Thursday, June 20, 2013

Blackmailing civil servants

Caesar's wife must be above suspicion.” The ancient Roman, Julius Caesar is believed to have said this, when asked why he was divorcing his wife, Pompeia. This quote has become one of the popular idioms of English language. What it really means is that the not only the leaders in public life but their associates also must not even be suspected of any wrongdoing. This is the reason why Julius Caesar could not associate himself with his wife because she was just suspected of some wrongdoing. Ramayana is one of the greatest Indian epic that narrates the life story of an ideal man and king “Rama.” Even in this epic, the great king is shown to abandon his beloved wife “Sita,” whom he knew was totally innocent, just because there were some rumours spreading around.

These stories might be ancient, but they are equally relevant even today, as seen by many day to day examples. People, anywhere on this earth, expect that their leaders, rulers and their associates are above board and do not behave in a wayward fashion and would show tremendous and mounting disgust, if they find that someone has erred.

A TV channel claimed to have caught two ministers of the Indian state of Karnataka, watching porn in the legislative assembly, when an assembly session was being conducted. There was a huge outcry and finally, an appointed house panel had to recommend action against one of them. In an another incident, one of the veteran leader of the Indian National congress party, had to resign from his post as Governor of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, because a TV Channel, broadcast a video clip, allegedly showing him with three nude women. Yet in another incident, a general secretary of the Bhartiya Janata party had to resign from his post, when a sex film featuring him came into circulation. Similarly a congress spokesperson was booted out when a porn CD, showing him in compromising situations were uploaded on the net.

No one can say with 100% confidence whether these people had truly indulged in these shameful acts or they could well be, victims of some high tech jugglery, sponsored by their political foes, because it is entirely possible today for any criminally minded person to create fake imagery using today's state of art computer software easily.

I came across a report recently, how something similar is happening in China. For all these years, Government officials in China had a lavish and expensive life style, financed by tax payer's money, full of lavish banquets and chauffeured sedans. Naturally, common people in China have great apathy and hatred for the officialdom. Some crime gangs have realized that this feeling is an excellent base or ground on which they can make huge amounts of money as what Government officials fear most now is getting exposed wrongly in some fake scandals. Pushed by the president himself, China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which is China’s top anti corruption agency, keeps on monitoring the various Government officials, but they are now more scared about the blackmailers armed with honey traps, video cameras or worse: Photoshop software, than the antigraft inspectors.

The modus operandi of these new crime gangs goes something like this. The official first receives a photograph as an e-mail attachment or in an envelope with no return address that shows the official as a well fed, middle aged bureaucrat engaged in a sordid encounter with a woman who is not his wife, or as wearing an expensive timepiece that his government salary could never afford. Next comes the demand to pay up. If the official does not pay, the photograph goes on line and becomes the next viral sensation. The scariest thing, for the civil servants is that if they are accused, the government can’t say anything because no one really cares if it’s true or false at the end of the day.

The crime gangs find this way of business an easy turf and it is no wonder that some power-hungry officials extorting political gain from comrades also have joined the crime rings to seek advantageous business contracts. The Civil servants feel that their profession has become a high risk business and most of them dread that their fake image may suddenly appear in some uncompromising situation on internet social media.

Many instances of such extortion bids are now coming to light. In Shuangfeng, a rural county in Hunan Province of China, the authorities have arrested dozens of blackmailers. A daily new paper in Zhengzhou had reported that police in Hebei Province broke up a crime ring of 80 fake journalists who made about $180,000, over the past five years threatening officials and companies with publishing negative news.

The officials have now resorted in putting up bill boards and signs on roadsides, which warn the people against the use of Photoshop to forge compromising images of officials for use in extortion.

This account from China, brings up well the dangers for those in public life and how they must be always on the guard. A seventeenth century saint from Maharashtra state of India, Ramadasa, had once written a letter to great Maratha King Shivaji, describing to him the qualities a public person like a king must possess. In this letter he says that the king has to be on his guard at all times or 24 X 7 time. His advice probably holds true even today for everyone in public life as they are under constant surveillance of the hawk like eyes of the modern media. I do not really know what Julius Caesar would have done today, if he was living now.

And for the ordinary people like you and me, we should not necessarily believe everything that we see on the net or on TV screens. Chances are, that these could be fake or doctored , just planted there by someone with a criminal mindset.

20th June 2013


  1. Civil Servants should be above suspicion, but certain politicians in America are so blatant in their disregard of social rules (Anthony Weiner and his sexting scandal for one; Al Gore and his inappropriate groping for another.) that all the billboards in the world won't help them.

    1. Sophie

      Thanks for your comments and observations