Every time I come across some devastatingly bad human nature, I am surprised by the generosity of the people who have been wronged by that. It happens in the real world all the time but now more and more often the digital world is prone to such incidents.
Some months ago I read the story of a Jewish American journalist who had been receiving many anti-Semitic threats on his Twitter account and the stalker seemed to have many details of his private life. His wife’s Twitter handle had a nom de plume and she was spared of those abuses until she identified herself as the long suffering wife of this journalist. Soon they began to receive packages at their doorstep that had not too savoury contents and their stalker seemed to know every last emotion that went into their reaction.
That is when they called in the authorities and eventually were horrified to discover the identity of their tormentor – the 17 year old son of their good neighbour and friends with whom they dined at least twice a week, went on picnics and shopping together and were considered the best of friends by the entire community,
They informed the shocked parents and took the boy out to dinner. They began to speak of their harassmeant and all the while the boy acted sympathetic and played the innocent. They gave him ample opportunity to own up to his crime but when he didn’t they let him know they had his measure. Then the boy broke down as his furious father permitted his friends to take any action against their son as they wished – he could have got thirty years in prison for racism and anti-Semitism at the least. But they let him off with a stern warning even as he burst in tears – he was a bright student and his entire life and career could have been ruined had they brought a case against him.
I was reminded of the story when this week former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan faced a similar situation – though not one of cyber threat but one of impersonation. A young college boy from Shirur in the interiors of Maharashtra with professors for parents had started a faux Facebook page in his name and had been happily chatting away with all Chavan’s friends and supporters for months. Chavan had been flummoxed when those chats were mentioned to him but thought it was a case of mistaken identity. However, when he and former MLA Krishna Hegde were travelling together to New Delhi this week, Hegde mentioned to him a chat they had had just the previous day. Chavan denied all knowledge of it and when Hegde logged on and started the chat again both were horrified to discover the impersonator merrily pretending to be Ashok Chavan even as Chavan was sitting with dropping jaws beside Hegde looking into his phone and supposed statements he was making.
Chavan soon lodged a police complaint and the boy was picked up from his home and brought to Bombay along with his father. I was amazed that Chavan, like the American journalist, should have let this boy go too – with a stern warning that he would never do it again, even as the boy’s father was in tears in both shame and embarrassment and relief that his son would not have to go to jail. Chavan’s reasoning was the same – the case would unnecessarily ruin the boy’s career and future prospects.
I guess both Chavan and the American journalist are better human beings than I could ever be for I would have found it difficult to forgive anyone, young or old, under the circumstances.
I find many of my colleagues equally generous, if not forgiving, when they are abused by trolls and sometimes genuine handles on Twitter. I generally block them and move on but lately I am getting less tolerant of such transgressions and am seriously considering taking leaf out of senior journalist Swati Chaturvedi’s book – I have promised troublesome trolls that one word of abuse against my parents, my family, my friends or even my colleagues and I shall go to the police.
Generosity is good in its own place but we need sterner action against people who think they have the right to threaten, abusea or impersonate (except when they identify themselves as parody accounts) with impunity just because the anonymity of the net gives them good cover.
The government could find the resources to block more than 800 porn sites of which some were just ribald humour sites. While child porn is definitely to be acted against, I wonder if the government has in itself to stop the abuse against people who disagree with them because much of the abuse in is in the name of Narendra Modi who even seems to think nothing of felicitating these abusive trolls.
Generosity does not always come out of weakness, one needs to be a nobler spirited individual to act like Chavan and the Jewish American journalist did. It is sad that not many recognise that generosity for what it is and seem to mistake it as a license for more abuse and impersonation.
I wonder if the American boy actually had a change of heart about Jews with that forgiveness and if our own lad from Shirur will truly desist. Perhaps not.
But I salute both Chavan and the Amercan journalist and hope I can be as forgiving.
On a day when Narendra Modi and the BJP decisively sweep the elections, I have hardly anything left to say except that I am truly stunned. I have not as much idea about states in other parts of the country to which I did not travel at these elections but I toured Maharashtra extensively and all my instincts rebel against the results – I and most of my colleagues who thought similarly are unable to fathom what went wrong for the Congress-NCP alliance. Read more
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I still recall how many people jumped on me when I described Anna Hazare as a loose cannon during his anti-corruption crusade at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi a few weeks ago. Still fewer cared for my observation that he was impressionable and wont to quicksilver changes of mind. Read more
I must say a new respect has dawned in my heart for noted lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani. He was candid enough to admit that if any of the ministers in the Jan Lokpal Committee had to have been caught out in various acts like the Bhushan father-and-son duo have been, he would have been baying for their blood. Read more
If dereserving a plot meant for weaker sections of society in Karnataka and handing it over to your son is not illegal, just immoral, then, pray, why is the new Maharashtra government and the whole world going for former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s blood and that of his bureaucrats for assigning to themselves and various assorted members of their families prime flats in the Adarsh housing society in Bombay? Read more
Some weeks ago, I was fascinated to read my colleague Pankaj Vohra’s account, on his blog, of astrologers and diviners who mostly got it right. But I have not been so fortunate — I have yet to meet one who doesn’t go wrong! Read more
The older I get, the more I tend to think I might be immune to eve-teasers (or they to me!). But sometimes that is strictly not true. I have side-stepped this despicable specimen of the human race for several years now by avoiding public transport and getting my own. I largely travel in the safe environment of my own comfort zone, from home to work and the odd visit here or there, these days. So election season has once again given me somewhat of a reality check. Read more