Ranjona Banerji: Wayward Pines v/s News Television

26 Jul,2016

By Ranjona Banerji


Channel surfing on Monday evening, I came across some extraordinary teasers scrolling at the bottom of the screen. The channel was NewsX. “Pak turns Indians against India” and “#IndiansAgainstIndia” kept scrolling, even as the news was about some Hollywood love affair gone wrong.


So I waited. Turns out that CPM activist Kavitha Krishnan and writer Arundhati Roy had said that the killing of Kashmiri Burhan Wahi was “extrajudicial”. This made the two women traitors and presumably “agents” of Pakistan. They are of course usual targets for some of our pseudo-nationalist TV journalists because anyone with a contrary point of view has to be against the Indian State.


I went back to watching Wayward Pines. Because, frankly, the fight between humans 2000 years out of their time zone and the humans of the future who have become “aberrations” was more interesting and realistic than what passes for journalism on some Indian news channels.


The Indian Express for instance has a fascinating series by Praveen Swami on the covert battle between Indian security forces and the Hizbul-e-Mujahideen and the role of Burhan Wani therein. The tone is of a journalist not a hysterical news anchor waving an Indian flag to prove that he deserves the next Padma Shri. You can agree or disagree with Swami but at least he has done some work and is not just creating a Me versus You arguments for the fun of it.


The inference that Krishnan and Roy are attacking “India” because of some Pakistani influence is extremely dangerous. As it is we have a government at the Centre that wants the discourse in India to be on a binary level only: with us or against us. We are seeing an uprising by Dalits across India, because they have been targeted by this binary mindset. Surely that is a bigger problem than the possible statements of Krishnan and Roy? Or is it now mandatory for everyone to immediately agree with the GOI? In fact, are the PDP and BJP in Kashmir even in agreement on what’s happening there?


Even more telling is the fact that journalists seem to think that extrajudicial killings are either okay or that they do not happen. These are the same journalists by the way who will grovel at the feet of any Bollywood star regardless of his or her dodgy record.


Is the role of a journalist to support the government of the day? Is that what the media is for? Or is the role of the media to investigate claims made by the government of the day? Is it the media’s job to start a war with Pakistan? Can the media sustain this war effort if it succeeds in its idiotic objectives? Is the media also going to start a war with China to bolster its ratings?


If these questions sound absurd, try and watch news television in India when the issue gets close to India’s relations with its neighbours. Then you will know what absurd is!


Like I once thought that James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, where a media tycoon starts a war to increase sales, was idiotic. Now I wonder…


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