Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sepia Mutiny

We've never been very impressed by Sepia Mutiny -- a popular blog that wears its racial identity on its sleeve.

Many years ago, having just arrived in the US for graduate studies, we ran into a Pakistani-American colleague whose near-first conversation with us alluded to our mutual "brownness". The whole idea of affiliation based on the color of our skin was absurd to us -- and offensive -- but as we've learnt, this is apparently OK among the bloggers of Sepia Mutiny.

Quite startling, even if the idea is likely benign in intent.

The problem with racial identification -- even if benign -- is the underlying thought process which can lead people to absurd and outrageous conclusions.

These thoughts are triggered by the latest Sepia Mutiny outrage where they compare the uber- conservative lawyer John Yoo (whose legal interpretations helped the Bush administration push the envelop on coercive interrogations) with liberal Amrit Singh (whose legal advocacy on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union has been about challenging these tactics in court). Sample this -- deeply offensive -- Sepia Mutiny thought construction:

John Yoo, professor of law at my alma mater, UC Berkeley, became infamous last year for writing a memo justifying torture by the CIA.

At first glance, Yoo might seem an unthinking political soldier willing to write whatever tissue-thin legal justifications his superiors order. But what if he’s sincere in his belief that torture, locking people up without charge and domestic spying by the NSA is legitimate rather than prima facia illegal and unconstitutional?

I get the sense that East Asian Americans tend to be socially conservative and more pro-law and order (vs. civil rights and privacy) than the mainstream. It’s the whole idea that Asian-Americans are ‘natural conservatives.’ Does this jive with your take, or are Yoo’s views an individual aberration?

So, here the blogger takes the liberty to abstract from one man's views, that he disagrees with, to ascribe political views to an entire race of people -- helpfully characterizing such views as not being "mainstream" and, in the best case, being an "aberration". He is thus imposing on an entire people his personal disgust with Mr. Yoo's ideas. Just imagine the outrage -- with Sepia Mutiny at its vanguard -- if an Anglo-Saxon writer had similarly characterized Indians based on the views of an individual Indian conservative? For some inexplicable reason, similar bigotry by others is considered acceptable.

We are neo-conservatives ourselves -- Sepia Mutiny likely will consider us an aberration (!) given our "brownness" -- yet happen to strongly oppose (see here and here) the consequences of legal views like those held by Mr. Yoo. What deeply offends us, however, is the even more sinister racial perspective of Sepia Mutiny. It's one thing to have political disagreement and debate -- it's quite another to stretch it into the racial realm.

Sepia Mutiny -- if it has any decency -- ought to apologize for this post.

Update: The blogger in question has amended his post, changing his racial point to one about generational differences among immigrants. We're sorry to say that -- notwithstanding his giving up on the original, clearly obnoxious racial point -- he's not apologized for his error; rather he hopes that his edits to his post will resolve the matter.

38 comments:

doubtinggaurav said...

PR,

"Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned"

I am not impressed by Sepia Mutineers, most of them seem to be affected by BDS.

But, if I try to do a shrink and couch routine on them, I think most of them are second generation desis struggling to define their identity amongst what is essenitally alien to their history.
Hence, this act of "brown power" and speaking "truth to Da Man".

Frankly speaking their conservative phobia even to the point of indulging in subtle ethnic slurs is at the same time ironical and sad.

Regards

PS. If you are expecting for apology, whatever you do , do not hold your breath, breathlessness can kill !

cynical nerd said...

PR: Right on.

Many of their posts are dedicated against the brown stereotype in popular media despite their frequent jabs against FOB Indians in the name of humour. Now this particular blogger seem to do the same. How hypocritic of them. Honestly, I read them just because some prolific commenters post there!

Abhi said...

SM do posts something useful once in a while.

But we have to accept the fact that they have been brainwashed by Pinko Coummunists type such as ASHA/AID and numerous others.

nukh said...

BDS? libertarian

doubtinggaurav said...

Nukh,

It is doubtinggaurav not libertarian.

This is BDS

Regards

nukh said...

thanks, dg
beg pardon for the mix up....out of coffee on a sat morn.

TTG said...

Yep, they've pissed me off before too

doubtinggaurav said...

TTG,

Yes that pissed me off too !
I mean why in heaven should Indians go out and act as Mr or Ms. Nice when Pakistanis or Bangladeshis are not hot on us either, except for exploting Indian brand name.

Regards

Pankaj said...

Hello PR,

While I could not grasp the exact nature of the issue which you have been referring to, I would like to say something about the whole "South Asian" idea.

This is in reference to TTG's link. "South Asian" if one examines closely, is essentially a racist idea. In India, such a category or an identity does not exist. Most Indians, living in India, would not identify themselves as "South Asian" in any way.

It is the Americans or Britishers, who club all brown skinned individuals they see as "South Asians". This categorization essentially denies the unique cultures prevalent in countries that make South Asia and clubs all of them together on the basis of skin color.

It is a pity that most Indians, when they go to the west for study/work/recreation, accept this racist slur very willingly without protest. And it is even a greater sorrow that these "Sepea Mutineers" are among them.

The first lesson therefore is to have some self-respect and protest against this "South Asian" racist tag.

Regards.

TMB said...

So amusing. You guys always think that American born desis are searching for their "identity," and must be confused. That is the only way to explain something you can't understand. Some of my good friends are Pakistani and Bangladeshi Americans. Those of us born in America don't grow up with a chip on our shoulders. Also I dare you to point out numerous instaces where we make fun of "FOB" Indians. All of us are against this. That being said most of us look down upon Indian Nationalists/Saffronists/RSS sympathizers/Hindu fundies.

This all boils down to one simple thing. You don't like the term "South Asian" and we do. Living in India you grow up hating your neighbors (Pakistan and Bangladesh). In America we recognize that the neighbors you dislike are the ones that we have the most in common with. We seek them out, although not exclusively of course. Our lives are better for it.

A back and forth discussion on this issue is pointless since there seems to be a fundamental difference of life experience.
-abhi

TMB said...

"I mean why in heaven should Indians go out and act as Mr or Ms. Nice when Pakistanis or Bangladeshis are not hot"

The above comment by doubtinggaurav sums up very nicely why you don't understand us. He CLEARLY has a chip on his shoulder. In America I act as "Mr. Nice" to Pakistani and Bangladeshi Americans because they ARE "hot" on us.
-Abhi

Anjali said...

TTG provided a link to an anti-south asia post he wrote. In the comments to that post, he stated that it's very "Indian" to be able to disagree, why can't we do that now? One billion people are entitled to one billion opinions. The Sepians are probably not very impressed with you, either.

I get the impression that we are two very different groups of people, from different generations (first vs second) with different histories and thus different priorities. Why would we see self-identifcation the same way? Having said all that, I don't care for hypocrisy. If someone wants to decry generalizations based on an individual, they shouldn't do it themselves. That doesn't invalidate the rest of their ideas though.

Manish said...

The whole idea of affiliation based on the color of our skin was absurd to us -- and offensive

Which is why your blog title is Secular Right India and most bloggers and commenters appears at first glance to be desi.

takes the liberty to abstract from one man's views, that he disagrees with, to ascribe political views to an entire race of people

Nope, it was to look at 1st gen immigrants' social conservatism (Yoo was born in South Korea) as an influence on political views using the words of Republican recruiters ('natural conservatives'). That's group -> individual-- the exact opposite.

It's also using the verbiage of your own putative party, if you as a neocon affiliate with the American GOP.

It turns out Yoo is 1.5 gen and grew up here, and the post has been updated.

We are neo-conservatives ourselves -- Sepia Mutiny likely will consider us an aberration (!)

Nope, 'aberration' refers to views justifying torture and domestic spying, not brown conservatives, of which SM has its own.

Sepia Mutiny -- if it has any decency -- ought to apologize for this post.

I find it offensive that you blatant misinterpret my post.

On this whole 'the label South Asian is offensive' idea-- Primary Red wrote:

Now it's time to back up these terrific words with concrete actions to promote, and where necessary enforce, democracy -- starting with our own benighted South Asian neighbourhood.

[Link]

doubtinggaurav said...

TMB,

Who cares what you think about FOBs, make fun or not, choose to be called south asians or browns or whatever pleases you.

Since discussion is ruled out, continue delving in your make believe "brown power" and keep snickering against "red necks" and "neo cons", that will do you and your liberals much good as it did to flower children.

And yes, beware RSS wallahs are watching you and at any moment they will be coming to crush your dissent and make a martyr of you, but thats what most probably liberals aspire for.

Keep smoking the pot

Regards

Primary Red said...

Manish:

So, in your judgement, our identification with our country is the same as yours with your race? Nationalism is the same as racism? Please.

No where in our writings will you find any racial bias of the sort you are apparently so proud of.

Best regards.

Anjali said...

Doubtin Gaurav: Insinuating drug use is below you and the art of argument. Are you interested in merely pronouncing your contempt or are you willing to discuss it? Your tone implies a "Do whatever you want" idea, but if that is true, then why question their post on John Yoo in the first place?

doubtinggaurav said...

Anjali,

"A back and forth discussion on this issue is pointless since there seems to be a fundamental difference of life experience"

That's what TMB said and that is how I replied.

Regarding your earlier post about billion people having billion opinions, then no one is denying anyone from forming opinion, this however doesnt prevent PR or me or you or anyone else from judging the opinions.

Or is it that you are saying that I am preventing you from expressing dissent, because then I can say you are preventing me from dissenting with your dissent and so on and so forth. While this will be amusing to me, it will not be so to PR.

My world view that is Pakistan and Bangladesh fomenting terrorism in my country , and terrorism is of more concern to me than existential dilemma of political orientation of 1st generation vs 2nd generation, yes it is a chip on my shoulders and pretty big at that. world view from North Dakota is very much different from Delhi.

Regards

Primary Red said...

Anjali:

We're not sure that our life experiences being different has anything to do with our criticism of SM's post. Surely you agree, that use of racial identities is not a very constructive way to advance debate. This is what SM does.

We do not personally believe in any South Asian identity. We've used the expression in our posts only as a geographical reference. However, if you or SM prefers such identification, we have no issues with that.

Our problem is SM's obsession with the color of their skin. We hope you'll agree that to be a valid concern

Best regards.

Manish said...

We do not personally believe in any South Asian identity.

All well and good in India, but it does exist in the diaspora.

So, in your judgement, our identification with our country is the same as yours with your race?

and

Our problem is SM's obsession with the color of their skin.

The site focuses on shared culture, not skin color:

A very Om-ly Christmas, Krishna for Christmas, Happy Diwahanukwanzidmas

It's a bit rich to be accusing a pan-diaspora site of exclusion when this blog preaches intolerance for those equally as Punjabi to the west and equally as Bengali to the east.

My world view that is Pakistan and Bangladesh fomenting terrorism in my country...

I wonder how the Sepia Mutiny bloggers feel about that:

Unlike every American newspaper, the magazine doesn’t uncritically repeat the Pakistani military’s ‘we provide only moral support to jihadis’ canard... [Link]

With pathetic regularity, a handful of delusional losers lived out their role-playing fantasy once again... Fortunately, we know that America’s good friend Musharraf toils ceaselessly to restrain these eunuchs. [/sarcasm] [Link]

Herr Musharraf, whom one commenter claims is our ‘best option,’ is reportedly training the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan... newspapers always hasten to add the Pakistani military’s denial, injecting artificial ‘balance’ by spreading that threadbare lie... And the guy behind the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history is believed to be holed up in Pakistan... This is supposed to be a friendly dictator? [Link]

Like Rushdie’s protagonists, Musharraf also has superpowers. Only his came from sacking the judiciary and rewriting the constitution. [Link]

DG, do you even read what you claim to oppose? Lay off the charas, dude.

doubtinggaurav said...

Manish,

Dude , I have left the pleasure of ganja smoking to enlightened liberals.

"All well and good in India, but it does exist in the diaspora."

It shouldn't. Either be an Indian or be an American,do not construct false identities just because you feel overwhelmed with WASP identity and conflict with your forefather's identity.
Whatever India shared with Pakistan or Bangladesh was erased forever in 1947, Pakistan or Bangladesh to me are just neighbours , so smell the coffee and stop chasing this mirage of shared culture .Leave this sibling -wibling stuff to Yash Chopra movies.

"I wonder how the Sepia Mutiny bloggers feel about that:"

And Terrorism, no it is not of Musharraf doing only, it has been fomented by the state of Pakistan and it is logical culmination of the hatred against India it has internalised since its creation
Stop weasel wording and trying to sift all blame on the enlightened ruler,
Idealogy of Pakistan is the problem

"It's a bit rich to be accusing a pan-diaspora site of exclusion when this blog preaches intolerance for those equally as Punjabi to the west and equally as Bengali to the east."

IMO this site doesn't preach intolerance to Punjabis and Bengalis, yes it does caution against getting all nostalgic and mushy for past ties with our friendly neighbours.

By the way nice try to dodge the issue by confusing Indo-Pakistan- Banglasdesh with Punjabi and Bengali identity. May be you should ask your brown brethren, from west punjab/east bengal if they felt so much for their ethnic identities, why did they prefer partition of their states.
(If you want hint it was to do with "Ummah")

Regards

Manish said...

It shouldn't. Either be an Indian or be an American,do not construct false identities...

India itself is built on these 'false identities,' i.e. cultural fusion at borders and subculture creation. Every single thing you cherish and think to be 'original' was at one point a bastard fusion of other elements.

Whatever India shared with Pakistan or Bangladesh was erased forever in 1947...

Which is why Pakistanis no longer eat roti, speak Punjabi or physically resemble Indians. At the stroke of midnight, they looked like Martians.

And Terrorism, no it is not of Musharraf doing only...

You mean like:

I wrote 'Pakistan's military,' not Musharraf. Pakistani military - U.S. and Pakistani military - jihadis are long-standing relationships. [Link]

May be you should ask your brown brethren, from west punjab/east bengal if they felt so much for their ethnic identities, why did they prefer partition of their states.

It may have escaped you that Sepia Mutiny focuses on 2nd genners. But I expect nothing more from a guy who attempts a flame without even getting straight the intended target's politics. The one Sepia Mutiny blogger who consistently defends the Pakistani government is Vinod, the neocon.

The other day I saw a guy trying to piss into a heavy wind. This is funnier.

TMB said...

Manish, just give up. These guys have more than demonstrated that a thoughtful discussion is impossible, just like I originally stated. Their first instinct is to make sure that their Indian identity remains intact above all things. They lash out, label, and apparently accuse people of drug use if they show any tolerance toward non-Indian South Asians. God forbid I should be "Mr. Nice" to a Pakistani or Bangladeshi. Apparently, that would mean that I am obsessed with skin color.

Good luck to you all and your analysis and insights on this blog. I am sure all four readers appreciate your hard work.

doubtinggaurav said...

"India itself is built on these 'false identities,' i.e. cultural fusion at borders and subculture creation. Every single thing you cherish and think to be 'original' was at one point a bastard fusion of other elements."

Fusion doesn't mean false, India progressed by internalising and harmonising diverse identities,
South Asian is false identity because Pakistan is based on not - India- ism as much as you pretend to ignore.

"Which is why Pakistanis no longer eat roti, speak Punjabi or physically resemble Indians. At the stroke of midnight, they looked like Martians."

I thought it was about culture not about skin colour. Language and rotis didn't stop creation of Pakistan, why use it now ?

" wrote 'Pakistan's military,' not Musharraf. Pakistani military - U.S. and Pakistani military - jihadis are long-standing relationships."

Yes Pakistani ki Awam is sooo in favour of Indo-Pak laila - majnu affair it is this pesky military which is acting like a villain in this love story, how cute !


"It may have escaped you that Sepia Mutiny focuses on 2nd genners. But I expect nothing more from a guy who attempts a flame without even getting straight the intended target's politics. The one Sepia Mutiny blogger who consistently defends the Pakistani government is Vinod, the neocon."

I dont care on which generation it focuses, the question is of so called South Asian identity, this is your site schmooze with Pakistanis , Germans or Mangolians , just dont try to bind India with Pakistan, not at 1st level not at nth level.
Americans who are defending Pakistan, (and Vinod must be one of them), will soon be mugged by reality, again !
Flame! well I regularly post comments on this site, it was you and your sorry bunch which came a'trolling here.

"The other day I saw a guy trying to piss into a heavy wind. This is funnier. "

That may well be the case, but in pure , unadulterated excretion mutineers win hands down.


Regards

doubtinggaurav said...

TMB,

You do possess foresight.

Yes I lash out and accuse of drug use (By the way considering the typical mutineer level of humour why so much touchiness at mention of dope, is it too sacred)

By the way has RSS wallah/Hindu fundies started stalking you yet ?
And how soon are you coming with a bestseller describing your ordeal with fascist Hindus

Regards

Anonymous said...

I am from eastern punjab and living in US. I am more comortable interacting with my western punjabi (pakistani) friends than with my Hindi speaking/non-hindi speaking Indian friends.

I think trying to seperate Indian culture from Pakistani and Bangladeshi culture is disingenous of this blog which names itself secular right India. It seems your only problem with Pakistan and Bangladesh is that they are Muslim states and I am assuming you feel the same about Indian muslims too!

doubtinggaurav said...

Anonymous Mutineer

Yes ignorance is bliss,
Especially when it allows you to make unqualified assertions.
Do enjoy your west punjabi friends.
Just do not call Indians, south asians , are we level bro ?

Regards

Primary Red said...

Anonymous:

Your criticism of this blog is outrageous. Our views on this blog -- and this blogger's public views via columns -- have consistently opposed the bigotry of India's religious Right.

View of commenters are their own -- with some we agree, with some we don't. We ourselves have never written one word that can be construed as religious or racial intolerance. Never.

We do think, however, that not only Pakistan & Bangladesh but also Nepal (predominantly Hindu) & Sri Lanka (predominantly Buddhist) are failed/failing states, representing a threat to India -- hence, we have been consistently hawkish on how India should deal with them. We stand by our views, none of which have anything to do with bigotry. Only people lacking political sophistication would construe our views as you have done.

You and your ilk have little knowledge of what we've written here, yet you slander our name -- this is precisely the kind of garbage you'd expect from readers of the naive and the racially offensive Sepia Mutiny.

Best regards.

Primary Red said...

Anonymous:

Just so that your really outrageous slander doesn't remain hanging unanswered, here is what we wrote last year on this blog about the Godhara riots:

Some may take comfort in the fact that the victims were minorities, and that, mercifully, they aren't. This would be a cynical and profoundly incorrect interpretation of the issue. First, regardless of their minority status, India's Muslims were born here, their parents and grandparents were born here, and their ancestors lived, died and are buried in India's earth. This alone gives them an equal citizenship -- and a right to equal protections -- as any other Indian. Second, we are all minorities in one way or the other -- some based on caste, others on language, and the rest in countless other ways.

Can we be lynched tomorrow for being, say, Brahmins, or Oriya speakers, or NRIs? Would Indians not sharing our specific minority attribute be morally justified in looking away? Can our police ignore SOS calls from us because they speak Tamil and we Bengali? Or because we have lived in New York and they all their life in New Delhi? Where does this madness stop?

http://secular-right.blogspot.com/2004/11/pogrom-in-gujarat_28.html

Next time you wish to accuse people you know nothing about of bigotry, better read up on what they've been advocating.

Best regards

Manish said...

View of commenters are their own...

and

... this is precisely the kind of garbage you'd expect from readers of the naive and the racially offensive Sepia Mutiny.

... in the very same comment? That sets a new land speed record for contradicting yourself.

1. 'Anonymous' is a reader of your blog.

2. You're conflating the views of commenters with the views of SM bloggers.

And this is awesome:

You and your ilk have little knowledge of what we've written here, yet you slander our name...

Which is exactly what you've done in your post.

Manish said...

Most bloggers would have the decency to acknowledge the post in question was updated.

libertarian said...

wow, I snooze I lose!

Primary Red said...

Manish:

Good to see you've acknowledged the serious problems with your original post.

However, you did post the racially charged version -- which reflects your blogs attitudes and can't be wished away simply by your editing some words. Instead of apologizing for your terrible mistake, the decent thing to do, you've chosen to attack us bitterly. That's your privilege, of course, but don't expect very much courtesy from us.

Best regards.

manav said...

manish et al:
i missed most of the debate.
however did just glance through the posts and noticed something you posted, which may help get my point across.
i wil confess beforehand that i do not the context of this particular post...and i do not thing it is at all relevant to my point. hope you understand.
manish - "A very Om-ly Christmas, Krishna for Christmas, Happy Diwahanukwanzidmas"

i would love to see the reaction of the "south asian" community, if the sepia mutiny people wish to prove their love for each other, if they simply for the heck of it sub, [prophet] muhhamad for krishna. i.e muhhamad for christmas, etc or muhhamad loves diwali or muhhamad for hannukah etc...you get my drift.

my suggestion may seem a bit churlish - i agree.
but given the futility of the merry go round here...i think this is a great way to put your [sepia mutiny] money, where you r mouth is...

and in all honesty, i think you guys as well as us guys understand exactly wht i am getting at.....

bestest,
manav

Jaffna said...

Dear TMB, Manish and Anjali,

I did not realize the furious debate that had been triggered by Primary Red's post. I enjoyed the discussion and intend to visit your site shortly. I think that debate and disagreement are good things. A favorite quote of mine is a classical Chinese stanza, "May a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend".

I have a few questions though. Are there any second generation Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who regularly contribute to your blog? More importantly, how would you explain partition in the context of your view that Pakistan and Bangladesh share a common identity with India.

You mention that "India itself was based on 'false identities' i.e. culture fusions at the borders and subculture creation. Every single thing you cherish and think to be 'original' was at one point a bastard fusion of other elements".

Please point out any civilization that is not? Furthermore, you seem to suggest that India is a mere agglomeration of diverse elements. This ignores the impressive cultural continuity, inner coherence and resilience for 5,000 years despite the tumult and turbulence. Your's is a very North American perspective, one that you are entitled to, but not necessarily one that is undisputed. I, for one, think it to be flawed (although many Indian Marxists would probably agree with you).

I am not Indian nor a resident of North America. I respect your point that a "South Asian" identity does provide meaning to second-generation Indians in the United States. But I suspect that not all second-generation Indians, Pakistanis or Bangladeshis in the United States (or for that matter Britain) share your passion. Moreover, the concept clearly does not provide coherence within "South Asia". It is not the same as Latin America.

West and East Punjab have a shared language. So does West and East Bengal. However, a shared language in itself does not imply a shared identity. Partition can not be explained otherwise.

This said, I look forward to visiting your blog soon and intend to post comments there as well :-)

Best regards

Pankaj said...

Dear Jaffna,

As usual, you have said it best.

Regards.

doubtinggaurav said...

PR,

I apologise for my unsavoury remarks on this post.
Considering that I do not represent what secular -right stand for (in fact quite opposite), mutineer might have got a false notion, that since I was doing the most of batting (no fault of my own, was stranded in rain :-| ), my view represented of this site, if you feel neccessary please do point out that I do not represent what you have in mind and if you do feel uncomfortable delete my above-mentioned remarks (including this one).

Jaffna,

I do not mind south - asian word per se, but using it when Pakistan and Bangladesh has made destruction of what India stands for its raison d'etre, I think it is intellectual dishonesty to pretend that problem do no exist or worse only Musharraf/Military/Politicans are to be blamed.
I said it before and I will say it again
"Idealogy of Pakistan is the porblem"

Back To PR,

I saw that "updated post", I didn't see any indication that it was updated, it is amusing to hear then, self righteous indignation of "How a decent blogger would have acted".

Anonymous said...

all in all, a good discussion - levels of mudslinging was not too high so as to obscure all the valid points being made ;-)

Chacko said...

You might want to have a look at http://www.mutiny.in
And this post in perticular about SM might be of interest http://jacobjoseph.com/2008/03/01/houston-you-have-a-problem/

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