‘Unbiased’ vs. ‘Objective’

I encountered on Quora the question, “What is your unbiased opinion about the controversy between the Indian political spaces ‘Mithila’ and ‘Indian liberals’? Overlooking what I might facetiously term the procacity of writing ‘Mithila’ as opposed to MITHILA, what I was most irked with, which is perhaps a sign of lexical elitism, was the presence of the word ‘unbiased’.

The saga in question is already bygone; therefore, I seek to record the reason behind me writing this short essay in a potential rekindling of a conflict. For I am not a crusader seeking battle but someone driven alike by scripturience and by the desire to record facts as I know them, that a disinterested reader may form his own opinion sans having to refer to the posts himself. That the affair be forgotten is my earnest recommendation. So far as MITHILA is concerned, it issued its final statement on the first of September this year, concluding the saga on its part.

But, in my characteristic desire to see the proliferation of as precise a language as possible, I must say that we would best be served by way of the elevation of our collective parlance by not airing such affinity for the word ‘unbiased’. On Quora, in questions galore, one encounters the request of ‘unbiased’ answers. Perhaps, what is sought is an ‘objective’ answer, for objectivity, at the final juncture, may lead the opinion to favour a side, and therefore, a ‘bias’. This short essay would be quite biased, too, and an objective assessment would testify to the validity of my bias.

As a prolepsis, I must record my cognizance of the fact that, in view of my position as an admin of MITHILA, and therefore an interested party, my ability to assay an objective assessment could well be questioned. However, I trust, that notwithstanding one’s interest in an affair, it is perfectly possible, long after it has been brought to a close, to write of it with a sense of dispassion. I trust I could be audacious enough to attempt as much; audacious, because doing so may well invite the ire of those who would justly desire that the saga no longer be talked of.

Could my objectivity be trusted? I believe it is worthy of trust, for the posts themselves would bear me out. But I should state a general precept; that one can be objective, only to the extent of one’s knowledge. One may not know certain facts, the revelation of which may impugn one’s objective assessment, but it is possible for such a writer to be objective within the limits of his knowledge. I am confident that no subsequent revelation would impugn my claims, however.

On the twenty-seventh of August, an anonymous user on Quora submitted a post on MITHILA, titled “A Confession on Indian Liberals”. One of the admins accepted the submission, and the post amassed popularity. The user, claiming to be a member of the Discord server maintained by the praesidium (so to say) of the Indian Liberals space on Quora, expressed his disillusionment with what s/he regarded as an excess of their vitriol against those who differed with them politically. He disclosed those chats by means of many screenshots, and it emerged that, buried beneath their protestations of liberal and accommodating thought, was pristine hate, bigotry and bitterness. There was room for little else.

[Analepsis: Disillusioned by the generally imprudent tenor of what is loosely regarded as the ‘right-wing’ in India, I had chanced upon MITHILA, and was quickly allured with the erudition of its high command. I became aware that some elements from Indian Liberals had a history of threatening, even filing false cases against a few from MITHILA; a phenomenon of which the Space owner, the now banned Kishan Dev, was a particularly choice object. I also knew that the owners of both spaces were generally on talking terms with one another. I know not the minutiae of subsequent developments, so I desist from commenting on the same. Nota bene: I do not know what prompted the appointment of such obscure beings as I, as an Admin on the Space; all of the other admins are formidably more well-read and intelligent than am I.]

Within a few minutes of the post’s acceptance, the Indian Liberals server was deleted, and its praesidium sought desperate measures of damage-control, by means of inept explanations and rebuttals. As if desirous of exhibiting a newly learnt word, ‘out of context’ became their cherished phrase to explain away the bigotry. One of their sentences, which was seemingly anti-Semitic, was indeed not a statement of hate, unlike its misconstruction, but merely an observation of someone being a Jew. As a fervid pedant, I venture to annoy readers with the knowledge that the correct phrase for this would not be ‘out of context’, but ‘misinterpretation’.

But their attempts were not restricted to these innocent missions. They attempted to foist some balderdash from random ‘right wing’ servers as that belonging to MITHILA, the falsity of which we managed to prove. In a side affair, one of them, still puerile in his purported late twenties, attempted to intimidate a fifteen-year-old user who happened to share a mild meme on him, with a ludicrous defamation case, which as we had predicted would come to naught. We knew they were the hollow threats of a deeply affrighted yet hubristic man, in face of intimidating intellect, unpardoning wit and scorn. With peculiar condescension, he had sought to mollify the teen with assurances that he would not proceed, or something to that effect, so as to appear morally superior, as if a stern parent illumined by wisdom, pardoning the sins of his genuflecting, penitent sons. Unfortunately, this tactic was not to bear fruit. Ever since, the praesidium has vanished from Quora. In the meantime, the anonymous user who was the source of it all, penned and submitted a sequel, revealing more of their bigotry.

As we course through this narrative, we may spare a moment to stand agape before the views of certain ‘grown-ups’, who were happy to revel in their sense of superior intellect, with their description of the saga as akin to a puerile fight between children. To elect the middle way out and to brand both parties as equally morbid, however mediocre though it may seem to the discerning mind, is ever a measure of intellect and adulthood for the pontifical, substance-devoid man, whose sole victual is the airy fabric of virtue. How utterly often have we seen this mediocrity grace the debates on history! Such mediocrity is our national pastime, besides homiletics.

But if I may rather elaborate on the incident, than our national disease, MITHILA merely provided a platform to the denunziant who, it appears from his post, stood disillusioned with the vitriol on the IL server, and subsequently proved that the balderdash from unrelated servers passed off as belonging to MITHILA was not in fact of the Space. This, so far as I am concerned, is by no means a fight between two children, but an entity most ardent on free speech, defending itself from the calumnies of a vicious counterpart. Objectively, there was nothing guilty to be found against MITHILA in the said incident, and no sound creature could possibly be ‘neutral’ in his opinion on the affair, unless he were ‘indifferent’, to which, I hasten to add, I do not impute unsoundness; the words are quite precise in their meanings (indifference is not necessarily contemptible; the Space is by no means clamouring for support, or announcing uncharitable moral assessments of indifferent users). On my part, therefore, employing such humility as I can, I assure the grown-ups, that their upright sensibilities shall not be offended, should they fully rest their avuncular blame on Indian Liberals, if not approve of MITHILA.

My view, therefore, is that it was a categorical loss of face for Indian Liberals. As Tarek Fatah once said, the advantage of being truthful is that one need not be burdened with remembering what the precise lie was, for lies may be many but the truth is but one. By all means, MITHILA abides by this unwritten apothegm, and it does not conceal its more, shall we say, mordacious elements (I do not suppose ‘toxic’ is the appropriate word; the Space itself does not have a toxic tenor so far as I am concerned, although some users can certainly be toxic).

Some regard it as a saga wherein both spaces ‘exposed’ themselves. I must again insist on the elevation of parlance. ‘Expose’ is another word we seem fascinated with, besides ‘unbiased’. One is ‘exposed’ only when one is sanctimonious; when one projects one’s virtue while actually being malicious. MITHILA had nothing to conceal, and therefore could not be ‘exposed’. And the opinion that both spaces came out the worse is akin in its intellectual hollowness to the view, harboured by pretend adults, that the saga was but a puerile fight, as if between children fighting over toffee. Nuance is perhaps alien to us; it seems unpalatable to the (un)refined sensibilities of pretend adults that there could be a party in a dispute which is not remotely in the wrong.

The word ‘scripturience’ appears destitute of an official sanction. Appalling!