The web’s M.O. (from the Sonal Shah episode)

Apparently the web has gone into shoot first, ask questions later mode. And too damned bad for anyone who stands in the way.

So Obama names his transition team and in it is a South Asian – Sonal Shah. Her bio is impressive – Google.org, Goldman Sachs and the founder of a Peacorps-like organization, Indicorps, focused on India.

First – Euphoria.

Then, a scathing article about Shah’s politics – attacking her for being part of the despicable and detestable Hindu far right. But the article does not actually provide any fact-based backup for these claims. Instead it points to the associations of her parents. Guilt by association.

Shah is instantly condemned on blogs and in newsgroups – the very same blogs who would defend Obama against the Rev. Wright association (hmm…) Do any of these people fact check? No. It is left to Sonal’s acquaintances, friends, colleagues, and calmer, saner minds to defend her. A gentleman who started a volunteer organization in Pakistan based on Shah’s Indicorp stated categorically that “Sonal Shah has wanted nothing but the best for Pakistan and its Muslims”. Would that be her approach if she were a Hindu fanatic?

Sonal herself issues a statement denouncing the policies of the Hindu far right and disassociating herself with those policies.

What then? Do the people who jumped on the “oppose Shah” camp apologize? Do they even admit they might have over-reached? Oh no! That would be… too civilized. They offer no apology. They move on.

Could Sonal have been more careful about which groups she associated with her efforts to do real good? Sure and it is a very valid point. By the same token though, those who are ready to tear someone down should be more careful to check the facts.

In this day of instant opinions it is incredibly easy to cause irreparable harm. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?? There are two sides to every story – why not wait to figure out both before hanging someone up to dry?

In the instant and constant news cycle, it sometimes makes sense to wait a while before forming an opinion and publishing it for the world to see.

  • Krishna

    It's a sad commentary on Indian-on-Indian violence. A sad, pathetic group of so-called “secularists' whose job it is to attack Hinduism. Who are so confused that anyone who doesn't overtly capitulate to regional minorities is considered anti-them.
    These people should consider the Democrats Christian theologists. After all, they all say “One Nation under God”, don't they, and take their oaths on a bible. Yet this sad excuse for an academic (and a man) Vijay Prashad takes one awful incident in Gujarat and blows it up into the defining policy of the BJP.
    It's strange he doesn't do the same for the L.A. riots in the US or the anti-WTO Seattle attacks. People like Mr. Prashad are the pathetic underbelly- feasting on ignorance and using the rhetoric of noble ideals to hide their agenda of hate and true intolerance

  • thank you Shri… great piece 🙂

    as a non-desi i found it hard to have my typical brash take on this particular matter, so i'm glad to see you speaking out on her behalf. i did find it rather annoying that people were ripping on Sonal without any clue as to who she was and/or what her politics or philosophy were all about. she is one of the most wonderful, inclusive, level-headed people i have ever met and she is a terrific person to represent our country — and others — on the Obama administration's transition team. i've spent time with her discussing microfinance, philanthropy, women's rights, international relations, poverty, etc. and every time i come away impressed with her approach to helping make the world a better place for all of us to live together peacefully. i hope that other folks take the time to get to know her better before they make such quick judgment of her character.

    thanks for speaking up & speaking out 🙂

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  • Shah

    Sonal should accept the truth bravely, only solution.

  • seemapathak

    If you have so called right wing or FANATIC hindu parents

    and they bring up a daughter with credentials like sonal shaha's

    man!! I just want to be parents like them.
    Seems to me they did every thing right.

    I Iwill be very proud if I knew Ms shaha on a personal basis and try to find out what Right Things her parents did so that she is able to do so much constructive work for the world

  • seemapathak

    If you have so called right wing or FANATIC hindu parents

    and they bring up a daughter with credentials like sonal shaha's

    man!! I just want to be parents like them.
    Seems to me they did every thing right.

    I Iwill be very proud if I knew Ms shaha on a personal basis and try to find out what Right Things her parents did so that she is able to do so much constructive work for the world