When Arnab’s panelists turned argumentative

29 Sep,2011

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Today is the turn of newspapers, which saved the day. That is, it gave readers a sort of clue about what was going on in the government over the 2G note about the former finance ministry from the current one. Or at least, we have been led to understand that a serious damage control exercise is going on in the government and Pranab Mukherjee has sought to clarify that his note did not target P Chidambaram. It also seemed evident that Congress president Sonia Gandhi had stepped in to stop her ministers from getting into public spats.

Television made much of the ruckus in the J&K Assembly over a possible clemency plea for Afzal Guru, sentenced to death over the 2001 attack on Parliament. The plea started with a tweet put out by J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah after the Tamil Nadu assembly asked for clemency for some of the people facing a death sentence for their part in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. A recurring problem with TV is that it does put matters into perspective or indeed explain the pernicious nature of using parochial interests to put forward such clemency pleas. Therefore, the debate should have covered all three recent incidents – Sikhs asking for clemency for Devender Pal Singh Bhullar of the Khalistan Liberation Force for a bomb attack in ’83, Tamils asking for clemency for Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan for their role in Gandhi’s death and Kashmiri politicians asking for similar clemency for fellow Kashmiri Afzal Guru. All these people were sentenced on charges of terrorism and either the same standards apply to all or our polity will be in serious trouble.

However, Times Now could not conduct a proper debate on this mainly because the panellists were unruly and argumentative and all Arnab Goswami’s pleas went unheard. He should have just cut the sound and continued perhaps. Most newspapers meanwhile, chose not to give this incident too much importance which may well be the more intelligent way of dealing with it.

The Calcutta High Court verdict in favour of the West Bengal government over the Tatas in the Singur land acquisition was given prominence by most newspapers, with The Telegraph. Calcutta and most business papers giving it the front page.

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Even in the dumbing down of newspapers which we are so fond of, it was interesting to read an edit page piece on the neutrinos which travel faster light at the CERN lab in Geneva. Even if not all can understand what is going on, it is important to keep track of such events.

One would have expected more analysis on the current face-off between the US and Pakistan over the ISI’s terror links and the allegations made by US Joint chief of staff admiral Mike Mullen, since the fall out has direct implications for India. Perhaps our top analysts are sharpening their knives.

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A fascinating TV-print-social media back and forth is going on over the BBC’s interview with an investment trader, Alessio Rastani, over the current economic crisis. Rastani told the BBC that traders like him waited for such moments to make money and that the markets were run by Goldman Sachs and could not be controlled by government actions. The interview went viral on Facebook and Twitter. Newspapers and magazines claimed that Rastani was a hoax and one paper quoted him as saying he was an “attention seeker”. Rastani’s finances, as investigated by the British newspapers, seemed none too healthy. The BBC however stood by its decision to call Rastani as an expert. The general consensus seemed to be that whoever Rastani is and whatever his credentials, he seemed to have spoken some very bold and harsh truths!

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