Ranjona Banerji: Mistrust for Mainstream Media Grows

22 Jan,2021

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States and the petulant departure of his predecessor Donald Trump was watched the world over. Not necessarily out of great love for Biden but more out of relief, joy, envy that a dangerous, divisive character like Trump was gone.

There was some crowing in TV studios over the manner of Trump’s departure. And there was respect for the manner in which the inauguration was conducted. And huge admiration for poet Amanda Gorman, who dominated the inauguration with shining confidence and eloquent words that belied her 22 years.

But even as the inauguration was dissected and discussed, from the preponderance of the colour purple, to Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks, to fashion choices, to Bernie Sanders and his mittens, to its bipartisan nature, the enormous work ahead for the new administration was not forgotten. The January 6 violence on Capitol Hill engendered by Trump was criticised by Democrat and Republicans alike.

And so the next day saw the Biden administration criticised as well. Feminists were angry with his new gender laws, leftists were angry with his past decisions and those of Kamala Harris as well and so on. It cannot and should not be an easy ride any government in power. Now, do you want me to compare this media reaction to our media behaviour?

Hmm.

The BIG immediate stories of the day in India remain the virus, the vaccination drive and the farmers protests. Before anyone erupts, we also have ever-increasing crimes against women, Muslims, a judiciary that appears to have forgotten the Constitution, the Economy or what’s left of it, citizenship problems, a Central government focused on elections and toppling state governments, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, Chinese incursions into Indian territory, unrelenting destruction of the environment in the name of “development”… the list of problems is endless.

But. We have now forgotten what exactly is going on with the virus itself, largely because almost no one discusses it any more in the mainstream media. Anecdotal evidence, conversations with doctors are all we have and that suggests that there is absolutely nothing to be sanguine about yet. The pandemic is not over. The virus is mutating, adapting, taking its toll. We all know that almost a year is a long time, but this should be news until it’s over. However. The paragraphs on inside pages get smaller and smaller.

The larger media coverage, positive or negative, implies that the vaccination drive is the bigger story. Make no mistake, it is huge (can I use that word again?). Especially the various problems connected with Bharat Biotech’s incomplete vaccine Covaxin being forced on medical professionals. The doubt sown in people’s minds by a government insistent on pushing an Indian-made vaccine. The hesitancy evident in healthcare workers who are not turning up at vaccination sites. The app which does not work…

The biggest challenge to the media however remains India’s protesting farmers. They have taken the media and turned it on its head. So used to kowtowing to the Narendra Modi government and encouraging everyone else to do so as well, TV especially, has not managed in two months to understand this continued peaceful resistance.

The best reportage from the ground still comes from independent journalists and a few who work in mainstream media houses. The complete rejection of the government proposal to put its three farm laws on hold for a year and a half, the rejection of the Supreme Court’s committee to discuss the laws is an extraordinary resistance to pressure.

It is no wonder that the mainstream Modi media, like the BJP, is now forced to only surmise that the whole protest as an Opposition-orchestrated evil plan to upset our Dear Beard.

It is no wonder that mistrust for the mainstream media grows by the day.

And that brings us to our favourite former journalist now sitting on the dungheap of his own making. Screaming challenges at Rahul Gandhi because he doesn’t have to the courage to face up to anything he said or did. Although, he “won” the Pulwama massacre of 40 CRPF personnel “like crazy”.

Never forget that.

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia every Tuesday and Friday. Her views here are personal 

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