News on TV: Gullibility, lack of cynicism and no scepticism!

26 Sep,2022




By Ranjona Banerji


Ranjona BanerjiMany people have this exalted idea about journalists – this includes some exalted journalists themselves, obviously – but let’s be honest, there’s nothing exalted about us. We spend our time digging about the filth of human existence because that’s what news is.

There are two qualities which are paramount though, regardless of how big our egos and halos: scepticism and cynicism. Believe nothing without corroboration and the more spectacular the information, believe it even less.

My views on what television understands as news is not secret. Usually, they don’t get it and almost everything they do is about dividing society, creating hatred, sensationalism and there increasing viewership amongst the stupid and the gullible and thus increasing ratings.

But sometimes, TV is so spectacular that one has to bow down and applaud.

Like with the rumours going around of a massive coup in China which had taken down their premier, Xi Jinping.

The Whatsapp factory has been hard at work and since many TV channels in India depend on Whatsapp, fake news and BJP propaganda as credible news sources, how could they be left behind.

The problem was two-fold.

The first is, well, we’re talking about China.

The second is that there was no corroborative evidence.

Until some brave Republic Bharat person chanced upon the Twitter account of the Der Spiegel’s Beijing-based correspondent Georg Fahrion. And ran his tweets as news of confirmation about the coup.


Fahrion put out a series of tweets, with photographs from around Beijing supposedly confirming this coup.

The tweets are very funny and do not match the photographs in any possible manner. Only a person who has very little brain power would imagine that this obvious satire was anything but satire.


Check the screenshot. How on earth could anyone imagine that this was real? Why not check with Fahrion before making a fool of yourself?

And here’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it?

Those who work at Republic, for instance, don’t really care if they look like fools. Their job is to make fools of their viewers. They know from experience that the people who watch their channel are not interested in the news, per se.

First, they want their hatred for Muslims, Dalits, liberals, NGOs, supporters of all political parties except the BJP to be amplified and bolstered.

Second, they want constant satiation of their addiction to conspiracy theories and sensationalism.

As a BJP propaganda channel which relies on fake news, Republic is uniquely placed to fulfil those desires.



Latest industry figures show that Republic’s viewership has dipped a bit. This does not however mean that India’s longing for fake news, misinformation and BJP propaganda has reduced. It only means that other Indian “news” channels which are not overt BJP propaganda channels have upped their game and eaten into Republic territory.

If you’re on Twitter, do read Fahrion’s tweets. They are excellent satire.

And if you’re on Whatsapp, you might consider using some of your remaining critical faculties to assess information that comes your way.

If not, carry on getting taken for a ride.

Somewhere, there are people laughing.

And it’s not a pleasant sound.

Maybe I should rework my intro. Gullibility, lack of cynicism and no scepticism will eventually lead all of us, not just journalists, further into the abyss.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and columnist. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays and sometimes on other days as well. Her views here are personal


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