“If you want to trust human nature,” a friend once told me, “don’t read blogs.” The sort, she meant, that let even the lowest of us publish his view of events. How right she was, and how low low can be. Ask that Pakistani teenager all-but murdered by the Taliban for daring to think that girls need education. When she left a British hospital, some Britons’ blogs were utterly vile — racist, anti “Paki”, anti-immigrant, anti-human-decency. And barely literate on top.
Not all blogs are so nasty. But many do share one feature: sublime self-certainty, and verbiage to match. I met a ripe example recently. I love watching cricket on TV. But that is no longer easy in Britain, unless you pay for some Sky channel. The BBC long ago decided it couldn’t compete, and instead shows hours of snooker and paint-drying decades of darts, an unvisual pastime native to English pubs that should have been left there.
So, to learn at least the score in some match, I go to a website. This led me to a fierce set-to between bloggers, over last month’s Test at Eden Gardens, and the ground curator’s refusal to prepare the sort of pitch that M.S. Dhoni wanted.
Into some mild debate strode one “Harmony 111”. An ill-chosen pseudonym. First he jeered at the 83 years of the groundsman, Prabir Mukherjee. Then he averred that, as an employee of the Cricket Association of Bengal, which takes part in the BCCI, which in turn employs Dhoni, the hapless PM — let’s call him that, since the bloggers did — simply had no right to rebuff his (as Harmony put it) “Commander”.
That was self-evident tosh. Worse was to come. Rights apart, Harmony savaged PM’s patriotism too: “has no idea what a Nation means... does not know what Honour is...”, followed later by “doesn’t know he’s an Indian... What kind of a person refuses to help his own country?”
When another blogger replied that a groundsman should be neutral, Harmony disagreed, loudly. He had a point, given the worldwide —and to my aged eyes, lamentable — doctoring of pitches to suit the home team. But then, alas, Harmony tripped over his own feet. He denied that Dhoni had sought a favourable pitch at all, merely one fair to both sides. Unlikely, I’d say, though Dhoni did later so claim. But suppose it’s true, how then could PM’s refusal show lack of patriotism? You can make one case or the other, but not both together.
Which Harmony did. And on the two bloggers clattered, with Harmony increasingly tangled in his combination of illogic, total self-certainty and inability to notice what his critic actually wrote. His own first words having been, “This 83-year-old...”, he accused his rival of harping on about PM’s age, indeed about little else, when the other had in fact devoted paragraph upon laborious paragraph of weighty fact or sarcasm to Harmony’s airy flights of fantasy.
By the end, I’d say, young Harmony should have felt flattened, deservedly, by the heavy roller. Not he. Given the last word when the website wisely closed comments, he averred it “sad I wasted so much time on you” and declared victory.
His opponent no doubt felt just the same. Certainly one thing had been crushed flat: the subtlety, not to add decencies, of language. The blogosphere, whether loud with high-pitched shrieks or low growls, is no place for nuances. And the louder it grows, the cruder human communication will become.