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Whose site is it anyway?
Jun 05, 2005 01:48 AM 3380 Views
(Updated Jun 05, 2005 01:48 AM)

A year and five months is quite a long time to stay from reviewing and when you sit back to key in a review after this long a gap you tend to get wrapped in a little bit of doubt. There is a certain degree of nervousness that creeps into your mind, a little uncertainty that eats into your thought process, the feeling is almost like the one that you have while writing your first few reviews…the feeling is the one that kept me hooked to MS in my early days of writing at this site.

To decide to take a break from MS was a difficult one to make. A self imposed exile… at that time I felt that the reviews were not being rated and the reviewers were, opinions were not being exchanged or debated, instead personalities were attacked. I am not sure if things have changed at the site, if star writers and new comers get an equal platform, if a difference of opinion is accepted as unavoidable reality and respected as a sign of our diverse thought processes, if trust and distrust lists are used judiciously or even reviews are rated on its individual merit irrespective of the person behind it… but then I am sure that the site is as addictive, interesting and informative as it was in January 2004.

Before I look for an answer to the question “Is MS justified in banning…” its time to ask, if the question in itself, is justified. I feel it is not, for the simple reason that the question is not complete. A general discussion or debate on ban and the criteria involved in imposing it is a welcome topic. But to ask a close ended question on a very complex topic that almost forces you to choose “Yes” or “No” for an answer is a little inexplicable.

As I began pondering on this topic, I tried to look for instances from the past and the present wherein a ban has achieved its desired results. I might be wrong but the fact is that I could not come up with anything concrete. Yes, there have been several cases of bans implemented in the past, there will several more in the future. Sportsmen, authors, columnists, professionals, actors, orators, thinkers, politicians, philosophers have all been banned in the past. But did the fact that Ben Johnson was banned for doping stop other sportsmen from trying to be a little faster or have the ability to lift a little more weight, with the help of banned drugs? Did the ban on Salman Rushdie or Tasleema Nasreen or their books, lead them to stop writing or their books being read? If anything my opinion is that they only became even more popular.

I am lead to believe that liquor in Gujrat and smoking in public places in Delhi, Kerala, Tamilnadu and a few other states is banned. Liquor ads are banned on most media, child labour is banned all over India and so are pirated VCDs, pornography and prostitution. One can always turn around and ask, the fact that jailing a thief does not stop all future robberies and hanging a murderer does not ensure that there would not be any more murders, mean that we let thieves and murderers go scot-free? I am not even suggesting that. What I am coming to is the fact that a mere ban is not a solution to anything, it does not even begin to address the issue.

I have seen a member from a neighbouring country express his patriotism by slinging mud at and speaking filth about anything and everything that was Indian and those reviews often found its way to “Hot Reviews” category due to the number of hits it got. Some of those reviews are still available on the site for members who want to read them. I often wondered if the member in question was allowed to participate on the site for months together before he was finally banned, as an extension of Indian hospitality and tolerance. I have also seen senior members with great writing skills banned and shown the door for a first time offence.

Before asking the question – is it justifiable to ban, let us ask what the purpose of ban is. Is it to keep MS clean?If so how does a ban ensure that? When it is a known fact that there are members with multiple IDs, what gives us the impression that banning one ID, helps clean up MS? What stops a banned member from signing up again under a new ID? Is it to prevent substandard, plagiarised, provocative or derogatory reviews, comments, M2Ms from coming on the site? Do not tell me that there are no means to scrutinize the matter being posted on the site. I am sure MS can work a way to sort that out.

As a site evolves, it should mature in terms of its content and climate it offers to its members. There are a few flaws with MS when it comes to its implementation of bans or yanking away of reviews. There seems to be a streak of autocracy that stains the otherwise democratic set up of the site. That’s when questions arise about the tagline “Your Opinion Matters”

Censorship is fine, but a debatable issue. To read something politically correct, devoid of spice and controversy I would rather read classifieds in a newspaper. This is an opinion site. I wish there were a monitoring system that restricted people from directly attacking personalities, race or religion. I wish there was an environment at the site that encouraged positive and constructive criticism, debates and exchange of opinion. I wish there was a system wherein a warning page popped up suggesting that the review I have clicked on contained sexually explicit or politically provocative content and let me decide if I wished to proceed to read it or dump it.

This does not mean that any member can log on and write trash on the site. Members who disregard the community rules, disrespect other members, misuse the freedom of expression repeatedly and seem to have a single point agenda – that of attracting attention through unsavoury gimmicks should be banned, but... That should be through public participation. The list of members with their offences should be available on the community centre. Other members should have the right to vote on whether the offences merit a ban and if most members, who vote, feel that the offences are serious enough for the member to be banned then, the member should be shown the door and their reviews should be summarily taken off the site.

After all MS is about respecting the opinion of members and if we have the ability, reasoning and the responsibility of judging products, services, public personalities, I suppose we do have the capacity to judge a fellow reviewer, don’t we?

Your Opinion Matters…..

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