Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Information

Wikileakes and Radiagates: unbridled dissemination of information is so difficult to handle.

There should be no doubt that people have right to privacy. Nobody has the right or reason to know what happens between two or more adults behind closed doors. No body should have access to their private talks.

This brings us to the next question: Is the right to privacy absolute? Or let’s pose this question differently. Criminals use privacy to hatch plots to cause larger harm to the society. Given that privacy can be used in a way that can lead to disastrous consequences-can the denizens of the society be assured of absolute privacy? If it could be controlled, would US ever allow Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda operatives privacy?

I am being judgemental when I say we all lead a dualistic life: one for the public consumption and, perhaps, more than one private lives. An expose or a sting operation therefore affects most the person it talks about. It breaks the sham of dualistic life, selective dissemination of information to create a certain false image. It is like the exposed is stripped bare in the middle of a crowded street. He has no place to hide, nowhere to go. It is worst that can happen to someone. I would therefore not do it for reasons that are described by the word: frivolous. I would exercise utmost responsibility and restraint, would do it for larger public interest. And there is no thin line here but a clear demarcation between what constitutes private chit-chat and what forms a negotiations that spells the contours of criminality, misuse of official position of a custodian for personal gains. There is never confusion. But there is always a temptation to sensationalise things.

In Niira Radia tapes, I am not so bothered about the tone and tenor of the telephonic conversations that sound very informal…bordering private. I am rather amazed at what is being discussed and by whom. The richie rich and the biggie big doing what we expect them to do, use money power to bend rules. But it was good to hear it, the vague ideas concretised when exposed to the real drill. I am reminded of a proverb in Hindi: naam bare aur darshan chote (big names and small deeds). There is no criminality as no law has been broken. Perhaps recorded conversation is not even admissible in the court as evidence. But since it was official, sanctioned tapping of phone; and no one has really denied to these telephonic conversations, it is a potent embarrassment. It will cause many heads to roll, especially in the media fraternity.

In US-the harbinger of free society-is much more hassled by the Wikileaks. The government has employed all the means possible, most of them unethical and undemocratic to plug the Wikileaks. But the Wikileaks has a thousand holes and it might not be possible to plug all of them before it spreads sufficiently to cause the damage. It makes us aware of what we already know-American highhandedness and selfishness. It is also indicative of frustration in the American establishment that they are slowly but decisively losing their dominance on the world. A change that is inevitable to create a new world order.

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