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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Partisan Media Part 2

Ironic yet true of our time, in India today we have the extreme secularists and the extreme fundamentalists both striving to achieve a common goal.

This is a candid admission by Rajdeep Sardesai, who does not have the required skill in his own words “Unfortunately, since I didn’t go to journalism school (or perhaps because I didn’t)” yet masquerades as a journalist. Little wonder that he does not comprehend the importance of ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ reporting, there is also a tinge of envy, perhaps he perceives himself to be a better option than Sarah Palin, his record is impeccable on this score.

Absence of an equivalence of Fox News in India is a state of mind of simultaneous illusion and delusion. There is no dearth in India, of channels and individuals in this mould, who are capable of giving Fox News a run for its money, these channels and individuals suffer no qualms about ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ view, since their raison d’ etre is uni-view. They spew venom and hatred at their designated targets 24 X 7, these species unearth grist in the most mundane, the non existent, in order to remain relevant in their own minds.

This is a specious argument being forwarded about the electronic media in India, yes we do have the representatives of different view points for any given debate, it is also a given that one of them does not get the same treatment as the others, the targeted view point holder will face umpteen number of interruptions from the moderator and the other panelists, besides being hampered in placing his/her viewpoint across, time given would be much lesser than others, provocative questions directed, plus an equally hostile audience who lack first hand knowledge and experience or the event being well before their attaining age when the complexities of the real world are visible or comprehensible.

Imagine the response of 20 to 25years age group present in a studio or a forum where 1984 event is discussed, this audience has no first hand knowledge on account of the age yet they will be able to relate readily with 2002 event, this is a sure way of targeting the guest who may have been invited to place his point of view on 1984 events, this panelist will be constantly denigrated with 2002 as the base year, rather than stay focused on the event for which the discussion was earmarked, it would be conveniently diverted to 2002. Touché the result is achieved without actually having to work hard and the main subject is relegated to sidelines.

The next is the labeling of the incident 1984 is referred to as Anti-Sikh riots, while 2002 is referred to as genocide. Falsification is complete and total. There is no history or any prior record in India of any animosity or rioting between the Hindu and the Sikh community. The new term is coined to provide a modicum of a fig leaf to a favorite interested party, similarly without placing complete facts before the audience 2002 is labeled as genocide, ignoring the long history of riots and the number of deaths that both the communities may have suffered. The above examples are not being used to condone, reach zero total by negating one against the other.

Both incidents were reprehensible and should never have happened in this country. The reference to these painful events has been made to highlight the active role of the media, which enhances the polarity in the society, often extending it beyond repair. The dictum of ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ reporting is paramount we have repeatedly witnessed the failure of the electronic media to live up to it.

Then there are individuals who are self appointed conscious keepers of the nations, and do not wish to provide the most minor margin for a re-think or a fresh approach, so that a long pending dispute be resolved, or be attempted to be resolved by way of new approach. This is done by constantly point a finger and addressing that section in most derogatory terms, the tone and tenor that the accuser displays is shocking, since this individual far exceeds the limits that the accused actually employs. The cause is the individuals heightened sense of insecurity. He would become irrelevant, should the two protagonists reach mid point and proceed to resolve the intractable issue.

Our existence would become monotonous. The divergent views are the essence of a vibrant democracy. The polarity in public debate is exacerbated by the actions of the electronic media, and the journalists, who are here on a mission often morphing into evangelic persona, are more strident than the votaries of a particular viewpoint or cause. The predictability of all participants is to be expected, the disturbing fact is the moderator who overtly take a position to accentuate the differences in view points for TRPs and eyeballs. This is demeaning, and influencing the general public to a great extent. The free hand at this practice has lowered the threshold of tolerance among Indians. The younger generation will get cynical if not violent towards a contrarian view.

While one would not disagree with Rajdeep Sardesai on the below mentioned.

“The more direct, extreme view is celebrated because it leads to, let’s be honest, a ‘big fight’. As someone who has ‘moderated’ many such ‘fights’, let me say that the experience has been mostly enjoyable.” Arun Jaitley from the BJP and a Kapil Sibal from the Congress. So, if you have a rightwing voice who believes that Hindutva is the core of Indian nationalism, you must have a left-liberal view that is convinced that Hindutva is a communal platform. Better still, why can’t we have both Mr.Chidambaram and author-activist Arundhati Roy on the same programme on Naxalism? It would certainly make for fascinating television.

The most appropriate illustration of “Age of Extreme” is of the two 37 years old Indians. One whose records and deeds are in the public domain for the last 20years and counting, he has reached where none have, not just from India, the world over in his chosen field. The clamor for bestowing the Bharat Ratna is growing. This individual is truly the Ratna of our Bharat. He exemplifies everything that one would seek in an individual, the true extreme. The other is projected as the true icon of the youth the Bharat Ratna, his achievement of the last 20years are opaque, all that is known is the name and lineage. He is the messiah 2014 panacea for all that ails India. This is the other extreme.

The practitioners of extreme from the media cannot seek to be absolved on the basis of self applied blindfolds ala Gandhari. The ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ reporting is inescapable.

This is in response to Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai's The age of extremes 1st March 2010 in the Hindustan Times.