Bloggers' responsibilities during a crisis/sensitive issue

India is facing lots of issues at present- economical turmoil on one side, with protests against and support for CAA/NRC issue on the other side. In this kind of situation, what should be the roles and responsibilities of a blogger? Should we keep quiet sticking to our core topics (like travel, tech etc) or should we take a stand on the matter? Should we defend one side and prove other party wrong?
This post shares my thought on this issue. Shivya Nath has already written on this in her blog, suggesting bloggers should feel free to voice their opinion and take a stand as they feel right. I would like to offer my perspectives:

1. It is OK to stay neutral if you have to/feel like: Our experience and expertise are limited to few specific fields. We can't be expert in every field all the time. Lots of social media heroes talk on war crimes this evening, talk about economy next morning and space technology by tomorrow evening. If we do not have an expertise to explain a situation or our knowledge is as limited as every other common man, it might be better to stay neutral and observe/learn. Hear voices of both sides, assess pros and cons, try to validate information you have, give it some time for truth to come out. It is better to respond a little late with correct information than respond instantaneously with unverified information or in an emotional state of mind.

I don't post on a lot of things- there have been bush-fires in Australia, Amazon forest on fire, war in Iran, so many issues. Facebook feed is full of people sharing same news again and again. When over 100 people have already shared same news, me too sharing it again only clutters everyone's timeline. Our online posts make Zero impact on the ground- it only wastes several seconds of everyone who sees it on their timeline. I also feel sad about bad things happening around the world but usually do not post about a thing unless I have some value to add. This is largely because I don't see how another status update makes a difference on the ground.

Often it is better to stay neutral when there're two groups who have a pre-decided ideology of opposite extremes and will not accept any rational/logical assessment. They are hell bent on either supporting or opposing something and if you say anything that doesn't suit their thought process you are immediately flagged as enemy. The right way forward is probably somewhere in the middle-but when no one is in a mood to listen you don't want to waste your time and energy in such situations.

Being silent doesn't mean being indifferent. Those who aren't vocal are most probably observing both sides, can see hidden agenda and will exercise their option at the right moment.

2. Bloggers are like journalists-Present both sides of the story and let your followers decide.
Blogger's responsibility is NOT to drive people towards one conclusion. If you are supporting only one side and suppressing positive aspects of the other, you are part of the propaganda. Often information we have is same information that everyone has and we may not have means to verify it or get another perspective or investigate a matter. Act like a journalist, give fair opportunity to both sides by assessing points of merits in their arguments. List pros and cons, present your analysis, opinion, data and facts. If you have say international travel experience, use your experience and expertise to throw light on how similar things are done abroad. But we are not judges so may be it is a good idea to leave the decision to readers.

3. Sentiments vs Humanity vs the right thing to do vs Long term prosperity:
We get masked by immediate sentiments and humanitarian thoughts. This often prevents us from seeing a bigger picture or what is fundamentally wrong. An example:
If an illegal immigrant working as a house maid in Mumbai is arrested, we feel sorry for her. We feel her human rights will be violated, she might be deported back etc. But spare a thought:
- Why didn't she enter the country in a legal way by applying for proper work permit?
- There're 1000s of people in neighboring countries who could have crossed border illegally but didn't respecting rules and laws of the land. Isn't it a disrespect to these people's honesty to oppose action against those who broke the law? Won't you feel bad when you're waiting in line in a queue and someone jumps the queue and doesn't get reprimanded? If that person who jumped queue is sent back to end of line is it natural justice or inhuman act?
- How exactly is a government supposed to provide employment to its citizens and natural resources to sustain life if these are taken away by those to infiltrate into country?
- If someone hires an illegal immigrant just because they are willing to work for lesser wage than Indian citizens, such individuals who provide employment are also equally guilty. In UK such shop owners/businessmen are penalized 10000-15000 pounds per each individual caught working without papers.

Point is, don't always think from heart. Assess a situation fairly.

4. Give global perspective: 
Lots of people who support or oppose a thing are often limited by what they have seen in their immediate surroundings. If you have global exposure then help people understand how similar scenarios are handled around the world. This gives people more ideas, options and understanding to validate their stand as well as refine their demands to arrive at a solution.
- Detention Centres sound inhuman: but almost all developed countries- USA, UK, China, Australia etc have them.If you are an undocumented alien, you will be put into this. It is important for foreign citizens to enter a country with right papers or seek asylum. Other shortcuts are illegal and punishable. Period.
- No country in the world can afford to give unlimited citizenship to anyone and everyone. They are granted after strong evaluation, on an absolute need basis (like shortage of particular skill) or extreme humanitarian concerns. Some countries disclose the criteria, many don't. When countries world over are getting stricter with visa, immigration and citizenship rules it is probably fair that India is also making an attempt on similar lines. While the argument is religion shouldn't be the basis for this, the assessment should also consider if India's neighbors are treating all religions fairly or the crisis there specific to few religions.
- There will be exceptions: Even in US, many war veterans are declared aliens, family members of servicemen were deported [NY Times], Indian H1B workers got separated from their job and family as their visa couldn't be renewed. Out of lakhs of cases a few exceptions like this will arise, which media will highlight to throw bad light on entire program. India is also a large country and implementing any rule/policy is no easy task. All we need is a proper exception handling mechanism to assess each case on its merit/fair basis and not scrapping entire law or immigration rules. You can either get emotional and blame anyone and everyone for being insensitive, or understand the situation better and help suggesting ways to minimize damage or ensure better justice
- India is still way better on many terms- right to protest, democracy, a reasonable standard of living and so on, compared to several countries in the world where people do not have much choices.

5. Drive towards a solution, not polarization
Political leaders and other vested interests often need us to take sides (their side preferably) and fight supporting a cause. They will often have hidden agenda not visible to common people. When they are motivated by immediate political gains they might be willing to ignore long term prosperity of the nation. At the same time, a right decision with long term vision may cause some immediate inconveniences.

As an influencer, experienced blogger, you should be able to see what common man doesn't. Help clear the air- what is right, what is wrong, what all can go wrong, what corrections can be made to avoid potential negative scenarios etc. We often spend most of our energy blaming someone we don't like, proving other person wrong and justifying things we feel right. Whatever has happened can not be undone. Look at what can be done from now. Focus on solution, not past.

6. Not everything is Government's fault/responsibility: 
If everyone obeys laws and lives dutifully there would have been no need for police force, jail and courts. All those expenses could have been spent elsewhere. But unfortunately it doesn't work like that in this world. There is always someone trying to misuse the liberty, take advantage of the situation or disobey rules for personal gains. So to ensure justice to those who are obeying the rules, some tough measures will be necessary at times. It will hurt but in the absence of strong enforcement, what is the deterrence for people to not break the law?

While it is easy to blame the government or give free advise on what they should do, let us also advise our fellow citizens on right way to behave.
  • You have your voting power- Exercise it in next election to show your support/displeasure. Damaging public property is NOT acceptable.
  • If you are declaring someone guilty ahead of proper investigation you should apologize publicly if that person is proved innocent. [like this one]
  • If you are sharing an unverified news just because it is trending or it can get you more followers, you are adding fuel to fire and contributing to problem- not helping solve it.
  • If you are blaming police for using force on protestors but silent on people violating section 144, going on street and attacking police force, then your humanitarian concerns are very selective.
While we expect a lot from our Governments, let us also learn to be a more responsible and more contributing citizens of the country. People will move on, political leaders will find some other issue to polarize people, those who are determined to support/oppose will do so anyway. Your personal loss will most probably be irrecoverable. Do feel free to take a stand but give fair consideration to all aspects explained above before doing so.

These are my thoughts. Of course it is not binding on any blogger or influencer. Use your discretion.

14 comments:

  1. I agree with most of what you say. But living in a country whose very air has been vitiated by a couple of crooks who masquerade as heroes, i find it hard to be neutral, let alone discover goodness in the air.

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    1. You don't have to, if you don't want to. Just try to be fair, factual and rational

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  2. Very true facts you have explained.

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  3. A well thought out and articulated post. People tend to fight as if only they are right, when the truth is both sides have some points which are right and some absurd. I have written something similar. Check it out when you have the time. https://satmuse.wordpress.com/2019/05/16/grey-matter/

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  4. Not only bloggers, if professional journalists too followed the points mentioned by you we would not be having so much fake news and propoganda.

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  5. Very nice and balanced write up Shrinidhi. My thoughts are more or less similar :)

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  6. Agree with you, Shrinidhi.
    There are so many issues. We can't possibly write about them all.
    Time is a constraint.
    Happy Makar Sankranti!

    ReplyDelete

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