Mud-Slinging. Do We Measure Up to the West?


I will have all his teeth out – says one heated Georgian citizen loudly about the coolest possible other citizen. I wonder if this is legally a threat and if it is punishable by law? The already soured story has it that the irate former manager of the Rustavi 2 TV station has been openly using the harshest imaginable language of hatred in the public area in the last several years, and continues to do so even with more impassioned zeal after he was given the axe by the channel’s new owner.

We know well that this media enterprise has routinely been a political vehicle used in various hands, skillfully alternating its support between the ruling regime and oppositional forces. They are good at masterfully creating the impression of freedom of speech, seemingly fighting for the triumph of democracy in Georgia. In reality, Rustavi 2 has always been a strongly oriented device, used to perpetuate the truth of a particular political side at a time.

Back to the gist of the issue: is a free member of a free world allowed to remain unpunished if he or she verbally offends another party, especially in the public space? Is impunity a norm in the case of a flagrant verbal offense? In America, for instance, where I sojourn as I speak, you cannot threaten a fellow citizen and get away with it. Punishment will follow without any possible reserve. The ex-director of the much-spoken-about Rustavi 2 is qualified enough a lawyer to know what is permissible in a civilized society and what is not, but he clearly has some legally allowed leverage, rendering him free to utter any filth he wishes against anybody he wants to target.

Georgia is declaratively in step with the West in terms of building its future on democratic values and human rights. I am at a total loss when I see that Georgia wants to measure up to the West in keeping up such sensible individual values yet at the same time wants to live without any compatible manners. How is that possible? Even the American president, the leader of the free world and a recognized beacon of freedom and democracy, has a problem with the means of mass communication, openly calling media a bunch of biased narrators and fact distorters. Trump feels that media has utterly forgotten the famous journalistic paradigm: although the comments are free, the facts must remain sacred. The US President is exacerbated over the media and media has no sympathy for him either, but neither side would use the improper vocabulary to describe each other. This would be terribly anti-western, if not uncivilized.

No government in the world is adored by its people and no ruler on earth wants to be a media victim, but in democracy, authorities try to outline the golden median with press and television, and stay there for as long as the situation allows. This is exactly what the current Georgian ruling power is poised to do. The question is, if the powers that be should let the disgusting language persist in media as well as in general public life.

Is a democratically elected and ruling government legally allowed not to accept the now quickly proliferating language of abhorrence in Georgia? Should we the people allow this much bitterness and cruelty in our society of fragile civility? These questions are crucial, and they need to be answered. Otherwise, we might be sending the message on our best image for the world to see, observed through a distorting mirror which will guarantee our existence as losers. The more villainous and malicious the comments we make about each other, the quicker the infamous demise of freedom of speech and democracy will happen. There is too much hatred in the world of Georgian politics and this is totally unproductive if not entirely destructive. The statements on our readiness to be part of the West sound hilarious when the performance of western ways is so utterly warped and misunderstood. And again, how can a certain infuriated member of this society so callously insult another member of the same society and get away with it?!

By Nugzar B. Ruhadze

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15 August 2019 16:38