Pseudonymous Letters in Colombo Telegraph: Examples of Rahavan and Chanakyan
I know you allow people to comment on articles under pseudonyms. You know who they are by email address but the readers do not. I agree that anonymity makes people feel free to comment and this engenders freer discussion.
However, recent comments by Rahavan (whom I have mistaken for Suren Raghavan and another Raghavan I know) and Chanakyan make me wonder how wise that policy is.
Following your reproducing the interview with Ravi Kumar of the British Tamil Forum by the newspaper Oru Paper from London (Read here ), I had commented under my name that the British Tamil Forum must not give interviews to communalist papers and thereby encourage them. I went on to cite the Oru Paper editorial of 07.04.2006 when I was appointed Vice Chancellor of Jaffna in 2006. The editorial read
“[T]here are a few Christians who are unable to reconcile their minds to the fact that they had deserted the religion of their forefathers. This grievance they carry against the whole community. The Hoole brothers[…],Lakshman Kadirgamar and D.B.S. Jeyaraj of Canada belong to this category. As for Ratnajeevan Hoole as Vice-Chancellor of Jaffna University, this much has to be said. He should not be allowed to roam free in Jaffna’s Tamil Hindu society, particularly in the university campus where there is a Saiva temple ” [Emphasis as in the original].”
The two ideas in the editorial that betray the communalism of the editor are 1) Tamils should never have converted to Christianity and are traitors for that reason and 2) Christians are polluting. These make the editorial a punishable hate crime under British law.
Coming to the point, Rahavan – whoever he may be, but almost certainly pseudonymous because Rahavan with an h is rarely used in formal names which have initials – then put in a comment that “Oru Paper is owned and edited by Christians.” It simply undermined my comment that Oru Paper is communalist.
However, I found it unbelievable that Christians would accept the idea that they are polluting. I therefore made careful enquiries and found that there is no one at Oru Paper who is a Christian except a girl doing office work. I have been able to further establish that the manager is one Partheepan who rarely writes, the editor is one Gopiratnam and a regular columnist is Ravi Arunachalam from the liberal Colombo-based Sarinigar who became pro-LTTE and got a job at IBC Radio, and is accused of printing someone else’s book with a change of title under his authorship.
Just today following the article “Navi Pillay Rides Again” by Malinda Seneviratne, there is a cryptic comment by Chanakya (who also signs as Chanakyan) as follows “What a pathetic case is MS who hates the US and ‘west’ because he is a Cornell Drop Out!”
The term dropout in the English language is used for dropping out of society or school. When it is out of undergraduate studies, the term is college dropout. Seneviratne earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard. The comment by Chanakya is therefore designed to create the impression that Seneviratne holds no degree and is uneducated.
I think it is time to force those who comment to take responsibility by signing under their real names. Email addresses which only you see are really not enough because one can get an address easily under any cooked up name. It may be unfair by those who make thoughtful comments anonymously because they are afraid. But when anonymity is used to spread false information and slander, it is time for change.
It is a sad commentary that it is people of the quality of Rahavan and Chanakyan whom we Tamils have to speak for us abroad as Geneva comes up.
S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole
We received the letter above from prof. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole and decide to share it with our readers. We request our commentators to follow our Discussion Guidelines voluntarily.
The Colombo Telegraph provides a opportunity for readers who wish to discuss content we publish, or debate issues more generally. Our aim is to ensure this platform is inclusive and safe.
There are 10 simple guidelines which we expect all participants to abide by, all of which directly inform our approach to moderation (detailed below). These apply across the site, while moderation decisions are also informed by the context in which comments are made.
1. We welcome debate and dissent, but personal attacks (on authors, other users or any individual), persistent trolling and mindless abuse will not be tolerated. The key to maintaining the website as an inviting space is to focus on intelligent discussion of topics.
2. We acknowledge criticism of the articles we publish, but will not allow persistent misrepresentation of the Colombo Telegraph and our journalists/contributors to be published on our website. For the sake of robust debate, we will distinguish between constructive, focused argument and smear tactics.
3. We understand that people often feel strongly about issues debated on the site, but we will consider removing any content that others might find extremely offensive or threatening. Please respect other people’s views and beliefs and consider your impact on others when making your contribution.
4. We reserve the right to redirect or curtail conversations which descend into flame-wars based on ingrained partisanship or generalisations. We don’t want to stop people discussing topics they are enthusiastic about, but we do ask users to find ways of sharing their views that do not feel divisive, threatening or toxic to others.
5. We will not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia or other forms of hate-speech, or contributions that could be interpreted as such. We recognise the difference between criticising a particular government, organisation, community or belief and attacking people on the basis of their race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.
6. We will remove any content that may put us in legal jeopardy, such as potentially libellous or defamatory postings.
7. We will remove any posts that are obviously commercial or otherwise spam-like. Our aim is that this site should provide a space for people to interact with our content and each other, and we actively discourage commercial entities passing themselves off as individuals, in order to post advertising material or links. This may also apply to people or organisations who frequently post propaganda or external links without adding substantively to the quality of the discussion on the website.
8. Keep it relevant. We know that some conversations can be wide-ranging, but if you post something which is unrelated to the original topic (“off-topic”) then it may be removed, in order to keep the thread on track. This also applies to queries or comments about moderation, which should not be posted as comments.
9. Be aware that you may be misunderstood, so try to be clear about what you are saying, and expect that people may understand your contribution differently than you intended. Remember that text isn’t always a great medium for conversation: tone of voice (sarcasm, humour and so on) doesn’t always come across when using words on a screen. You can help to keep the comment section open to all viewpoints by maintaining a reasonable tone, even in unreasonable circumstances.
10. The platform is ours, but the conversation belongs to everybody. We want this to be a welcoming space for intelligent discussion, and we expect participants to help us achieve this by notifying us of potential problems and helping each other to keep conversations inviting and appropriate. If you spot something problematic in comment section, please report it. When we all take responsibility for maintaining an appropriate and constructive environment, the debate itself is improved and everyone benefits.
– If you act with maturity and consideration for other users, you should have no problems.
– Don’t be unpleasant. Demonstrate and share the intelligence, wisdom and humour we know you possess.
– Take some responsibility for the quality of the conversations in which you’re participating. Help make this an intelligent place for discussion and it will be.