Ranjona Banerji: A lament on how stupid the media used to be!

07 Oct,2022

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji

 

Do you remember the time when we were so stupid that we thought a scandal was the best thing that could happen to us? We could investigate, sensationalise, milk it dry, look for angles and connections, search every empty corner in case something emerged from nowhere, oh my! Endless possibilities!

Little did we know then that the correct way to deal with a scandal is to ignore it. Distract and dissemble. Add a little destruction of an already tattered social fabric. And there you have it! Job done!

A horrifying story broke this week about how an Indian-made (Maiden Pharmaceuticals) cough syrup has led to the deaths of at least 65 children in Gambia. Gambia has called for an urgent recall of the cough syrup and started doing door to door checks. The World Health Organisation has put out an alert for the four products, which cause acute kidney failure.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-63150950

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/urgent-cough-syrup-recall-66-children-die-gambia-rcna51000

Interesting conversations on social media tried to explain to me how unless an official complaint is made why should the media do anything and so on. This demonstrates a level of brainwashing and false pride that is astounding and saddening. There is no evidence that large sections of the media need any evidence at all to run a debate, rile people up, and inflame anger. In fact, it is often malicious fake news which is used to spur TV debates and if you are lucky, you might see a little apology or acknowledgement of this “mistake” months later.

What to make of the fact that the Indian public do not expect the media to take up a case where an Indian-made product has had heart-breaking effects in another nation or only expect and want the media to investigate further when the casualties are Indian? To be honest, the expectation of even that much engagement is iffy and vague.

You saw how excited the mainstream media was when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cavalcade stopped to let an ambulance go past, like he did us a national favour. Or the number of people who stood on their balconies banging cooking pots, because he asked them to, while innumerable people were dying of Covid19, faced with shoddy infrastructure and an overstretched healthcare system.

But of course, no responsibility is asked of the BJP government when there is a medical disaster.

The other tragedy is that at the core of the matter is India’s drug regulatory system.

https://scroll.in/article/1034447/firm-linked-to-gambia-deaths-failed-to-meet-standards-for-other-drugs-four-times-in-india-this-year

https://thewire.in/health/maiden-pharma-gambia-cough-syrup-repeat-offender-substandard-drugs

This company is known for selling under-par drugs. But somehow issues like this do not bother us. Why?

I can tell you why. Because for the past few years, the national and mainstream media has been obsessed with protecting the BJP and Modi. Justifications are found for every transgression and they will for this too. These media rats are stuck on that treadmill and they love it.

The sort of story they want is this one: to cheer the destruction of Muslim homes by bulldozers, the public flogging of Muslims by the police. It follows a familiar pattern. A false fear is created about Muslims involved in some threatening activity. In this case, throwing stones at a Garba function during the just-ended Navratri celebrations or accusations of “rioting”.

Then the police go to the homes of the accused and bulldoze them. This is without any investigation into the incident and without any legal standing. The media is a culpable and willing participant in this travesty of the Indian legal system since it began in UP recently.

In some cases, the police publicly flog Muslims accused of rioting, although the news reports suggest a brawl, which means not just Muslims were involved.

And TV anchors find this deeply satisfying. They run the video over and over again with glee and call it “dandiya” by the Gujarat police, referring to the dance with sticks done during Navratri, as per News18’s Hindi channel.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/gujarat-police-to-take-action-against-those-found-guilty-in-kheda-flogging-incident/article65976471.ece

https://www.deccanherald.com/national/west/video-of-gujarat-police-flogging-men-arrested-for-rioting-surfaces-inquiry-ordered-1150987.html

These two cases exemplify the wonder of today’s media.

We cannot amplify anything, unless it promotes hatred and protects the Modi government and the BJP.

This just underlines once again stupid we were in the past.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal

 

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