Netflix

Iran feels let down by India and rightly so

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Iran has shown its hurt on India which has unilaterally stopped the import of its oil, unwilling to stand in the corner of the adversaries of the United States.

Ali Chegeni, Iranian Ambassador to India, didn’t mince his words in a press briefing in New Delhi on Tuesday, chiding India for succumbing to the “sanctions” of the United States.

The Donald Trump administration is going berserk in his attempt to destroy Iran, first pulling out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) despite Iran being faithful to the deal and piling on with economic sanctions without approval from its allies or world community in the form of United Nations.

India hasn’t imported oil from Iran for months now and couched its action as “reduced” and not “stopped” to suit its independent image. But now that Iran has gone public, India has been shown as having been arm-twisted by the United States.

Fans of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and his muscular foreign policy could feel cheated as a multi-polar world—against the unipolar bullying of United States—is nearer to being a reality.

Russia and China, hit by sanctions and trade wars, are now joined at hips and Iran is a vital clog in their drive to keep Middle East, even Eurasia, out of bounds for the United States. European Union (EU) has created INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) to keep trading with Iran without resorting to direct transfers of money between the two entities. India is seen as one final piece of jigsaw of the emerging multi-polar world which would signal the further unravelling of US’ hegemony.

To be sure, the United States is one hell of an economic power and throws its weight to bring nations under its heel. It’s the nerve centre of global economy. Be it goods or money; data or transportation, the world doesn’t move much without the express will of the United States.

The United States is the kingpin of globalization. It anchors International Monetary Fund (IMF). It controls over 50 per cent of the venture capital, all but 10 per cent of currency trade use its dollars.  Tech and finance doesn’t move without its dollars; it could cripple phone-operating systems of the world; it controls the fund-management assets. As The Economist puts it: “Across the panel, it’s normal to use a Visa card, invoice exports in dollars, sleep beside a device with a Qualcomm chip, watch Netflix and work for a firm that BlackRock invests in.”

If a firm is blacklisted, no bank would touch you with a barge pole and you are put outside the dollar payment system. There is a law in place which controls the foreign investment into Silicon Valley—if you fall foul, you could virtually say goodbye to transactions in semiconductors and software, a virtual ruination in today’s world.

Economy isn’t the imperative though which has guided India’s change of course vis-à-vis Iran. India needs to hedge its bets. That’s the demand of the geopolitics reality. It neither can annoy the chief actors of the drama nor it can afford to align itself with either of the two groups: United States vs the Russia-China combine.  If it snuggles up to the United States, it loses the strategic and military advantage of Russia. It provokes China to join hands with Pakistan and cause mayhem on its borders. If it slips into the arms of Russia-China, it must brace itself to the devastation which the United States could unleash, like the one they have in Hong Kong.

India thus follows the sensible policy of keeping its suitors interested. Both the United States and China need India. The United States in its existential mission to squeeze China and badly needs India. China wants to keep India dormant for the same reason. It can’t afford a naval configuration of United States-Japan-Australia-India to spike its waters.

India too needs to do a balancing act of its own. So it relents on South China Sea to ensure China doesn’t help Pakistan to the extent its borders are put under siege. It relents to United States’ demand on Iran to ensure its military purchases from Russia are unimpaired. It knows the mischief the United States is capable of.  India internally is in an ideological churn. And the United States is expert in fishing in troubled waters. Kashmir could so easily go horribly wrong.

I suspect Modi’s India, in its heart, is for a multi-polar world. United States doesn’t follow rules, it isn’t friends with anyone. All it wants is servility. Those who are independent—like Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China, North Korea or Iran—face its wrath.  India is still some leagues away  before it could trust China completely and dump the United States for good. India is pivotal to Project Eurasia but can’t afford to annoy either of the two blocs. It’s a watchful tread by them.

It’s just not the United States: India has also made a choice in warming up to Saudi Arabia-Israel in the Middle East. They are Iran’s sworn enemies. By drawing close to the Gulf Muslim nations, India has left Pakistan sterile. Pakistan’s fervent appeal on religious lines to Muslim nations has drawn a very tepid response on Kashmir. Instead we have the situation where Modi is being accorded the highest civilian honour in UAE and Bahrain.  This comes in the backdrop of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Maldives conferring similar honours to him. It has isolated Pakistan on Kashmir.

Iran has shown it can’t wait for India interminably.  It doesn’t want to be a minor player in India’s international diplomatic games. It’s a perfectly legitimate response given how Iran and its’ proud people are waging a war for survival. Modi government though is in the thick of its own war with internal and external enemies.  One hopes, through the backdoor diplomatic channels,  India and Iran remain warm to each other. Till the time is ripe.

It’s good for the world.

 

Porn is bigger than Amazon or Netflix and that’s a cause for worry

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I recently did a piece in praise of India’s new Child Pornography Bill but the issue didn’t leave me and several related issues teased like a stripper does in a bar full of men.

Porn is one of those words which have a totally different meaning to me now than when I was in my 20s and I guess it’s true to most of the 1970s generation. But I wasn’t prepared to how pervasive it is to humanity once I got inside the sheets of reality and fumbled with its contours.

Do you know porn industry is bigger than Hollywood? Meatier than major baseball leagues, NFL and NBA, combined? That porn sites get more visitors than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined do in a month? That just one site, XVideos, is larger than New York Times, CNN and Dropbox combined?

And this is still just a foreplay and not the real deal. That is now laid bare by SimilarWeb.com, a data-mining gold standard, which tells us that two porn websites –XVideos and Pornhub—engage more visitors and their time than—hold your breath—even Google!!! Indeed, in terms of worldwide website rankings, these two are in the Top 8, bigger than Amazon, Wikipedia, MSN, Yahoo, Netflix, eBay, LinkedIn, PayPal or WhatsApp. Phew!

The net worth of Porn industry was $97 billion dollars two years ago which could feed up to 5 billion people a day. The profits are upwards of $15 billion which is one-and-a-half times more than Hollywood. So if you know Google and Netflix as behemoth bandwith-consuming companies, include Mind Geek as the third biggest for it owns PornHub, Brazzers, YouPorn and Reality Kings.

And how much do you think the pornstars are worth? Jenna Jameson was once rated to be worth more ($30m) than some of Hollywood’s top stars. Their one shot is worth bucketful of sweat to producers, and not just to viewers.

Lest you think this is a piece for titillation, this in reality is to stoke your conscience. With such figures (pun intended) involved, millions of girls—and boys—are lured into a cycle of exploitation where their personal and emotional orchard is laid waste for filthy bucks. Most find themselves unable to break-free of this matrix, transported from city to city, country to country, continent to continent. Those who watch inflict no less damage on themselves for sociologist confirm they are prone to unstable and aggressive behaviour. Lot of fantasies stoked by porn-clips actually are the seeds on which heinous crime such as rape grow.

A few other facts perhaps could let the terrible truth sink in our minds. A recent report has found out that (a) 35 percent of all internet downloads are porn; (b) 64% of youth in 13-24 age bracket are its biggest consumers; (c) teen videos are most watched and teen viewership is the biggest too; and (d) lesbian was the most searched porn term on world’s largest porn site last year.

All these issues need be discussed in public for porn is not a personal choice alone. When you watch such a video, you actually play your role in someone’s exploitation; and often eventual destruction. The society needs a robust debate on porn. It needs mass awareness. It’s the underbelly of humanity. So many lives are destroyed, crimes propped and it could all be happening with our active, sick contribution.

Take a call. Now.

 

Leila: Who would question Prayaag Akbar or Netflix?

I expect a political storm over Leila, a six-part TV serial on Netflix, the first season of which went on air last week.

The serial which has Huma Qureshi as the central character is Hinduphobic and foresees India becoming a totalitarian regime, priming itself for a genocide in the name of purification, a throwback to Adolf Hitler and his “purification” drive of ethnic cleansing which caused World War II. (Even the greeting—Jai Aryavarta—a la “Heil Hitler” is uncannily similar.)

It’s a frontal attack with no punches pulled. The clock is set on 2047, exactly 100 years since India’s independence. India has been replaced by Aryavarta, as “Bharat” was known in holy Hindu texts. Its’ a totalitarian, repressive regime: The show begins with the lynching of a Muslim man and poops drop at every stage to establish “love jihad”, “ghar wapsi,” “suit-boot” persona of its authoritarian head, the degrading conditions in Doosh (Dalit) camps etc.

The serial, directed by Deepa Mehta, is based on a work of Prayaag Akbar who deserves an introduction of his own. The young writer was once deputy editor of Scroll as well as a writer for Caravan, the two news outlets with the stench of Left. His lineage is even more interesting: Prayaag is son of MJ Akbar and unlike his father who swung from Congress to BJP with a straight face, the son has ventured too far into the Hinduphobic drain to have any possibility of “purification” in future.

There is no point picking holes in Prayaag’s work. It’s a free world, you have the licence of artistic freedom and the vehicle, Netflix, is free from local censor. You know exactly your audience as well as your funders, that media outlets and film critics of this ecosystem who would only unsheathe their pens in praise.  You are turned into an icon by this system who can spot a peddler and his potential from a mile.  May be this was his intention from the outset.

I say so because the serial lacks conviction in every next frame.  Script is too convenient: the protagonist could will herself at 3-4 different places in a matter of a night in her quest to be at Commercial Centre in the morning. Surveillance always fails; frisking is always lax, the bosses are dumb idiots as the protagonist waltz from one room to another, one computer to another, her manager an accomplice hidden in plain sight. But how does it matter as long as you could stoke fears of an approaching fascist Hindu nation, overriding logic, reason, decency and all this without looking into a true mirror which reflects your dishonest self.

Let me put a writer-bucket challenge for Prayaag. The year is 2070, exactly 1500 years to Prophet Muhammad’s birth, peace be upon him. The Muslim world constitutes 90 per cent of humanity—not by repression or war but by the message of his piety, love for all. The prophet comes into dream of every Muslim on earth at a certain hour, minute and second of the night. How would you depict Prophet Muhammad? Would you dare give this role to any human actor?

No, you won’t. You can’t Prayaag. Nobody has dared so in hundreds of centuries: I hope it sobers you down to the orchestrated praise on your courage which is coming your way.  I can even ask you on an easier script: Ever heard of Tughlaq or Aurangzeb; Khilji or Tipu Sultan? How about putting your creative juices at work on these subjects?

Everyone knows that chances of a dystopian Hindu regime in future is lesser than your car running on air.  I mean in a country where you can’t even chant Jai Shri Ram or include “Veer” ahead of Savarkar or even vaguely mention “Hindi” as a link language, forget about Ram Temple, abolition of 370 and 35A, triple talaq etc, where army is independent, how would it come about. Who would burn up the Constitution? And what do you think forces in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and United States etc, who might have invested in your project and who you might see as your investment in fame and money, would react? Let India be taken up by a totalitarian regime?

In showing India as a dystopian state in the making, Prayaag Akbar has insulted the wisdom and resilience of a 1.30 billion people. The fibre of our democracy.  The basic tenet of peace and ahimsa which made “Aryavarta” never seek to invade, rape, kill or usurp countries. If he is looking for such traits, he would find aplenty in Islam and Christianity.  To show a country which has suffered like no other nation in 1000 years as a monster-in-making is sin—and let Prayaag deciper it in whichever religion he follows. As for millions of Hindus, we are still under repression, by tools other than war.  In the liberal world, they call it artistic licence. And a warning to Hindus: You just can’t drop your guard for the enemy is committed.