Ranjona Banerji: Slanging matches over coal continue

04 Sep,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


The talking heads on TV went on with their slanging matches over coal. So far, the understanding of the general public about coal allocations has not been helped by television. Newspapers tell us that people are battling viruses but these have not affected the voice boxes of participants in panel discussions. Many senior journalists are worried about the bad manners of “trolls” on the internet. They should also be worried about the bad manners of VIP guests on TV debates. Noted columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar looked quite puzzled on Times Now last night as Renuka Chaudhury, Swapan Dasgupta and a handsome young BJD man and a not-so-handsome BJP man battled away. I have no idea what they were saying, mainly because I confess I was also watching Masterchef Australia and the US Open but I do know that the decibel levels were so high that you could not distinguish between the sense and the screams.


I did catch Chaudhury getting irritated at Arnab Goswami’s signature “India wants to know” line and she acidly pointed out that those on the panel were Indians as well. I only saw Aiyar looking bemused.


After that, even Goswami had enough of coal and switched to his pet subject: the fun-loving MLAs of Karnataka and their South American holiday. He even called the study tour “macabre” which is quite a stretch of imagination, even if there is drought in Karnataka.


On CNN-IBN, Sagorika Ghose tried to battle with Raj Thackeray and his verbal attacks on Bihar. Novelist Kiran Nagakar said that the biggest threat to Maharashtrian culture came from Marathis and not outsiders and Rahul Navrekar of the Shiv Sena tied himself in knots trying to say that Maharashtrians included not just Marathis but also people who live in the state but it was about ethnic origins but it was not and so on.


In Saamna meanwhile – the mouthpiece of the Shiv Sena – Bal Thackeray came out on the side of his estranged nephew over the Bihar issue. The final result was nothing at all, as usual.




Ghose meanwhile has written an impassioned piece in Outlook about the need for net etiquette rather than censorship because of the rude behaviour of “trolls”. It is true that the anonymity of the Net makes people behave quite wickedly and Ghose has quite candidly listed the terms used against women journalists by trolls: rape is a common threat, as are words like bitch, cunt, whore and so on. I am specifically not using asterisks and dollar signs to blank out the words – why hide the ugly truth?
But I would recommend that senior journalists should take all this in their stride. Even before the internet was invented, there was a certain kind of person who wrote letters to the editor full of hate and sexual taunts and threats. The first time it was a shock, after that it was just crass and idiotic.) http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?282107)




Mumbai’s massive rainfall on Wednesday caused the usual problems and TV gave it some coverage. It was left to the newspapers on Thursday morning to give us the complete picture, without the hysterics. This is the first time in many years that I did not see Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV stand at Milan Subway in Santa Cruz under an umbrella talking about Mumbai being flooded. As everyone in Mumbai knows, Milan Subway is below the road level and therefore, if someone pours a bucket of water into it, the water will collect. Maybe no one went there because Jain is no longer in that part of NDTV. What a relief.


Most disappointingly, the morning TV shows did not come back to the rain although, happily, there was lots of US Open news. Even more, dare I say it, than cricket!




Since we have 800,000 news channels in India, I’m now hoping that someone starts a weather channel. Without the format of panel discussions. The idea of Chandan Mitra and Manish Tiwari fighting over low pressure weather systems fills me with horror!


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