Ranjona Banerji: Alternative facts, truths, fantasies on News Channels

07 Sep,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji


I shouldn’t but I have to laugh. At how those of you who waste time watching what passes for TV news in India are being taken for a merry ride. I understand your concern. Who else will tell you that Modi ji is the greatest, that “Hindu khatre mein hain”, feed your Islamophobia and convince you that the biggest threat to India right now is the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan? Never mind that your favourite government is in negotiation with this dreaded Taliban. You must continue to live in your Fantasy Land. And I almost do mean the amusement park I used to live close to in the Mumbai suburb of Andheri East.


The UK Defence Journal was extremely surprised to find that the very popular Indian entertainment channel Times Now had put out a video of an American F-15 flying in Wales and claimed that it was proof of a “full-fledged Pakistani invasion” of Afghanistan.



As we know, for Indian TV, this is par for the course: make up anything you want, borrow without credit and best of all, foment social hatred if you can along the way. Wales, Afghanistan, America, Pakistan, what’s the difference, eh?


As India becomes a world power, the UK Defence Journal and others will have to learn about India’s alternative facts, truths, fantasies and such.


Times Now can feel really chuffed. At least it misidentified and made up stuff about an actual plane. Its competitors, also its comrades-in-arms when it comes to fake news and provoking sectarian hatred, picked up visuals from a video game and passed them off as events in Afghanistan.


Republic TV and TV9 used visuals from the game ARMA 3 and presented them to its sweet and gullible viewers as the Pakistani invasion of Afghanistan.



Now hold the outrage. We know that even as far as journalism’s worst standards go, these acts of appropriation, misidentification, robbery and lies are unacceptable. But most of Indian TV “news” has long dropped well below any standards at all. There is scant evidence that in their core these “news” channels are even bothered about journalism. Their “star” anchors are certainly not concerned. They may well hire actual journalists but do they really allow them to work? For instance, India Today’s website seems unaware that Calicut and Kozhikode are the same place.


But let’s assume that India Today’s mistake is just bad education, no fact-checking when it comes to “gold standard” journalism and the inability of North India to realize that there are worlds south of Gurugram, Faridabad and Noida.


The use of video games and any old photo found on the internet to prove a Pakistan invasion of Afghanistan is just malicious mischief. It speaks of the same mindset that invented conspiracies around Sushant Singh Rajput’s death and harangued Rhea Chakraborty. The same mindset that values selfies with Narendra Modi as more significant than covering the farmers’ protests. The same profiteering concept which has sacrificed the news for greater political and economic leverage.


It also reaffirms once more that these channels pick up a lot of their “news” from political press releases. We already know that they rely heavily on the BJP’s IT Cell to provide them with “information”. These video games as a Pakistani invasion could well have come from a Whatsapp forward.


Boss: Just make this into a news item. Have got it from upstairs.


Flunkie: But Boss, Boss, these shots are not real, they’re from my favourite video game.


Boss: Abbe $#%%&, just do what you’re told. As if our viewers will know the difference.


Keep watching. Keep your brain on hold. Enjoy!


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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