Ranjona Banerji: Dear TV news, please don’t send us to war

11 Jan,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

After all the encomiums heaped on television media since the night of December 16th and its coverage of the gang-rape in Delhi and its aftermath, one has to now hold one’s head in anguish. It is hard to know whether TV wants India to go to war with Pakistan or whether it felt that the Indian government should do a tandav nritya at the United Nations. The beheading of an Indian soldier on the Line of Control in Kashmir is definitely a shocking act and in contravention of the Geneva Convention. It is not a matter which India can let drop. But some perspective is required and the sort of hysterical sabre-rattling or AK-47 waggling which we saw on Indian TV was unwarranted and unnecessary.

 

That the Indian media should become so sentimental is in direct contradiction to its largest mandate – to provide information to the general public which it cannot gain for itself. There is definitely a place for opinion but for that opinion to degrade itself into uncontrollable rage and verge on war-mongering is dangerous. I was amused to see Rahul Kanwal of Headlines Today tweet for some responsibility on the issue as far as the media is concerned when his own channel was no less over-the-top. I thoroughly enjoy Arnab Goswami’s attempts to save the nation every night on Times Now but am equally grateful that India’s foreign policy is not in his hands. I fear we might be at war every other day. As for Barkha Dutt’s faux misery whenever something happens which affects the Indian army, it only leads me to search for another channel. If I want pap there are enough soap operas available.

 

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While on the army, there was a discussion on Karan Thapar’s Last Word on CNN IBN which turned out to be quite amusing, but for the wrong reasons. The subject was whether former chief of army staff VK Singh’s antics were an embarrassment to the army. (I would have thought that the answer is a resounding yes, with no need for a discussion). All the worthies on the show had earlier twirled their luxuriant moustaches and given Singh the benefit of the doubt through his bizarre battle over his date of birth. This time round there was almost unambiguous condemnation. I suppose even army discipline and camaraderie cannot allow a former chief of staff to sit on a dharna with Baba Ramdev!

 

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I have never liked Piers Morgan on CNN – he is often both smug and smarmy as if such a contradiction is possible. But one has to admire the way he has taken on the gun lobby in the US in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings. His interview with Alex Jones who has started a petition to deport Morgan back to Britain was a study in journalistic fortitude and the proverbial British stiff upper lip in the face of the most insane rant TV has perhaps ever seen. Jones even used the Delhi rape to make a case for guns! Morgan however is not always as polite – he has also demolished the gun lobby people quite effectively. Also, having sucked up to Americans and the American way of life, he now seems very quick to establish that he is British! Hopefully he has come into his own and will not go back to licking the posterior ends of celebrities.

 

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The weather people of BBC World need to get over their obsession with rain and understand that the World Service is not about telling Brits where to go on holiday (searching for “dry fine” weather which could be the Sahara Desert given the British weakness for extreme sunshine) but for natives of that area to know what to expect. The cold wave in North India which has killed over a hundred people is therefore of no consequence to the BBC’s weather wing since it did not involve rain. Instead, there is every attempt to chase down any possible rain system starting from Tierra del Fuego and taking the round the globe route to Fiji.

 

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