiments I might repeat.

Listen, you keep going on and on about the so called clout of the libertarians. Care to expand? What are we doing? Preventing other bloggers from writing their posts? Are we (or did we stop?) stopping you from leaving that comment of yours? Are we sending out diktats every week on what exactly the Indian blogosphere should write about? Are we sitting in judgement over what FMS and NHBs and AAHBs and ACLs are writing? Are we deputing policemen to monitor what others are writing?

All "we" libertarians are doing is write about stuff that matter to us, and because most of us share opinions and ideas, get along well with each other and present a combined face to the world. Why should it rankle you so much?
We have no more clout that you have.

As to turning off comments, again, why should it bother you? It's not like there's a rule that all blogs ought to have comments enabled, is there? I am only going to repeat what has been said extensively before. What or who stops you from posting your comment on your own blog and carrying the debate further?

i appreciate your point about diverse opinions. But with your rant, to me, you kinda shoot your own foot.
By attacking the libertarians whose opinions you don't agree with, but maintaining that all you care about is D.O, well, a little hard to swallow.

yum yum said...

Hi Chetan,

I have not been active on the Indian blogosphere for a very long time now. I used to follow the blogs by Gaurav, Ravikiran, Yazad and a few others for quite sometime. It was also at a time when my political views shifted from the right to the middle.

I used to be a regular commenter on Gaurav's blog. I had noticed the stranglehold of libertarians on indian political blogging a long time ago and I sometimes would comment just to provide a different worldview.

After commenting on Gaurav's blog for sometime I left for a while and when I came back there was a person who commented under the acronym 'skb' (it full-form is expletive-ridden). Again, there would be good arguments and debates in Gaurav's comment section and apparently Gaurav was in touch with skb through email.

In the end Gaurav blamed me and skb for making him close his comment section. It is very much his right and I respect that. Yazad did chide him and the other person for closing their comment section.

I have myself noticed that the libertarian bloggers act like a mob and I had mentioned this once on Michael Higgin's blog. They do not accept any criticism or differing viewpoints and sometimes get down to downright abuse. They also go into investigative sprees and everybody gets involved.

I myself have been accused of having no life and being the same person as skb even though our posting styles, knowledge of issues and political views are very different. skb did muddy the water by once posting under my pseudonym.

I have posted on Ravikiran's comment section from time to time and posted on 'themaanga' recently. Gaurav is the best writer and Ravikiran is indeed reasonable (though he banned me from posting comments once).

At the end of the day, these blogs don't matter a lot as they are the perspectives of a newly rich class of people consisting of people from the IT field and MBAs. Its a new yuppie class. They have no real say in the affairs of India and won't have any for a long time. By the time they reach the higher echelons they would have mellowed or still find out that India is one of the stronger democracies of the world everyone believes that it is ones right to be heard. When they are not heard, the society has a way of plunging into chaos.

Being a long commenter yourself, I hope you wouldn't mind my comments.

yum yum

Yeah said...

India needs free-markets. Libertarians champion that cause, dogmatically, as they might. Lafra kya hai?

Yeah, I think you maintain a rational level-headedness; something these dogmatic Rand-heads with reflexive responses seem to have given up. There we go- group-membership all over again.

Peace out,

abhay said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chetan said...

The above comment has been deleted with Abhay's permission as he agreed that it was not adding to the discussion. I will post a comment policy soon on my sidebar. Till then please desist from ad-hominem attacks on other bloggers.

Rk said...

I am trying to get to that comment, and as you know desipundit died, and I can't get to that comment on Shivam Vij (both the posts are not present).. I read it back then, but I want to read and understand now. Could you mail me ? Thanks

Chetan said...


You will be able to look up the comment on the following web page.
Needless to say, in the last five years since the comment, some statements in that comment make me cringe and there are several views expressed in the comment which I no longer subscribe to or have refined my view regarding them.

Rk said...

Thanks Chetan. Sure, can understand about the refined views. I was totally ignorant then, and now I get some of those concepts, so just wanted to refresh. Thanks again.