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  • There are three types of people in the world, those who don't know what's happening, those who wonder what's happening and those on the streets that make things happen.

Name and Shame

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on August 8, 2013

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“Name and Shame” has been a much touted policy in India over the last couple of years. Towards the end of 2012 there were calls to “name and shame” sex offenders. Earlier this year, the Election Commission of India proposed using the same treatment for politicians colluding with media houses. And last month, national banks decided to “name and shame” loan defaulters as well as guarantors of those loans by publishing their photographs and other details in newspapers and at notice boards of bank branches and community centers.

Amartya Sen, in his book “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions”, highlights the power of media in not only designing the framework of behavior and social norms but also in manipulating human behavior within that framework.

The activism of the media has a definite role to play both in demanding and encouraging institutional reforms, and in influencing human behavior. Human beings respond to incentives. To want to do well for oneself is not the same as cupidity, and there is no dishonor to humanity in accepting that completely selfless behavior is very rare. Incentives include not only financial gains and profits, but also public admiration and praise as a positive influence, and naming and shaming as a potential deterrent. Adam Smith noted that it is ‘praise worthiness’ that should move us most in our moral thinking, but also recognized that it is actual praise that tends to encourage human beings, just as actual blame restrains them.

Over the last few years, the Indian media has displayed activism that is altering the social and political landscape of the country. Scams are being unearthed, the guilty are being exposed. Even though the weak judicial system allows a lot of the culprits to walk free, the drive to “name and shame” is having its desired effect. It is this activism that has prevented skepticism from turning into a “fatalistic acceptance” of the current corrupt state of affairs. We finally have reasons to believe that things can really change in our country.

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2 Responses to “Name and Shame”

  1. Raunak, that’s wonderful news. The mainstream media in the U.S. has long since given up any pretense at being an independent 4th estate. Long live the blogosphere. Do you hear that NSA?

  2. There was a brief period of experimentation with naming and shaming of pedophiles in the UK. It was run by the local libraries – state funded with no commercial motivation of any kind – which kept lists of condemned sex offenders that could be viewed on request.
    Unfortunetely this led to several people’s houses getting burned down, and individuals being violently attacked – in several cases, the WRONG people who the public had thought were pedophiles.
    The whole scheme was ended and so, pedophiles live in secret once again.

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