Ranjona Banerji: Whiners gonna whine, but why the daft arguments?

27 Oct,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Most of my life in the media I have heard how opinion pieces are meaningless, no one reads edit pages, they are a waste of space which could be used to make money from advertising and so on. Marketing people plus journalists and editors with borderline writing skills would regularly produce data which showed that an edit page is read by two per cent of the newspaper readership. Some editors even got rid of the edit page when they were in charge of a newspaper.

Now we have the piquant situation where the same editors and journalists have been putting their opinions out in the public domain and apparently, they love it. So the narrative changes when it suits their political perspective. Opinions, which no one reads, are now world- and life-changers and certainly influential when it comes to the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.

Apparently, Modi has not just walked into a trap set for him by evil, liberal English language journalists, all of whom live in the part of Delhi built by the British architect Edwin Lutyen, but his life is being affected by this trap. Actually I do not know if this is one trap or many or whether there is one EVIL LIBERAL ENGLISH LANGUAGE JOURNALIST IN LUTYENS DELHI who is manipulating Modi’s fortunes like Gogia Pasha did with the waters of India or whether there are many.

Oddly though there are a large number of journalists and commentators who have been supporting Modi since he became the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate before the 2014 general elections. These worthies also write in English and many live in Delhi though I am not familiar enough with the national capital to know the architects who built their particular houses.

Should we name some of them? Let’s see. Swapan Dasgupta and Chandan Mitra, also editor-owner of the Pioneer, have long been BJP faithfuls and are regulars on TV channels and in newspapers. They are the genuine old guard. Then there are those who jumped on to the bandwagon or joined the party later like Minhaz Merchant and MJ Akbar, both very well-respected names in Indian journalism. Veteran journalist Tavleen Singh, academic and author Meghnad Desai and economist Surjit Bhalla delight us with their ideas on who exactly is ruining Modi’s party every week in the Indian Express. Author and India’s most influential opinion-maker amongst the young, Chetan Bhagat, regularly offers advice to Modi, the BJP, women, Muslims, people in general. R Jagannathan, till recently editor of the influential English news and opinion website firstpost.com has been regularly telling Modi the five things he should do today and the ten things he must do tomorrow.

These are just some of the brightest and biggest names in the Indian media and Indian public space who are avid supporters of Narendra Modi and/or also the BJP.

This is from Jagannathan’s recent article in firstpost on Modi’s media strategy and the evil English media. (Disclaimer: I have worked with Jagannathan when he was editor of the business section of DNA and later when he was editor of DNA. The Daily News and Analysis was first a joint venture between Dainik Bhaskar and Zee and was later bought out by Zee.)

“Modi’s communication strategy is simply not working. Making a rousing election speech is Bihar and speaking from the heart at a Mann ki Baat session are, of course, important, but they can achieve little when your rivals have a better strategy and, moreover, control the mainstream English media, with allies in the powerful international media, the Indian and international Left, and the Christian Right in the US.

Let’s look at some media houses, whose flagship journals and channels are in English. Firstpost is owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance and before that by Raghav Bahl’s Network 18. Dainik Bhaskar is owned by the Agarwal family of Bhopal. Zee is owned by Subhash Chandra. The Hindu is owned by the Kasturi family. Deccan Chronicle and Asian Age are owned by Ram Reddy. The Telegraph is owned by the Sarkars. The Hindustan Times is owned by the Birlas. The Times of India, by far India’s most powerful media group, is owned by the Jains.

Which of these, I wonder, is allied with or controlled by the Kremlin, Karl Marx’s ghost and the Vatican or the Mormons.

I have not mentioned the language media which is larger and more influential than any the entire English media regardless of whether language journalists live in homes designed by Lutyens or not. There is a fallacy that the language media is wholly in favour of the current prime minister and the BJP. Or that all journalists who write in languages other than English are cheerleaders for this dispensation. The argument of classism made by Swapan Dasgupta for instance is patronising in the extreme, implying that people who do not write in English cannot think for themselves or hold different and diverse viewpoints.

Sadly, although I do not believe that no one reads edit pages or cares about opinions, I also do not believe that the media in India is strong or powerful enough to oust anyone from power. The people of India will decide and the people of India are intelligent enough to see through you, me and everyone. For all that Modi supporters in the media whine endlessly about how others in the media hate him and only support the Congress, remember that the Congress won only 44 seats in the 2014 general elections. The might of the Vatican and the US Bible belt and whoever else controls the Indian media was not enough.

That might lead some of these worthies to realise how daft their arguments are but I doubt it. Like Taylor Swift could have sung, “Whiners gonna whine”.

 

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