A comprehensive rebuttal to the academics' open letter by Minhaz Merchant:
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi will visit Silicon Valley in late September to spread the word about his nation's ability to do digital stuff for the world, but not everyone is happy about his plans. Indeed, Academeblog.org, the organ of the American Association of University Professors, carried a piece signed by over 100 …
> A comprehensive rebuttal
Really? A quick look at his other writing clearly puts Minhaz Merchant over on the political Right for a start, so he's not exactly unbiased.
All through his "rebuttal" are various linguistic sneers, starting in the very first paragraph "It's not difficult to pin down the motive" implying there's something underhand going on, or "Others are filled with empty rhetoric" and "Are these Left-leaning "liberals" - the phrase may be oxymoronic" and "they would risk collateral damage to India just to discredit this particular prime minister?"
He's already planting seeds in the mind of the reader attacking the authors and attempting to devalue their opinions before he even addresses them, a classic debating tactic called Poisoning the Well
He then dismisses their opinions with a hand wave, saying they don't matter: Fortunately, the answer to these questions is that it doesn't matter. America's technology czars are used to receiving open letters or petitions in their inboxes. They have a well-developed antenna for sniffing out those which are motivated and those which are not. The trash bin is the destination for most.
Once he's got that out of the way, he takes a bit of time to big himself up I co-founded and edited a magazine for US CEOs called Innovate. It was written, researched, edited and produced in India and shipped to the US. From there our Boston-based partner couriered copies to America's top CEOs again, telling the reader that *he* is the one who knows what he's talking about.
He finally gets to the point, but not before a couple more last digs: the tone and content of the open letter aimed at smearing the prime minister ahead of his visit to Silicon Valley smacks of both nastiness and pettiness. It deserves to be ignored - but not before it's comprehensively rebutted. and the principal points the five-paragraph open letter tries to establish: ("Tries" to establish, clever...)
Even when he gets to talking about what they've written, he keeps adding more drops of poison to the well referring to "liberal arts academics" (a phrase that always plays well to the Right), "intellectual shallowness", "It rambles on and makes no arguments worthy of serious attention", "language here borders on arrogance",
Other language he uses includes "verbose, poorly written", "slyly", "venemous", "pathological"
Also he goes for a lovely Ad Hominem Tu Quoque with "the US government's digital surveillance is far more intrusive than Digital India's is likely to be. And the latter is still open to discussion and change. America's isn't - a point the US-based academics aren't brave enough to make" in other words because "your government is doing it, and you haven't criticised it here, you can't complain about what we're doing". Note that Merchant *doesn't* actually criticise the idea of widespread digital surveillance...
Finally he gets in a great Straw Man: It tells the CEOs of America's top technology companies that the Modi government should in effect be regarded as untouchable because it has demonstrated a "disregard for human rights and civil liberties" and In order to discredit this prime minister, the (mostly) Indian-origin, US-based academics are prepared to discredit India.
Frankly, if his "factual rebuttal" (see, I can do it too) is so good, why does he need to spend so much time using Ad Hominem attacks, playing the man (well, men and women) rather than the ball and misrepresenting what they've said?
He concludes: As I said at the beginning of this piece, some open letters and petitions end up exposing their intolerant, illiberal and ill-informed petitioners more than their target. This open letter does precisely that.
Pots and kettles come to mind...
Actually mine is neither a rebuttal, nor a refutation. It's simply the case that, as with other Authors and Commenters on El Reg, when I see someone playing silly buggers in this way, I'm going to point out exactly what they're up to.
For all I know Merchant may actually be correct (I can't be bothered to waste time searching out sources to check his claim), but if he is, and his argument is so good, why does he need to use these tactics which are so often employed by those who are trying to cover up the weakness of their position?
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