Ranjona Banerji: Point-and-preen bandwagon…

06 Nov,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

As Smita Prakash pointed out so succinctly in her column in Mid-Day on Monday, we’ve entered an almost ridiculous season of allegations and counter allegations (http://www.mid-day.com/columnists/2012/nov/051112-opinion-Smita-Prakash-The-Supreme-Court-of-press-conferences.htm).

 

There is mud-slinging from all quarters and at the middle of the arena stands the media, especially television news. It seems that every publicity hound has crawled out of the woodwork to have his or her moment in the glare of TV lights. The champions of the hit-and-run game are members of India Against Corruption – Anna Hazare has been far less hysterical after he disassociated himself from the group. But politicians, whistle-blowers, activists have all jumped on to this point-and-preen bandwagon. And the media has allowed them to do it.

 

The diligence required to check whether any of these accusations have substance in them has been abandoned in the merry-go-round of hourly revelations. It could be Nitin Gadkari or Robert Vadra or Naveen Patnaik, it’s like the night of the long knives: slash and burn.

 

It is not good news for journalists when they allow activists to do all their work for them. It not only makes them lazy, it also surrenders vital ground. Many people who dig up dirt on others for a living have a vested interest. If journalists cannot dig up the dirt themselves, they must at least find out why x and not y is being targeted. Objectivity doesn’t just mean not taking sides; it also means being suspiciously mindful of every bit of information that comes to you. Nothing should be taken at face value and all facts given have to be re-checked and corroborated. It’s a sort of constructive cynicism if you like.

 

Instead, we have journalists full of glee at allegations made by others and then a massive jump to the final result (innocent or guilty, action or no action) without an investigation being conducted. It is not just trial by media: it is an insane spectacle. TV is especially guilty of this bizarre innocence. A child falls into a well. What, a star anchor thunders, is the chief minister going to do about this? What indeed. What does the star anchor-editor do when gross errors of fact and language are made on his or her channel? How many heads roll? Who takes the blame? India, the nation wants to know.

 

**

 

The diatribe against writer VS Naipaul by theatre doyen Girish Karnad at the Literature Live festival in Mumbai got far more play in the media, especially TV, than such events normally do. As many pointed out on Twitter, it suddenly took the attention away from politics. Karnad used his theatre session to object instead to Naipaul being given an award by the festival pointing out that Naipaul’s views on India and Islam were objectionable.

 

Naipaul, apart from being a brilliant writer of prose, is also known for his sometimes unsustainable opinions and his great disdain for everyone apart from himself. He is also rude and crotchety. His non-fiction cannot in that sense match his fiction because his ideas and knowledge can be ill-formed.

 

Interestingly, Naipaul’s various staunch defenders seem to have been somewhat dumbstruck by Karnad’s assault and instead, the playwright, actor, director has been applauded by many more.

 

**

 

The headline of the day must go to the Hindustan Times for this one: ‘Gadkari talks up a storm, leaves party speechless’.

 

The BJP president for reasons known only to him decided that Swami Vivekananda and gangster Dawood Ibrahim had similar IQs. He kindly went on to redeem the philosopher-monk of the Ramkrishna Mission by saying that he used his IQ for good.

 

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