January 29, 2008

Well, I guess I asked for it.

A couple of days ago I mentioned that I didn't come across much criticism of Shabana Azmi. I should have kept my mouth shut.

I have had to close the comments on the Filmi Geek review of Fire.

The person who drove the flame war over there may not believe me, but my problem with his/her posts is not the underlying substance of the views they express; rather it's how s/he chose to express them, with name-calling, vitriol, and disrespect. That person fancies India to be a largely monolithic country where the vast, vast majority not only agrees with him/her, but would support forcibly expelling everyone who doesn't - starting with Shabana.

I know I am an outsider and that it's presumptuous of me to take up the banner of someone who takes controversial positions that I only begin to understand. I am not prepared to provide a forum for political debate with any of my blogs, but I have to recognize that Shabana Azmi is a political person and one cannot talk about her without talking about politics. That is why I do not censor political discussions, why I don't delete comments and why I allowed the debate on the Fire post to go on as long as it did.

Having said that, I have to demand a certain level of civility and respect for differing viewpoints. The person who ignited the comment war did not evince that (though the regular commenter who engaged him/her largely did, and for that I am thankful), and so I had to shut the discussion down.

The point of this post is not so much to call attention to that debate (though it will certainly have that effect), but to urge all of you to feel free to express whatever opinions you have, as long as you do so in a way that is respectful of everyone involved. I don't want either Filmi Geek or SLP to be a wasteland of vapid praise or boring sycophantism - I encourage substantive disagreement - but I can't let them be breeding grounds for angry invective.

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