History beyond the screaming

By Razib Khan 30 Comments

Last night I realized I’m not going to weigh in on history discussions on Twitter if they pertain to the Indian subcontinent. Even people who I know are not 13-year old incels behave totally emotionally and engage in shitposting posturing constantly. It’s really impossible to get a signal out of the discussion.

Indians and Pakistanis seem so intensively invested in various topics that it is literally and seriously impossible to get value out of any exchange, the swell of stupidity and bad faith (on all sides!) is so intense. There is a reality out there. There is a true history. But this is not what most of you really care about it, is it?

For example, reading India in the Persianate Age: 1000–1765 gives a nuanced and fully textured picture in outlines of the subcontinental elite in the premodern period. It aligns in broad sketches with what I know about human psychology and history elsewhere. But attempting to bring nuance seems like a fool’s errand in most of these debates.

Understanding the history of the Indian subcontinent is rewarding to me because there are comments here on the general human condition. I will not turn away from that. But, I do need to reflect on whether that is best done in solitude rather than engaging with the world “out here.”

Note: I don’t mind or care too much if particular truths are leveraged in some ideological manner. Rather, my suggestion is ideological priors are doing all the sifting of which truths are correct or not.

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30 Replies to “History beyond the screaming”

  1. I am infrequent commenter but frequent reader and would be disappointed to see your Indian history threads dry up. I may not completely agree with you on how Hindus should respond to their perceived siege but the historical perspectives and balance you bring out are absolutely needed if Hindus are to tackle future challenges.

      1. nothing specific. just getting tired of being party of stupid arguments.

        i’m a 40something with 3 kids. don’t have time or energy. so need to reflect on what it means to be a ‘brown pundit’

        1. Razib,
          Totally agree – For me Twitter arguments r inversely proportionate with sleep – have taken a 1 month hiatus.
          Ariangang is not as Ad hominum or Rude as some Hindutva/Leftist twitter – he does seem smart IMO and not in bad faith though motivated

          1. agree re: AG. but he finds it amusing that you drink cow piss 🙂 [i know you don’t, just saying he has pretty casual prejudices against hindus and he lets it leak through. reminds me of some of my parents’ friends and even them]

          2. Razib you would be technically slightly wrong here – I have actually drank cow urine a handful times over 30 years; Its actually part of some Pujas & Yajnas :P; (not by choice i was either very small or didnt want to make a scene rejecting it) I have even witnessed and uncle of mine collect fresh cow urine and drink it later.
            The smell is very strong and can be super bad. I have also been in houses when it was used medicinally for some ill or terminal patients. Its becoming less common it some years ago considerable part of my family and esp extended family indulged in cow urine. Gandhi and many others drank it. I guess Modi also would be.

            After from that even Indians even indulge in practice of drinking ones own urine. Indias 4th PM Morarji desai used to drink it daily. Ppl in my family have also tried it 😀 – its called Shivamhu.

            But seeing the judgement Cow urine drinking ppl get from Hindus i am not surprised Pakistanis feel its weird custom – to be frank its a bit weird anyways and i dont begrudge other cultures for finding it weird

  2. Well for most people at all levels, history is generally an emotive and agenda-driven exercise. I read multiple explicitly Marxist historical works in college (not about India, and I will say that explicit Marxism has become a bit gauche in more recent years.)

    Incidentally, that is the background Eaton himself comes from. He’s a generally adroit scholar who has made useful contributions to the study of India, but you can tell the angle he’s coming from, both in the “Tale of Two Raids” that opens up the book you discuss, and the very old articles for Frontline (part of The Hindu, a Indian leftist party press) that put him on the map so long ago.

    Anyways, history is about ideology, and Indians/Pakistanis are very bombastic about expressing their ideology. That’s just how their political culture works. The result is what Razib describes above. It doesn’t really bother me, I’ve come to terms with it. But I get that Razib comes from a different political and ideological background than I do.

    I find that if one is interested in sober analysis and objectivity, it’s best to stick to diplomatic and military history. People interested in those fields generally don’t have much of an ideological axe to grind. Raghavan’s “War and Peace in Modern India” is an exhaustively thorough review of…exactly what the title implies. Gomman’s “Mughal Warfare” is a good overview of what it sounds like.

    1. If budding scientists and engineers had the same fatalistic attitude towards science and technology as you do towards history, we would still be stuck in the Middle Ages (or medieval ages?), technologically speaking.

      But thank God for Galileo!

      1. Like it or not, historians in many fields view themselves as having an explicit ideological lens and mission. Science and engineering may be about searching for truth and facts…that is not the case for history.

        As I said, this phenomenon is worse in cultural fields and not-as-prevalent in military and diplomatic ones.

  3. There is a reality out there. There is a true history. But this is not what most of you really care about it, is it?

    Are you implying bad faith on the part of the screamers or ignorance? I’m partial to the latter. Most people are completely unaware that historical inquiry can be conducted in ways that pass scientific muster. They think historical narrative is either known and passed down (by people they trust) or made up (by people they don’t.) That history can involve discovery and vetting of evidence doesn’t occur to most people.

    The way I was taught history in school had a revelatory flavor to it: something happened 5000 years ago, then something else happened 3000 years ago, etc. down to the modern day. How one knew (or discovered) all this was something our teachers didn’t bother to explain and we students didn’t bother to ask.

    1. I agree but there is some bad faith involved too. They know they have been duped by the “marxists”, so they will use the same argument to further their own thing, even though they know otherwise. I mean what’s good for goose , good for gander.

      You open the pandora box to use history to further ur own worldview. The other side need not stick to the rules and might just go full hog.

  4. I think “Hindu” twitter will settle down in some time. It’s new found power and lashing out at all direction. Over time an equilibrium will be reached.

  5. the stupid ppl on hindu twitter will be stupid. but there are smart ppl who get caught up in motivated reasoning.

    also happens to the other side. airangang is smart, but he’s quite motivated, and like hindu twitter he doesn’t hide that his goal is to shit in the enemy’s mouth. i’m sure it’s an unpleasant image there, but communicating how i feel seeing/getting in the middle of these debates. the distaste

  6. Malla at UNZ.com has the best description of the twitter Hindutva historians.

    “About 97% of Hindu fundamentalist online (called BJP IT cell–paid by the BJP parties) are not too bright and most of them are low IQ buffoons. They are like the libtard buffoons of the West. They spread B.S. history via social media and we call it “Whatsapp university”. The BJp and Hindu findamantalists pay these folks to write their B.S. throuhout social media, to attack anybody who attacks Hindutva. Like your Israeli or Chinese CCP online army.
    Ironically, in India it are the liberals who are the sensible folks while in the West it is the exact opposite, the far right/ nationalists/ National Socialists. Though I must add that the liberals at times tend to get too carried away in their anti-Hinduness and piss off Hindus. unfortunately the deep state of India is right winged while the deep state of the West is more Leftist/Cultural Marxist.
    Muslims fundamentalists types are a mixed bunch with the lower stratas being low IQ buffoon thugs (pusing Sharia in the UK/Europe, Rohingya thugs in Myanmar) too but there are some sensible folk among some of their learned men who understand how the world works, far more than Hindu fundamentalists. Men like Dr. Ishrar Ahmed. I think since Islam is a religion is a more spread religion than Hinduism they have better understanding of the world’s games.

    1. There are many sensible people on the Right as are many Leftie abusers. So it cuts both ways.
      The difference is, the Hindutva abusers take on lefties with big egos (and fairly mediocre intellect) who are extremely thin skinned but are part of the establishment. They tend to have big megaphones in mainstream media hence can make a big stink about it.
      They also conveniently cry abuse when countered with the slightest disagreement, discredit the person as a troll, abuser, chaddi, sanghi, low iq etc etc.
      Lefties are also very good at using their institutional power to get the non-troll right wing people banned/suspended.(From Anand Ranganathan to Arati Tikoo Singh)
      The Govt may be of BJP but the ecosystem is still Leftist/Congressee

    2. in India it are the liberals who are the sensible folks while in the West it is the exact opposite, the far right/ nationalists/ National Socialists.

      How are the western far right / “national socialists” considered to be the sensible ones?

      Pretty sure the right is dumber than the left in America.

      In India I am actually not sure if that’s the case. The left elite is more educated than right elite, but the right has more of the middle classes.

      Indian middle class is on Twitter now. Not sure if truly low income Indians from Naxal areas etc are on it yet.

      1. “The left elite is more educated than right elite”
        1) I presume you are only talking about humanities. Most highly educated STEM people I know are center right (the kinds you predominantly find on this blog)
        2)There are no ‘Right social elites’ in India. They have been the dalits of the intellectual/chattering class. Untouchables still! The political power is slowly reducing the untouchability but they have a log way to go.
        3) The grip the language of English has on the elite discourse has still not loosened enough to allow enough Right leaning thinkers. I am always astonished to read Pratap Bhanu Mehta (and hear Tharoor). They are so pompous with convoluted constructs, exotic (though not always incisive) vocabulary and sheer verbosity.
        The rare English speaking Right elite ( Swapan!) also tends to be a gasbag though.
        The NDTV gang is very similar. Intelligent sounding but only adept at trivialities. ( except for Nidhi. Thankfully she sounds as dumb as her arguments)
        (please do not counter with ‘what about Vernacular media’
        or Republic TV.. They are a lot worse, but they are not ‘elite’)

        1. I presume you are only talking about humanities.

          Yep.

          I agree with the rest, especially point 3 about the English language’s grip on elite discourse.

          I think there is some weird class based elitism at play in India with regards to the English language.

          Esp. among more left leaning Indians.

          I dislike this as it is a barrier to class mobility.

    3. “About 97% of Hindu fundamentalist online (called BJP IT cell–paid by the BJP parties) are not too bright and most of them are low IQ buffoons. They spread B.S. history via social media… “

      %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

      Excellent summary although it is not at the centre of my attention. I don’t know if they are paid (I hope they are) but the rest is pretty much on its place. I guess there is a taqiyamen analogy, too…(3rd +)

  7. I respect your choice on where to engage but please know that there are so many people reading you without engaging with you ( Like I have been) and find something interesting and instructive. So they will be the net losers.
    I do admire people who have kept putting their point of view forth while taking a ton of abuse..
    Shekhar Gupta takes the worst abuse I have seen but keeps up his work. On the right, True Indology gets abused so badly and even banned, keeps engaging with facts and sources.
    On Pakistani Twitter Hussain Haqqani probably gets the worst that one could but he is always thoughtful.

  8. araingang is the velvet hand and expert explainer of the islamoapologist punjabi ethnonationalist Pak internet movement.

    The cracks sometimes show and some smoke comes out. But I have a feeling there is a volcano of hate down there.

    1. yeah but he’s no different than a lot of you (not saying you specifically)

      the problem with lots of sub continentals is you know what you hate more than what you love

  9. U folks are giving Ariangang too much credence.

    On Hindu twitter, they did not have any form any part of elite intellectual organizations so institutional building suffered. Think how right the republicans would have been had they not been in power. But in Hindutva case it was also a blessing in disguise that they then went unto capture North India’s subaltern voice AKA Hindi. India’s Hindi institution of which u see Hindi news part of , were “Hindu-ized” the same way Left capture of Elite social institutions. Plus it also allowed Hindutva to channel itself solely towards power without getting distracted from building eco-system.

    But there were costs…

  10. Twitter is where the historically disenfranchised talk down to their superiors. Best place for the winners to meet their far more numerous nemesis.

  11. i have a suggestion for razib, and all those who have some interest in indian history. start reading the history from the original sources. yes, i mean directly from medieval manuscripts. a surprising bunch of them are available on internet for free, and in english translations. here are a few useful links.

    Persian texts in English

    https://persian.packhum.org/

    The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians (Book by Henry Miers Elliot)

    https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_History_of_India_as_Told_by_Its_Own/ItMNAAAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover

    Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Multiple volumes)

    https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/1ubRAAAAMAAJ?hl=en

    (belongs to early british period, so overlaps with many medieval events).

    The advantage of reading the primary sources is that we can sift thru the biases of modern historians and understand the historical events in full context.

    i will give you one example. hindu nationalists tend to elevate aurangzeb to the status of single biggest villain of hindu history, and embodies him with all the evils that the muslim period wrought. now, i am no apologist for aurangzeb, and i am fully convinced that he was a bigoted religious fanatic who held deep prejudices against hindus and shias. however, six generation of homestead in the relatively civilized land of india had mellowed his turco-mongol blood. there is no record him putting an entire town to sword in his 50 years of reign, even though 25 of these years were spent in putting down the maratha rebellion.

    in fact the islamic warrior who emerges as the shedder of maximum hindu blood is ahmad shah abdali. he merrily went about massacring hindus wherever he went. numerous towns like amrtisar, delhi, mathura etc bore the brunt of his wrath. his rough, illiterate pathan blood showed. yet, most HN can barely tell who he was.

    so, read deeper. read the context.

  12. Araingang seems very smart because most of his peers (traditional Pak and Indian Nationalists) are some of the dumbest people around.

    1. I mean he seems genuinely smart. Someone I think I’d enjoy engaging with in real life, despite our differences in views on sub continental topics. Of course, I troll a lot less in real life (well usually lol)

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