Monday, December 28, 2009
THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE, OR IS IT?
The government in a stinging rebuke has pulled up Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor for using twitter to post his comments on a new Visa guideline issued by his colleague and union Home minister P Chidambaram. In fact, Tharoor's boss Minister for External Affairs S M Krishna has asked him not to comment on government policy on Twitter.The diktat presumably because the government fears it ends up blurring the lines between what's public and what's not. Predictably the govt's action has sparked off a debate with several people coming out on the net in defence of Tharoor citing freedom of expression. While no one can deny Mr Tharoor his freedoms there is cause for concern when a matter of the national interest is blithely 'trivialised'. And when a complex policy issue is discussed on a platform that is not formatted to allow for exhaustive or even reasoned debate. There would have been no problem had Mr Tharoor used a suitable forum to debate or even criticise the government's new visa norms. And as minister he would have had several of those platforms available to him. At the end of the day Mr Tharoor presumably forgot that the medium is not always the message.