Ranjona Banerji: The Hero Worship Stage of Evolution

06 Dec,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


There is no doubt that the level of anger against the Central government has increased, with the state of economy, the price of onions, the joblessness, the NRC and the CAB, to name just a few. The number of jokes on social media has also increased. Compared to how everyone tiptoed around the Modi government in 2014 to 2017, the rise in humour and anger is incredible.

However, it is absolutely nothing compared to manner in which citizens of other democracies treat their “leaders” and leaders of other countries. Donald Trump has been consistently and savagely mocked, pilloried and caricatured in his own country. The recent video of other world leaders making fun of him at the NATO summit and the reactions to his reaction to the video emphasises just how democracy ought to function. No one is sacred, no one is sacrosanct. The more you are in the public eye, the more scrutiny you are under. The internet was flooded with memes and cartoons and jokes.

To a small extent, that happened in India when various members of the ruling BJP came up with a collection of classic deflections on rising onion prices: I don’t eat them, how would I know and such like. There were jokes and memes galore. Of course, most of these were aimed at those who spoke, regardless of whether they had any responsibility or not. Those at the top of the government are perfectly Teflon-coated and protected. When Narendra Modi is the primary butt of all jokes, as is Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, then you know that India is a functioning democracy.

We are still though stunted in thought and action by our desire to create heroes and heroines and then worship them. As the Indian media struggles with credibility, I see this dangerous hero-worship happening with some journalists who have been put on such pedestals that the way done looks very scary. I will name two journalists, who are exceptional in the work that they do, but I feel are in danger of being turned against: Ravish Kumar and Faye D’Souza.

Of course, the very fact that they are idolised is because they are more courageous than many others. Many others on television that is. In print and on the web, there are any number of brave, hardworking journalists who show truth to power, who do their basic jobs with integrity and diligence. There are also any number of television journalists, who are not star prime time anchors, who also do their jobs with courage and conviction.

But because we are in this hero-worship stage of evolution, whether in our leaders or our journalists, we’re constantly looking for the most obvious choices to fill empty pedestals. There are many journalists, and this time I won’t name them, who have let this adulation go to their heads. You can see them on social media, sometimes pandering to this crowd and sometimes to another, never taking a stand, never being able to hold the ruling powers to account, in case it affects their “popularity”.

No wonder there are so many young journalists who only want the fame and glory: it looks so exciting.

End of lecture. Better to be a basic hack than a glamour flake. In the long run, it’s less painful.


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

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