AIB: Aamir Khan, think before you preach. Open letter goes viral
If you had kept it at stressing the extent of the right to object and requesting that offensive speech be discontinued, I would not have a problem with your views.
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Dear Aamir Khan,
This is about a video of you on the subject of All India Bakchod’s Knockout Roast. I agree with many views you expressed. I think it was juvenile, offensive, irresponsible. I agree that being profane for the sake of being profane is not funny. I agree that jokes about identity, colour of skin or sexual orientation – particularly blunt, outright insults – are not funny. I saw the roast. Some of it was funny, some in bad taste. It had multiple content warnings like you can’t miss.
I appreciate that you stressed the extent of the right to object, in terms of expressing your dislike and requesting that the offensive speech be discontinued.
If you had kept it at that, I would not have a problem with your views. As someone speaking up for free speech for years now, I have a problem when you put the onus of not offending on the speaker with your talk of the creator having responsibility and oh-so-virtuous nonsense about “dil dukhana” and what not. You claim to be a responsible creator, yet I distinctly recollect speaking up to defend your film PK (which I haven’t seen yet) from people who were outraged by whatever insult they perceived in it.
If the responsibility of not offending falls on the creator of the content, then perhaps you are not as ideal as you seemed to imply with the Delhi Belly example and perhaps should have added content warnings of another sort “Caution: Religion discussed here”, etc and people objecting should have requested you with folded hands, etc. You know first hand what happens when angry people don’t like content. Do you see the anger as your fault?
The opinions you expressed seemed to lack the gravity of understanding. The situation was beyond saying “please”. FIRs were filed. There were threats, intimidation. The All India Bakchod videos are offline and they are busy issuing apologies left, right and center. At this point, when you speak of them being responsible for offending, it is the same as saying you are responsible for the vandalised theaters. How you think offence should be expressed is irrelevant when you speak after it has already been expressed. Who you blame can still be applicable and do much damage to free speech overall. “Even Aamir Khan said that you should not offend people.”
It isn’t the polite requests to desist that are the problem with free speech – the subject of the controversy and reason you were asked to comment at all. It is because lives and property are routinely harmed. Voices are silenced. The issue is way bigger than a juvenile video or what you or I think about it, when you expand your opinion into a blanket responsibility on the creator for “Who is responsible for hurt sentiments?”
Because, that question also answers who is responsible for Perumal Murugan being hounded or Shirin Dalvi having to go underground and her newspaper shut down or theaters showing PK being vandalised – with the WRONG ANSWER. People may not follow your guidelines on asking politely, but they will have no problem appropriating your words on the responsibility of those they want to silence to not anger them.
That is how FIRs get filed and threats made and you get invited to comment on a “wrong” done EVEN AFTER APOLOGIES AND THE VIDEO BEING PULLED DOWN. Way past the time for “please, sorry, thank you”. Your words end up endorsing intolerance by legitimising people being offended and having the right to expect the creator to discontinue. You may accept that as your limit, but if others did, then free speech wouldn’t be a rights issue, it would be a talk show where everyone shares opinions and goes home happy.
When a large voice like yours tells people that people speaking must be careful, and people who get offended can ask them to stop, a thousand voices like mine get raw throats trying to talk sanity on the issue and explain why it is not okay to shut people up just because you don’t like what they say. “But even Aamir Khan agrees…” The louder the voice, the more power to heal or damage it has. I request you to be careful with where you lay blame.
Out of stray curiosity and as a side note, I want to ask you if you asked Karan and Arjun to not propagate the videos of the event further – like showing clips to people, like you saw, or putting on YouTube – since that is the method you are recommending and you also say that you thought the show was offensive. If you did it, and they listened, perhaps this whole situation wouldn’t have happened?
A blogger who cares for the freedom of expression.
(First published on AamJanata.com.)