Ranjona Banerji: They: Critics, Us: Cheerleaders

08 Jan,2021

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Oh, how exciting. Once more the bulk of the American mainstream media has emphatically criticized their own President, Donald Trump. How amazed we in the media are in India! Courage! The media standing up for democracy! And against rioters!

Ha ha. Please forgive my cynicism. The American media, barring rightwing enablers and downright creators of Trump from Fox to Breitbart & Co, have always done this. Even as Joe Biden’s victory as the next US President was getting confirmed, sections of the American leftwing media brought up all sorts of objections to Biden and the then vice-president candidate Kamala Harris for their joint and individual policies. I can assure you that after Biden’s “honeymoon period” is over, he will be subject to strict scrutiny. That is the way the media works. Endless criticism of the powers-that-be.

It is only in today’s India, the Narendra Modi-dictated India, that the bulk of the media behaves like a cheerleading squad for the government and the ruling party. You could point out, and you should, that many journalists were like this during various Congress regimes, “dynasty hacks” and so on. But it is the scale of the capitulation that has broken the idea of a free and fair media in India today. And do not ever forget, that unquestioning support for a rightwing fascist regime makes you part of the regime. It is not the same as a few journalists cosying up to those in power for a few favours.

For most of the Indian media today, it is the sectarian, jingoistic, discriminatory aspect of the Hindutva movement, the Modi administration, the Adityanath administration in UP, increasingly the Shivraj Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh, and the RSS thought process that is appealing. The media is a wing of the RSS, egging on the violence against minorities, Dalits, women, activists, thinkers, writers, academics, artists, cartoonists… In short anyone who stands up for their democratic rights or questions government action.

It is nothing short of disgusting for this section of the Indian media to periodically discover that the media elsewhere does its very basic job.

Watching news coverage on the assault on Capitol Hill, America’s “temple of democracy” by Trump supporters on January 7 on US news channels like NBC, ABC, apart from the usual CNN, BBC, was amusing for all the wrong reasons. Anchors got reports from reporters at the site, they discussed the events with their own senior editors and informed viewers of what was happening, with the latest developments.

Amusing because I tried to imagine Indian TV channels if such a thing had happened here: “Delhi Dhamaka!!!!! What did Rahul Gandhi do to stop BJP workers from entering the Central Hall of Parliament??? Why didn’t Arvind Kejriwal have more police present??? Did the Opposition have a hand in inciting peaceful Hindutva protestors???”

Then six BJP spokespersons, two RSS, one Congress, one AAP for a major ding-dong.

As we enjoy the collapse of democracy in India.

I want to swear. I’ll leave it with &*%%#@ hypocrites.

**

And then there’s social media. Facebook may suspend Trump indefinitely. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! The same Facebook which is so terrified of Modi-BJP-RSS that it cannot take down hate sites connected to the three in case of repercussions.

And Twitter. Which suspended Trump for 12 hours during the violence and continues to track his lies. But when it comes to Indian rightwing lies, ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Forgive me. I’ve had enough.

 

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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