In the past few weeks Offstumped has been attracting a few comments from Journalists as well as there have been oblique references in the mainstream media on the line taken by Offstumped on Tehelka and more recently on Nandigram. On 1st October 2006 Offstumped had reacted to a piece in the TOI critical of Bloggers. A re-run of that piece follows.

Shobhan Saxena of the Times News Network has written a piece titled “Bloggers’ rubbish” which appeared on the TOI website. Offstumped has taken a detour from National Security issues to issue a rejoinder from the Blogger community. Shobhan takes on the ever expanding blogosphere claiming that it is filled

with  half-wits, religious maniacs, failed writers, sociopaths and cold-blooded killers.

Shobhan may have a point there, but thats hardly something new, the internet has always been a haven for all individuals of all mental persuasions. So why expect the blogosphere to be any different from the rest of the internet.Shobhan then goes on to further characterize the personality behind the blog as

They are interesting people. They think that they have something to say. They want to be read and heard and seen. But their aspiration is blocked by the obnoxious monster called the Editor and their high-voltage facts mixed with slam-dunk fiction, with a lot of typos and commas and semi-colons in wrong places, go down a drain called the Editorial Process. So they turn to blogging and take refuge under a series of posts on a web page in the form of a diary, with hypertext links to other such diaries

Shobhan’s gripe is that bloggers dont go through an editorial process unlike journalists. What journalists like Shobhan miss is the fact that the blogosphere continues to be vibrant, innovative and hugely popular precisely for these reasons – it is uncontrolled and unregulated. It is what is Free Speech in a Liberal Society is meant to be. Something the likes of Shobhan in the mainstream media fall head over heels to defend. The problem with the likes of Shobhan is their perception of Free Speech is essentially limited to the Journalists, as long as they in the mainstream media can control and regulate what opinion is fed to the masses.Shobhan then goes on to take Bloggers head on for pretending to be journalists who are out to replace mainstream journalism. Shobhan makes his case saying:

Learning and mastering good journalism is tough. You learn it in libraries, on flooded streets, in front of a rioting mob, in the middle of crossfire between a militia and a military, in war trenches, in the corridors of power and in the hamlets of deprivation. Sometimes, a reporter walks for miles in an area ravaged by a tsunami to get one quote from the man hanging on to a tree for a week.

Shobhan makes a good point about what good journalism is all about. Where Shobhan is completely off the mark is when he assumes that Bloggers are out to replace journalists. No, Shobhan, we are not out to replace journalists. In fact you the journalists exist for a very important reason you have outlined above. We need you to walk the ravaged sands to report the facts on the Tsunami, we need you to brave the bullets to report on the facts of war. Let there be no two views on that. It is precisely for this reason, that we consumers of your factual reportage, spend our hard earned rupees to pay you. You the reporter exist because we the consumers of your reportage are willing to pay. You dont exist in a vaccum. It is precisely because you the reporters have forgotten this fundamental equation that you see all of these wannabe journalist amongst some of the bloggers.

Shobhan’s intolerance for a diversity of opinion and an Orwellian belief that it is only the mainstream media which has a monopoly on Public Opinion is reflected in his comments

 Bloggers don’t have to worry about such inane things. They can learn history and politics from google. They can get their facts from newspapers and then slam them with their half-baked opinions.

It is precisely this arrogance in the mainstream media Shobhan that has propelled Talk Radio in the

U.S. and now Bloggers across the world to take control of public debate. We the consumers of your reportage are only interested in your facts, not your opinions. The fact that you have the walked ravaged sands makes your facts more accurate, but does little to bake your opinion any more than a blogger who has access to not just your facts but facts from every other journalist via google.  So Shobhan, we are willing to spend our rupees on you to the extent of obtaining the most accurate facts on events, but we are not willing to indulge you with lacing your reportage with your biases and prejudices, we are not necessarily interested in your Opinions. So dont you dare insult our intellect by questioning our right to form our opinions and express them by exercising our right to freedom of speech.Shobhan’s snobbery towards Indian Bloggers is even more despicable. It is yet another reflection on the elitist pseudo-intellectual prejudices harbored by those in the mainstream media. Shobhan picks the example of one Indian blog called warfornews while passing a sweeping judgement on the entire Indian blogger community. Shobhan has clearly not spent much time reading Offstumped or other fellow bloggers O3 who have labored to bring to light news analysis and opinion that is barely attempted by the mainstream media. Case in point Offstumped’s analysis on how New York, Madrid and

London reacted to terrorists strikes in contrast to how Mumbai fared. This was an analysis that the mainstream media could have very easily presented to make the case that not enough was being done in response to the 7-11 Mumbai Blasts. Nearly 80 days on, the 7-11 blasts now appear to be solved, but the mainstream media was guilty in not asking the tough questions expected of it as was shown by Offstumped on how The Hindu dedicated an overly disproportionate portion of its editorial space to pursue its AntI-Israel political agenda  rather than ask tough questions in the aftermath of 7-11.Shobhan makes an insidious accusation that Bloggers are for sale and that corporates are using them as mercernaries. This is a case of the kettle calling the pot black. Shobhan wants us to believe that Journalists are somehow saints, who have attained selflessness and are only motivated by the quest for truth and are in no way influenced by their interestes, biases, prejudices and motives. This assertion flies in the face of the facts brought to light by Offstumped on how The Hindu’s N. Ram had called on journalists to pursue an agenda and how The Hindu’s agenda was visible in the aftermath of the Malegaon blasts when it attempted to float a conspiracy theory against what it called Hindutva Terrorism. 

Shobhan signs off his piece paying a tribute to western bloggers while taking a dig at Indian bloggers. Shobhan’s case is that

India does not needs its Bloggers because it has a a booming and vibrant media. Shobhan calls Indian blogging organized gossip and contends its a dangerous trend.Offstumped Bottomline to Shobhan Saxena: Shobhan you are right, Indian blogging is a dangerous trend. Dangerous not to Indian society at large but dangerous specifically to the Op-Ed Opinion Makers in the mainstream media who have arrogated to themselves the monopoly on all public opinion and debate. Indian Blogs are a repudiation of this elitism and psuedo intellectual arrogance. Free Speech in a Liberal Society is about Opinions that are neither controlled nor regulated. If you are a true believer of free speech you would have the strength of conviction to face up to these opinions rather than call them a dangerous trend.

As far as Offstumped goes be rest assured it will always abide by the Blogger’s Dharma of being honest about its Right of Center Agenda, basing its judgement and analysis on hard facts and presenting a logical view point. The success of Offstumped and other Indian Blogs will be judged not by you journalists but by the society at large which will either return to read more or ignore for the blogs to fade into oblivion. We dont need you Journalists to do that thinking for them, the people at large are quite capable of doing it themselves.

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