A vaccine for spirited social behaviour

Gopinath Menon | Updated on February 26, 2021

It’s anyone’s guess how things will be after the new Justice system for social behaviour is sounded by the government   -  istock.com/vchal

But what will the dose be — as use, misuse and abuse have a thin line of difference?

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, we were constantly reprimanded by our parents. Reprimanding always had different forms, either it could be stern scolding, clipping between the ears or even stronger doses at times. Most of us have no doubt had the privilege of experiencing all forms in good measure. Did it change the behaviour?

No, not at all. As once the fear goes out, and the consequences are clear: You proceed in tangential behaviour as the benefits may be worth the anticipated thrashing.

A tweet from a social environmental activist from across the Pacific sent the whole establishment into a tizzy.

Suddenly hot buttons were activated and we heard phrases like “the foreign Hand” and “attempts to destabilise” were in the air. Even the so-called “never bothered Bollywood” decided to demonstrate patriotism and a series of tweets from known celebrities followed.

A viewpoint always has a counter and as a result another set of viewpoints were tweeted from the showbiz land. The atmosphere was charged and this was an opportunity for the news channels to create prime-time footage. So, the ancient proverb “building a mountain out of molehill” seemed to have come true again.

The after-effects were for all to see as some youngsters were picked up to be freed by the court after 10 days. Had the overseas tweet been ignored, all would have perhaps subsided without a whimper.

Since tough times call for tough measures, the Government announced rules and regulations that would apply to online news organisations and social media sites. There were separate guidelines for social media sites and for video streaming platforms.

Social media sites should take down unlawful content after being served a notice by the court or any government agency. Grievances cell needs to be established and monthly reports on all complaints received and action taken filed with the authorities concerned.

Not easy to implement

Video streaming in the entertainment genre needs to certify age groups as desired by the regulatory authorities. This starts from 13-plus years. All these guidelines may seem simple but will not be easy to implement as they would need many heads with different skill-sets.

On top of that the I&B Ministry will set up an Inter-Departmental Committee to hear grievances. The key question is: Who will decide objectionable content? Who will decide the rights and wrongs in a democracy?

Use, misuse and abuse have a thin line of difference between them. The categorisation is based on ‘belief” — of what you believe is right. It could be classified as wrong in someone else’s dictionary. So, if the decider is the beneficiary, then the whole purpose is defeated and could boomerang.

Many questions emerge after the sudden unleashing of guidelines:

Video-streaming platforms would wonder what would happen to the content already canned? Would it qualify in an app certified for universal viewing?

Who will decide the age certification? Today, children at 12 know more than when the earlier generation passed out of college. Is this transformation in awareness of youngsters accommodated in the current guidelines?

How do parents ensure that the content certified by the authorities is relevant for their kids?

How do we know who is watching and was he/she qualified ?

Many more hiccups will emerge as time goes by, but the basic issue remains: What is the current stance and what is self-believed? This is a government that was fairly elected with a clear majority and was given a second term in office. It is branded as the most decisive government ever in the history of India, a government that is just and not corrupt at all. If these impeccable traits are ingrained in your ministers and staff, it radiates a sense of confidence and warmth in the nation. Then one ponders why these regulations all of a sudden?

Tough to pick the right answer

There are many right answers here and hence will be tough to pick the right one. To try and solve this jigsaw would be to ask another relevant question: Do you want to be rich, or do you want to be famous? Or both? Or do you want to be rich, famous and powerful?

The third attribute makes a concoction lethal. This amalgam results in the status of “what is at stake”.

It is here that all the brilliant traits and qualities go for a toss, the rules of the game are disrupted, and so “protecting your turf till eternity ” is an important regimen and you should preserve it at all costs.

It’s anyone’s guess as to how things will be after the “New Justice System for social behaviour” is sounded by the government, but a couple of trends will emerge. These endless debates on relevance, impact and consequences will dominate the air waves for some time and sane and conscious citizens will take their eyes off the ball. No one will be concerned about the rising prices of fuel and the state of the economy.

The other trend is we seem to be getting into a phase of “agree to disagree” and this will ensure that all lawyers worth their salt will realise that “Achhe Din” have come for them and they will laugh all the way to the bank.

The writer has spent over three decades in media and at top advertising agencies of India

Published on February 26, 2021

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