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This week India cracks down on social media users while we reckon with reality TV

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In Race Review we scrutinise the Indian government reaching new tyrannical heights, why we’re obsessed with reality TV, and parenting done right.

24 Feb 2020

Welcome to the Race Review! On today’s menu, we discuss how the Indian government reaches new tyrannical heights, why we’re obsessed with reality TV and parenting done right. 

REFLECT: Is reality TV making us evil, or do we make reality TV because we’re evil?

Reluctantly, I have to admit that I love watching reality TV, even though its current iteration is literally born from exploitative labour practices. During the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike, network executives in the US could skirt around writers demands for higher wages by pushing out unscripted content. And voila! Our television habits were forever changed.

Today, the appetite for unscripted television with inordinate amounts of humiliation and general waywardness, seem insatiable. I can’t resist the foolery that is Netflix’s new dating show, Love Is Blind, because it provides the ultimate escape from anything and everythinga craving that clearly supersedes any qualms about the immoral origins and practices of reality TV. And with social media, we all get to be critics.

The death of Caroline Flack reflects not just the heinous nature of the British media landscape, but the relentlessness of celebrity culture. The Love Island tribute to her felt rushed at best and, while watching it, I had a nagging sense of being complicit in the undignified tornado that took her life. It’s not like a refusal to engage with these shows or the celebrity news that covers them fixes anything, but it makes me wonder what price we’re willing to pay for entertainment. This news has had avid viewers looking casting around for external villains to blame but a far more uncomfortable question might be: how much are we all complicit? Reality TV is a guilty pleasure of mine, but for now, I’m not convinced it’s as innocent as I once thought it was.

REPORT: India persecutes social media users in crackdown on VPNs 

The decades-long conflict in Kashmir has been further inflamed by the Indian government this week. Spearheaded by prime minister Narendra Modi, the authorities have begun charging Kashmiris who use virtual private networks (VPNs) with terrorist offences. After a five-month internet blackout, censored low-speed 2G networks were reintroduced on January 25. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram are still prohibited under this partial connection and the only way to access them is through VPNs, the use of which can now be charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The law allows the Indian government to categorise individuals as terrorists and punish them accordingly.

“The state has complete control over lines of communication, whether it be mobile networks, landlines or anything of that sort,” says Umar Latif, journalist and PhD candidate at the University of Westminster. The Indian police have set up checkpoints to stop and search people’s phones. “If you have a VPN application, you can get a beating (by the Indian authorities)” Umar told gal-dem.

“Talking to my friends back home, these days they beat you and sometimes even detain you. They’ll break your phone and throw it on the streetThe policy follows the BJP’s removal the Kashmir’s semi-autonomous rights in August. 

“We don’t carry our phone with us when we go outside,” says Anil*, who works as a journalist in the region. “Obviously, I am afraid for my safety. Many journalists were summoned by police and questioned. Scores of journalists were beaten by security forces during clampdown.” Anil has had their livelihood endangered under the regime. The Indian criminalisation of Kashmiri dissent is well known. Since August, thousands of people subjected to arbitrary arrests over the past six months have been released, but only after promising not to criticise the Indian government. 

The cyber police in Srinagar have justified this policy arguing that it targets “secessionist ideology and promoting unlawful activities”. In reality, it will make it more difficult for civilians to document the human rights abuses taking place in Kashmir. 2018 saw the highest number of casualties in ten years and Indian security forces are reported to use excessive amounts of force to curb protests. Advocacy group StandWithKashmir are adamant that Kashmiri’s will continue to resist the Indian government: “The intent is to scare Kashmiris into submission. However, history has shown that the harder the Indian state tries to suppress Kashmiri voices, the harder Kashmiris fight to be heard”.


• Last week, gal-dem partnered with Stonewall to bring you The Round Table, where seven trans people of colour came together to discuss their experiences within the community. The panellists, including gal-dem writers Travis Alabanza and KUCHENGA, discussed healing from trauma and visibility, amongst other topics.

• Unsurprisingly, No 10 refused to condemn racist advisor Andrew Sabisky.

• Jeff Bezos launches green initiatives instead of paying his taxes. 

UK climbs on ranking of tax havens 

Dawn Butler supported trans rights on TV and naturally, the TERFs got in their feelings.

BFI announced a series of screenings exploring women thirsting out loud, blatantly mimicking the popular podcast Thirst Aid Kit hosted by Bim Adewunmi and Nicole Perkins. 

• Deviating from their history of penalising brown journalists, the BBC backed presenter Geeta Guru-Murthy who came under fire after describing a Brexit rally as “very white”.

Summer Walker was heavily criticised for perpetuating stigma against people with HIV.  She took to Instagram after her laptop was stolen on an LA flight, wishing the thief would “suck a fat stankin uncircumsized [sic] HIV infested d**k”.

• Jalaiah Harmon, the creator of Renegade, finally got the recognition she deserves and performed the dance solo at the NBA All Stars Game.

• Porto forward Moussa Marega walked off the pitch after racist supporters heckled him during a football match.

• Prevent strikes again as students university essays were reported to the government under “counter-terrorism” efforts.

Italy is imposing fines on anyone entering or exiting outbreak areas of the Coronavirus as confirmed cases in the country rise to 130.

The UN human rights chief said she was ‘horrified’ by the deliberate attacks on Rojavan people in Syria. Most of them are perpetrated by Russian and Syrian security forces. So far, the UN has taken no further action.

• Nikita Pearl Waligwa, star of Queen of Katwe, tragically passed away due to a brain tumour.

• After winning the Nevada caucus, Bernie Sanders has taken the lead in the race for the Democratic nomination.


Dwayne Wade has come out in support of his daughter Zaya, who was assigned male at birth. While I don’t like to give cis people credit for doing the bare minimum, seeing a young trans girl receive the love she deserves was a beautiful sight to behold.