Friday, December 12, 2008

A dangerous intellectual infancy

Arundhati Roy writes another essay, in a way only she can, this time about the Mumbai attacks. From the politicians to the police, from the US to Pakistan, from terrorists to communists to communalists, and from celebrities to the media, they all come under fire for the state of affairs that allows incidents like Mumbai's terror attacks to happen.

In Mumbai was not our 9/11, Arundhati has some classic one-liners.

A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

We're now in the era of Grabbing by Force, and democracy has a terrible habit of getting in the way.

In the business of terrorism, victims and perpetrators sometimes exchange roles.

If Kashmir won't willingly integrate into India, it's beginning to look as though India will integrate/disintegrate into Kashmir.

Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they're for people that governments don't like.

There are many threads to follow in the essay. One concerns why the Mumbai attacks should so outrage the Indian media and elite, and why it is even being called India's 9/11. That is a stretch in so many ways, and Arundhati surely does a great job of bringing that out. Reasons why these attacks are "special" probably include the targeting of elites by the terrorists, and the opportunity for breathless media coverage.

An even more dangerous development seems to be, what she calls rightly, a regression into intellectual infancy. Media and elites flirting with the idea of a police state, and whipping up anger against all politicians seems like an attack on Indian democracy itself. Truly, media coverage and analysis in India has touched heights that Fox News can only dream of.

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