[MJR] The missing ‘outrage’ gene

10 May,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


It is well-known that your parents are to blame for everything that is wrong with you. I, therefore, emphatically blame my parents for this severe shortcoming of mine – a weak and badly functioning “outrage” gene. This gene is a must if you want to effectively follow and understand the Indian media.


The world comes to an end on television and micro-blogging sites like Twitter everyday and then, inevitably, restarts again. This resurgence of life on earth as we know it is mysteriously missed by our outraged colleagues, possibly because they were so caught up in the “shocking incident that has just come to light where a dog bit a man”. Following the shocking incident is a demand that the chief minister of the state where this happened do something about it. Invariably, these chief ministers did not even know that this “shocking incident” had taken place. Woe betide (now you can see how old I am) any chief minister who says “well, often dogs will bite men”. This is the wrong reaction and will haul you over hot coals before you can finish the sentence. The correct reaction is to catch the dog, incarcerate it and then order an inquiry into why dogs bite and if indeed they would rather bite men than women or trees, cows and whatever else dogs might bite.


In the world of Indian television news, it is against the ethos to have prior knowledge that canines have teeth (or even that canines are teeth) and do sometimes bite. Being privy to this information is detrimental to the proper functioning of the “outrage” gene.


On Twitter, however, the outrage gene works a little differently: “We need an RTI inquiry: why does the prime minister @PMO… have two eyes? Did Sonia Gandhi pay for them?” This can get re-tweeted over and over again until someone does file an RTI inquiry. Before that it will descend to “The @PMO… is not so bad, look at how your man behaved when he was PM”, “You are a %$$& whose mother was a &%$@”. Also there will be many short forms and these: ####.


As the outrage grows, we will reach this one: “Information commissioner stonewalls inquiry on status of prime minister’s binary visual system. #PM’s eyes”. And voila, we’re on our way to our own Arab Spring.


Newspapers are often afflicted like me. All day yesterday TV channels ran clips of the shocking (really) remark by an Uttar Pradesh deputy inspector general of police that if his young sister (or maybe daughter or both) had eloped or been abducted he would have killed her or himself. Newspapers dismissed this story in a couple of columns.


So maybe while my parents are responsible for my problem, they are not the only transgressors.


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