Ranjona Banerji: Word of the Year: Toxic

20 Nov,2018

By Ranjona Banerji


What’s the biggest news that hit India this week? If you were on Twitter, then it was Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey holding a placard.

If you were on TV news, it could have been Sabarimala Temple, a bomb blast in Punjab, a wedding in Italy and anything except the news of the real world.

If you were in the real world, it was the explosive allegations made by a DIG of police with the CBI, Manish Kumar Sinha, that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval of blocking investigations into Rahul Asthana and of bribery charges against a Union minister. That is, interference at the top level of government into the functioning of the CBI and shielding officers close to the PMO and shielding the corrupt as well. The matter comes up before the Supreme Court today.



Meanwhile, at a CBI court in Mumbai, a former superintendent of the police with the CBI deposed before the court that BJP president Amit Shah had benefitted politically and monetarily from the fake encounter case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh.


If any other government had been in power at the Centre and across several parts of India but the BJP, these two stories would have brought the country to a standstill. But note, the shock and awe of our national media, especially our friends in television. Apart from a few, we have the horrific spectacle of the mainstream media in a stupor, unable to believe what is happening around them.

Do not forget that our colleagues in the media helped spread this myth that the Modi government would solve all our problems and was corruption-free. Fangirls and fanboys ran around taking selfies of Modi. All private news channels broadcast the Prime Minister’s monthly radio lecture, a job earlier assigned to the government broadcasters. Even worse, they never question anything he says in those speeches nor co-relate them with reality.

Some news channels actively promote the BJP’s toxic (word of the year!) communal agendas. Times Now, Republic TV, Aaj Tak and several others fall into this illustrious category of being BJP stooges. Night after night they carry on with their Muslim-bashing. This must be a very successful viewership strategy since News18 picked up a Hindu supremacist news anchor from Times Now and gave him a full show on which to spread his religious bigotry.

Some of us might console ourselves that this is not journalism but for the outside world, our argument is cosmetic. This is what is what is presented to viewers as journalism. How else should they view it?

But as these cases in the Supreme Court progress, as election results emerge, as the economy remains in a mess, as more and more experts demolish Modi’s grand demonetisation disaster, as religious ferment grows, as society gets from fractured, some in the media will have to wake up. This is of course hope speaking without any evidence.


If you’re still wondering about Jack Dorsey and his placard, well. He posed without a group of women. He held up one of their placards. Which read, “End Brahminical Patrirachy”. So every rightwing Brahmin and non-Brahmin became filled with huge anti-Twitter outrage and made fervent arguments in favour of Brahminical patriarchy.

No, really. This is the world we live in.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal.

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