September 3, 2007EconomySecurity

The Clueless Economist

Its South Asia bureau is plumbing the depths

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

The Economist is easily the second best magazine out there. You read it because it is intelligent and opinionated. You may not always agree with its opinions, but it usually gives you good arguments why it says what it does.

So when it fails to stand up to its usual standards, you must stand up and smack down the offending article. Like the one on the Hyderabad blasts in this week’s edition. If the title—“Mad and Hyderabad”—is baffling, the subtitle—“Nameless, ruthless, pointless”—gets only the first two adjectives right. For despite The Economist’s cluelessness, the nameless ruthlessness is anything but pointless.

It is a strange terrorist who prefers to remain anonymous. Yet this seems to be the signature of the bombers who, every few months for the past few years, have exploded crude bombs in India’s cities. [The Economist]

Not even the most deluded terrorist would believe that bomb blasts in Indian cities will, by themselves, achieve political objectives. Identifying themselves and claiming responsibility would be useful if they wanted to awe the government into negotiations or to attract followers. But if what the terrorists really wanted to do was to let the blasts trigger off an wider outbreak of communal riots, then anonymity is exactly what they would seek. For anonymity would create doubts, with each side believing that the other is responsible. What would happen to those conspiracy theories if, say, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami sent a videotape to CNN-IBN claiming responsibility for the attacks? It does not take too much thinking to conclude that for their campaign to be successful, they have to remain anonymous. (The anonymous correspondents of The Economist, of all people, must be familiar with the idea.)

Perhaps it is because the correspondent missed the plot that s/he was forced to do the reminds investors that India is a violent place” routine. Really? How did the markets behave? Page 82 of the same issue lists market data. It shows that the BSE index gained 5.2% during the same week. Not only that, the BSE index was the top gainer that week. If anything, investors probably have gotten used to the apathetic Indian resilience to such attacks.

But it is the last paragraph that should make you wonder how empty the first floor is.

It is not known what role India’s 150m Muslims, who include 40% of Hyderabad’s population, play in the violence. Probably a supporting one at most. But that could change. India’s Muslims have long suffered politically inspired communal violence and casual discrimination. Were they ever to become seriously riled, India would have a problem indeed. [The Economist]

It’s surprising how many things The Economist’s correspondent doesn’t know and yet goes on to make rather bold conclusions. Despite the near certainty of local Muslims being involved in the blasts, to extend this and suggest that India’s or even Hyderabad’s Muslims probably” played a supporting role” is absurd.

And what does one make of the dark suggestions that seriously riled’ Muslims will cause trouble for India. Nothing, except that The Economist would do well to tighten the substance abuse and recruitment policy for its correspondents.

Related Post: When its bureau chief charged Indians with misinformed scepticism about Pakistan.

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