Savitabhabhi and the right to smut

News reports from India’s ContentSutra have it that http://www.savitabhabhi.com a porn cartoons web site has been banned by the Indian government.

While we all stand for freedom of speech, I am not sure that we should extend it to the right to publish smut.

What is cute about an online celebration of a sister-in-law who has the hots ? That incidentally was the theme of http://www.savitabhabhi.com, and some of the morally neutered media, US and Indian, gushed over it.

On this point I differ with the ultra-liberals who would argue that it has to be freedom at all costs, even if the freedom is exercised at the expense of good taste, or could endanger our kids who are also online.

Extending the liberal point of view further, this would add up to freedom to be solicited by pedophiles and other maniacs.

The fact is that if civil society is befuddled with confused liberal notions, somebody has to stop the smut online. If civil society does not have the way and means and the will to do it, the government does it.

The government has decided to take up the issue, and ban http://www.savitabhabhi.com. Hopefully, they will extend it to other pornographic sites. Else they would quite justifiably be seen as arbitrary.

I am not comfortable with the government deciding what should be made available to readers online, because the mandarins may misuse it, and they are not sophisticated enough to take a nuanced view.

That the government intervened however reflects the people’s inability to take a call as a concerted group, which is once again a reflection of the breakdown of consensus in civil society and the body politic.

Instead of relying on the liberal reflex, people worldwide have to take a serious view of the proliferation of smut and other things dangerous on the Internet. Just as we practively try to avoid crime on the streets, we should proactively try to stop criminal activities on the Internet.

As on the streets, there is the danger of fascism on the Internet. Governments also tend to want to curtail all freedoms in the name of curbing pornography, as in the case of China’s controversial filtering software for PCs.

But we have to find a middle-path for the sake of decency, good manners our sanity and that of the younger generation. We have to agree, or else the government will have to step in to tell us what is right.

P.S: A web site Savesavita.com has sprouted on the Internet to save the porn site….yet another example of misplaced liberalism.

7 Responses to Savitabhabhi and the right to smut

  1. the lostpoet says:

    I do no think that this middle path can be achieved in reality. Because the internet is vastly different from the real life. In a neighborhood you can keep unwanted things away as a community through like minded people and coercion. On the internet, you just have to avoid some places, just like in a big city where you have to avoid certain areas if you do not want to be ‘offended’.

    • Anon says:

      Thanks for your comment. I am hoping that there can be a middle path between unbridled freedom and too much government control. Freedom can get stronger only if we use it judiciously and responsibly. To use your metaphor, communities break down in large cities, and that is when we need the law and police to take care of things for citizens.

  2. SM says:

    A very interesting thread….. I’ve been following it from the content sutra site until here.

    I thought that your arguement was the most balanced…but I have to admit that I am in 100% agreement with @lostpoet – avoid the ‘rough neighborhoods’ of the web.

    I am not in favor of smut all over….that said, I rather have savitabhabhi up and running than the government taking a unilateral approach to determining what I can and cannot view. Hell, go to http://www.penthouse.com and you can buy a subscription to hard core porn on your Indian credit card. Seems 100% legal. My local DVD lending library will gladly loan out the worst possible smut to anyone for pennies a day.

    You simply cannot stop this. And for all those self-righteous prigs: get a dose of reality. By banning savitabhabhi.com you are not accomplishing anything.

    To be clear, I am not in favor of porn – as a kid I was introduced to it; as an adult I am very aware of what is available on the web, on video and in print and how easily a 12 year old can access it (print and video are even more accessible than the web). The only thing I can do for my kids is to bring them up so that they are aware, confident and secure. I’ve seen enough of the web, enough of India and enough of the world to conclude that all other forms of control will only be counter-productive. To me that is the middle path.

    • Anon says:

      Thanks for writing in.

      You would rather have savitabhabhi.com continue online than have the government bring it down.

      Those are not the only choices, I hope. Somehow I have great faith in the ability of civil society to rise up and play its role in public life and online.

      My plea in this post as in many others on my blog is that we have to move from spectators and consumers to actual actors in the society and politics around us. At that point even government can become the instrument of civil society. I am not saying we need to stand for elections, but we need to respond to things we don’t like around us, rather than try to avoid them.

  3. Nice post. The Govt can play a regulatory role but can’t be a Net Nanny. The ban on a single site is not going to tackle the problem of content unsuitable for all, on the Net. For those in the know, there are anonymizers and stuff which will allow access to such sites. And when something is banned, it becomes that much more enticing. I am not speaking up for sites like SB, but the nature of the internet beast is such. It will host such sites and more. It is the civil society that has to ensure that their kids are protected from such sites. Not the Government.

  4. [...] the site recently. More details and a healthy debate at ContentSutra. The mainstream media and blogs have taken up the cause of the banned website and have spoken against the ban. My two-bits on the [...]

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