Ranjona Banerji: Media – The Enabler. The Amplifier

24 Feb,2021

By Ranjona Banerji


Are the farmers still protesting, asked someone who only relies on TV “news”, because no one’s showing it.

Well. How surprising!

Or not.

Watched 20 minutes of Aaj Ttak at a doctor’s clinic yesterday. No sound. The anchor was in bright pink. There was a woman in a red sari standing next to her, who I thought was another anchor. Turned out to be a CGI image of the subject of the story. Behind the anchor was a large screen which had the sort of screensaver that Microsoft offered you in the early days of Windows: Strange moving triangles.

For 20 minutes, judging from the moving script, the anchor talked about the CBI case against Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerji’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee’s wife Rujira, in a coal-smuggling investigation. Good story. Another good story from Bengal untouched at this time: BJP politician Pamela Goswami being arrested with 100 gm of cocaine and then at her arrest, blaming the assistant of the Bengal incharge, BJP politician Kailash Vijayvargiya. There was nothing about that. Least of all a static CGI image of Goswami.

Farmers? Nothing.

The Prime Minister’s very unfortunate pronunciation of “ashol” (Bengali for real)? Nada.

Any news on Covid vaccines? Nope.

Fuel prices? Ha ha ha.

Of course I base this only on 20 minutes so you could conjecture I am being unfair. But you spend 20 minutes looking at a pink anchor, silver moving triangles, a weird static CGI (I think CGI, maybe it was a cardboard cutout!) image and tell me that you wouldn’t go a bit barmy? And they tell me that Aaj Tak is one of India’s most popular TV channels?


You could also argue that it doesn’t matter what news is presented to a certain category of Indians, because they believe what they want to believe. And that is in eternal love for the Prime Minister of India. Therefore, whatever chicanery his party gets up to, it’s presented as the great Indian trait of “chalaki” or cunning, which is much admired. Gaming the system, breaking the rules, “jugaad” we have learnt to greatly admire these qualities because they represent how we can get ahead no matter what laws and norms we have to break. The trick is to learn how to be a sanctimonious cheat and you cannot deny that the BJP has perfected that art.

And all along, Modi and the BJP have been helped by the media, as an enabler and amplifier. Everything is a masterstroke, a never-before act of genius. This applause comes regardless of the consequences on India as a society, and only rests on the BJP’s political gain and Modi’s personal image.

Thus, when the Union Health Minister, a medical doctor, sits on an official platform to promote a dubious Covid 19 cure made by Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali group, and claims are made that the World Health Organisation has approved this cure, in today’s India you know that the bulk of the media will ask no questions.

It is only after the Indian Medical Association raised questions that some sections of the media, mainly print and digital, jumped in to report on this unconscionable act.

In another world, you know what would have happened.

But this is India. The government openly promotes potentially dangerous and bogus cures for a deadly virus. The media applauds its advertising revenue from the manufacturer and awaits further government leeway. Job done. Journalism be damned.


Meanwhile, if you ever doubted that Koo, the Hindu rightwing alternative to Twitter was every going to be anything but an Islamophobic hate factor, this excellent report from Pranav Dixit for buzzfeednews.com puts you right.


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

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