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Small is no longer beautiful Return of the natives 100,000 publications. OMG! Aggressive TOI’s impacts The Hindu Shooting one’s mouth off A deafening media silence... Churning the ocean of journalists No business like show business
 
Shooting one’s mouth off
The age-old adage, ‘Silence is golden’ finds few takers in this age of 24x7 news and debates. The electronic media has drastically altered how public discourse takes place.

It’s now more about rhetoric, jibes and personal invectives than about facts, courtesy and intellectual ideas. Leading this bankruptcy from the front are politicians and television. The hunger to be in the limelight (politicians) and the greed for TRP (television) is at the root of this cacophony. This seemingly innocuous phenomenon is beginning to threaten the very fabric of India.

Take the debate between BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad and Congress’ Mani Shankar Aiyar aired on CNN-IBN.

The issue related to the defence minister’s statement in Parliament regarding infiltration and killing,and the Opposition’s response to it. As ever, the debate was slow on facts and fast on rhetoric. This prompted Aiyar to launch into Prasad, calling the latter a super-patriot and alleging that Prasad took the whole time of parliament ‘listening to his own voice’.

By today’s standards, this should be construed as polite! Prasad walked off the studio, prompting many to feel that it was not the vibe but the lack of personal equation that lead to it. Both gentlemen are educated, articulate and informed politicians; they could have easily put forth their arguments but they chose to scream and rant.

 

Outrageous responses are dime a dozen.

Consider this: when questioned on chief minister Nitish Kumar’s absence at a martyr’s funeral, Bihar’s Rural Development Minister got personal with the reporter and enquired if the reporter’s parents were attending. It was a needless jibe thrown at what was intended to be a provocative question. Neither the politician nor the journalist came out with flying colours.

When Raj Babbar said that a meal could be had in Mumbai for Rs 12, he was just answering his political opponents. It didn’t matter to him that he was factually incorrect. Babbar’s may have been an unmeasured political response, but how does one explain follow up comments from Rasheed Masood and Farooq Abdullah? Abdullah’s Re 1 comment had controversy written all over it; yet he said it. Why? Nothing but sheer callousness and a foot-in-the-mouth ailment.

Take Chandan Mitra, a noted journalist and historian. He wanted Amartya Sen to be stripped of his Bharat Ratna. Why? Because Sen does not want Modi as prime minister. And so what do the storm troopers do? Question Sen’s patriotism. Wonder if he has ever voted. It was unbecoming of a man of Mitra’s stature to believe that political affiliations decide the entitlement to Bharat Ratna (incidentally, Amartya Sen was awarded Bharat Ratna during NDA tenure).

True politicians are insensitive. But what about the media? Their reporting of news is loud, opinionated and trivial. Prime time debates today are more cacophony and noise than any meaningful argument. Ever since Arnab Goswami shot into limelight with his loud and don’t-let-others-speak journalism, most TV channels have tried to emulate him. The result: non-serious debates. As soon as Raj Babbar gave his Rs 12 a meal statement, all of media swung into a frenzy mocking him. They went to every corner of Mumbai trying to procure a meal for Rs 12. Soon nobody was talking about the poverty line but what can be got for how much. By playing a statement in a loop, they trivialised it and forgot about the primary issue namely, determination of poverty line. Babbar’s statement was not even worthy of a slot in the debate, it ended up being its highlight. On contrary to these, Amma Unavagams at Tamil Nadu offer a sumptuous meal for Rs 10!

News channels are guilty of a more serious charge too, that of distorting facts. Digvijay Singh, a man who can be as acerbic as anyone, was at the receiving end of media frenzy for calling a Congress MP ‘sou-taanch-khara-maal’.  He was dubbed sexist; all this without even one reference to the fact that Singh had qualified his statement by saying that he is a seasoned goldsmith of politics. (In the goldsmith’s lexicon sou-taanch-khara-maal doesn’t have a sexist connotation)

The media’s coverage of recent Pakistani incursions has been plain irresponsible. Channels like Headlines Today and Times Now have been openly advocating a combative answer to Pakistani incursions. Headlines Today actually invited callers from India to ‘Interrogate’ a Pakistani guest. Surely, the media can take over the running of this country.

The cacophony in the social network sites is another side story to which we will revert later.

It seems TV channels and politicians are convinced that if you are not loud no one will hear you. Alas,it is the other way around. Today, people are more willing to hear out the real issues. They are keen to know what Modi and Gandhi have to offer than to be worried too much about a Rs 50 crore reference or about a Kalavati story. It is now up to our politicians and news channels to rise to the occasion and deliver. If they don’t India is looking down a deep abyss.

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