The Quint’s Disclaimer: Echo Chamber of Stupidity

A few days ago, The Quint posted an article about the recent molestation incident in Bangalore. The article laid down some impeccable reasons behind the assault which for the sake of our sanity I will only dwell upon briefly.

To begin with, as per impeccable logic presented in the article, being out on the streets was unlawful. Thus the women clearly did not have anything to complain about. When you’re a criminal charged with being out in public on NYE, you have no grounds to complain. According to the author, you should have been inside a safe place with adequate security. So the best place to party is under your bed hiding.

Like weddings or functions, one should party within four walls too. As soon as you hit the street to party, you either become a mob or a victim. You can choose to be safe, so don’t blame the mob.

This article, although completely incomprehensible and filled with wildly inaccurate analogies, was still fine. India grants all its citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression. And this case is no different.

The Issue

What baffled me however is why The Quint, a news platform with a substantive viewership, published it. While no disclaimer was present on the article originally, one was very conviniently added after a massive backlash on social media. The disclaimer stated that The Quint’s editorial stand was at complete variance with the views expressed. (Why give your huge readership platform to it, then? Does the answer start with ‘click’ and end in a word that rhymes with ‘gait’?) The Quint also justified that it merely wanted to provide a space to air “contrary opinions”. Someone should contact them offering to justify the Holocaust and blame Sati on women while we have that platform available.

The disclaimer also condescendingly evoked freedom of speech, because clearly legality rather than common sense was at fault here. To be clear, I do not deny that the author and The Quint enjoy this freedom. My issue is with the lack of editorial standard and the irresponsibility demonstrated by the site by allowing this publication. When you address a fragile social issue of such gravity in a country where half the population still believies that rape is a woman’s fault, you carry a certain responsibility to not propagate drivel.

A healthy debate on grey areas and contradicting issues is more than welcome. An article pinning a criminal wrong on the victim for “being outside” is however a different ballgame. With widespread assault, sexism and misogyny prevalent in India, do we really need a news platform justifying it? For a person who already feels that women are responsible for their own safety and shouldn’t dress provocatively/go out, this is nothing but a validation.

I’d love to see articles justifying my terrible habits too. Please link me to op-eds stating that smarter people stay up late and procrastinate more, or that fried junk food sharpens the mind. I’d remember such pieces and be less likely to change in the future.

The Counter Argument

No view or idea is said to be outside the domain of questioning and public scrutiny. I fail to see how an assault being wrong is still up for debate. But fair enough. Atleast be responsible enough to put a strong counter argument or a contrary opinion in the piece. Give a balanced approach with appropriate disclaimers, because not doing so will act as an implicit endorsement. For even if one person read that article and felt that asssaulting a woman was okay under certain circumstances, The Quint has failed.

But does this mean that publishers are responsible for what their writers say?

Well, Yes. Although responsibility does not equal agreement. A publisher need not accept or believe each view put forward by its writers. However, if a controversial and socially charged issue is presented to your readers using your platform, the endorsement remains and will always be so; unless appropriately distanced from.

If The Quint did this for the views, I hope they deemed the cost of potentially justifying assault in the minds of even a few, worth the clicks. The Quint calls itself a “rainbow of opinions”, and in this regard I must thank them. For until now, I did not know that stupid was a colour.

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