Posts Tagged ‘MSM’


At the Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat brainstorming session in Delhi, which I was invited to in December last year, during a group discussion, when I said the Bharatiya Janata Party was taking the mainstream media (MSM) too lightly, a bureaucrat cut me short with these words, “That’s because the MSM has been made irrelevant by social media.”

I was amazed and appalled at his smugness. I wondered if the bureaucrats are aware of the seething anger among the MSM for being snubbed and ridiculed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and abused by his army of trolls on social media on a minute-by-minute basis over the past four years. Do they even know how the media, print, broadcast and online, can control the narrative on any subject of interest to the general public and how it can spin it around at its convenience and a time of its choosing? It seems, right from the letter that was signed by the members of parliaments and people of prominence against the visa to Modi, the ‘award wapasi’, and up to the Padamavat release it has been the media that has controlled the narrative.

It has been the media that has assiduously flogged the disgraceful campaign against the film by the Karni Sena, by going overboard in its coverage. At every step, it was the BJP that took a knock. Irrelevant media? How successful the media is has been proved by the fact that after every such orchestrated attempt, it has the government pinned to the wall, looking contrite and apologetic. As it turns out now Karni Sena wasn’t promoted by the fringe but over eager chief ministers of a couple of BJP-ruled states looking to make political capital only ended with egg on the faces.

As 2019 approaches, there is an unease among the mediapersons, even those who have come round to the fact that Modi is in for the long haul, that he is silent when goons and ‘fringe groups’ allegedly owing their allegiance to the saffron brigade run riot around the country. There is also an apprehension among those who dislike Modi that he could get re-elected and that the win in 2014 doesn’t look like just another flash in the pan.

A senior journalist friend I met in Delhi told me, Modi’s silence acts as encouragement for the goons. She gave the example of Hadiya (Akhila) who converted to Islam to marry a Muslim. Why are the people from the right-wing taking up on her behalf when she herself is not interested, she asked? What happened to the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution (Protection of life and personal liberty: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law)? It’s her life so what right does anyone have to interfere? If she follows her husband to Syria and joins the ISIS and becomes a terrorist she will pay for it. Who gave some unknown entity the right to impose their version of the law? And when this happens Modi keeps silent, she said.

In an Islamic country where more than 98% of them are Muslims, imposing your will could work, but not in India where even if 79.8% of the population of India (2011 census) practices Hinduism, there is a sizeable 14.2% that adheres to Islam (2011 census), and 6% practices other religions (Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and various other indigenous ethnically-bound faiths,. Again, with its 22 national languages and 33 different communities and so many castes imposing one’s will in such a multicultural country could be a recipe for disaster.

The same journalist said, “You condemn Mullahs running countries with their fatwas and their Islamic laws, but you have no problem with a mahant as PM to replace Modi and want India to become a Hindu state? How different are we from them?”

A news anchor I also met the same evening said to me, “Rahul Gandhi is improving” when I asked what Rahul had achieved in 13 years in political life. By the look of things, large sections of the media who despise Modi don’t care what Rahul says or does, just how dumb he is or how dirty he plays, as long as his antics can help in getting rid of Modi – by hook or by crook. Take the most recent incident of his Burberry jacket which costs an astronomical Rs 79,000 (http://www.timesnownews.com/the-buzz/article/rahul-gandhi-indian-national-congress-bharatiya-janata-party-burberry-jacket-meghalaya-shillong-concert-rs-70000-narendra-modi-renuka-chowdhury-suit/194256). Social media was on fire ridiculing the Gandhi scion for his extravagance but did you see too much play in the media about it? Of course not, because everyone just glossed over it and most journalists and media houses ignored it even though it came from someone who spent his holidays abroad but claimed he wore a torn kurta! Contrast that to the furore that erupted when Modi donned the supposedly Rs 10 lakh monogrammed suit. It was presented to him so he wore it and it was later auctioned. Both the issues were not worthy of 5 minutes of airtime, but look how each incident got played.

This is what Rahul Gandhi is so smug about because except for the few who speak against him, the rest of the MSM is, by and large, glossing over every Rahul blooper. And by 2019 it will only get more open and defiant. The BJP and its social media/political managers have a battle ahead.

And there are enough disgruntled elements in their own party who’ll jeer from the sidelines as the Modi/Shah combine do battle alone against the formidable Congress ecosystem. Before that happens, Modi needs to handle the troublemakers and the motor-mouths in his party who are damaging his and the party’s prospects with their indiscriminate utterings and actions. Their two minutes of notoriety is costing the party dear. Like the recent case of the over-zealous right-wing activists who disrupted a Hindu-Muslim wedding even though the families were in agreement.

Then there is the agenda. A couple of years ago, a national newspaper carried this headline “Dalit boy beaten by 4”. Anyone reading the headline would assume the obvious in this day and age. However, the report stated that a Dalit boy was beaten up by four other Dalits. I called a friend in the newspaper and asked why they couldn’t say “4 Dalits beat up boy”. He said it doesn’t sell.

A few decades ago it was common knowledge that if there was a communal riot it usually involved the majority and minority community. Our seniors taught us never to mention either community in a communal strife to ensure we did not inflame passions further. However, today I see news reports that proclaim “Hindu kills Muslim man” I am okay with that because times change and the media need to change with the times. But here’s where the “agenda” coms in. Take the even more recent incident of the young man who was killed by his girlfriend’s family. The headlines didn’t say the boy was a Hindu and the girl a Muslim. Had the genders been interchanged, what would the headline have read? Your guess is as good as mine. There are umpteen such examples. The media is not exactly painting itself in glory with such biased coverage of news, but I think they are beyond caring what anyone thinks of them.

At the same brainstorming session, I also heard thinkers and journalists wax eloquent about integration, and a lot of other blah. My apologies, but it seemed to me that many of them exist in a bubble. I guessed that there were hardcore RSS and right-wing ideologues apart from some journalists and thinkers. Over and over again, they spoke about changing the “narrative”. The problem with that is, you can’t talk of changing a narrative that stresses on winning hearts and making India one, on the one side, and pretend everything is just ‘right’ when goons run amok riding roughshod over people’s ideas and beliefs just because it doesn’t agree with theirs. Or when paid hoodlums manhandle couples or young girls and boys under the pretext of imposing a moral code. Not acceptable. And add to this the frenzied publicity by a gleeful media to motor-mouths and “do-gooders” in the BJP. It will cost the BJP dear by the time 2019 comes around.

Also, to combat the left-liberal ideologues (and they are all over the place), the right-wing needs to come out with a fitting verbal response for every argument, not a slanging match. The right has some articulate speakers and I met some of them at the EBSB meet. There are others I’ve heard and read, but they need much more to engage in a measured debate with the left liberals who have often smoothly taken the debate away from them with ample help from the anchors. Shouting might win you an argument but not the match.

I read recently that the Information and Broadcasting ministry plans to set up more than 60 media units (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/eyes-on-2019-polls-government-plans-over-60-media-units-to-expand-outreach/articleshow/62716129.cms) across the country to strengthen the Modi government’s outreach to smaller cities and rural areas in the run-up to the 2019 general election. It is one of the sensible things being done to combat the left-liberal narrative but it should have been in 2015. But then, Smriti Irani wasn’t the Minister for Information and Broadcasting.

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I sat down to write this piece as I watched some of the well-known faces of the mainstream media (MSM) erupt in an orgasmic frenzy because Tunde ke kabab in Lucknow closed on Thursday for a few hours as they ran out of beef. They couldn’t get the meat for their original shop in Chowk where they serve kabab of buffalo meat and had to make other arrangements. They are an 112-year old kabab joint, so they obviously hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Did someone force them to shut down? No one did. Were there any grievous injuries to the people in Lucknow because of that? No. Did someone die? Nothing of that sort happened, but some journalists from the ecosystem called Lutyen’s Delhi living roughly 488kms away began beating their chests and breaking their bangles as if someone really had expired. And with that, the Indian mainstream media dug another hole in the ground to bury itself another few feet into an early grave.

After 31 years in the media I look around me and wonder – Is this the same profession that I slogged in, putting everything – family, money and personal life – on the backburner for? Now that I am a work-from-home editor I can sit back and watch all this in a detached kind of way, as some elements of the mainstream media (MSM), among who are people who I once respected, go around behaving like a bunch of complete jerkoffs. Was this the biggest story around that sent them into a freaking frenzy, especially on the social media? I have no wish to take names but some of them tripped over their own feet to wail about the kabab joint closing as if someone had died in their family.

I have a lot of good friends in the media, they are all hardworking, almost invisible to the world outside. They do their jobs well, and I know they are damn good journalists because I have seen them at work. These are the journalists you won’t see on your TV screens. They shy away from the limelight, do their jobs, and go home to their families. We disagree on a lot of things, but I respect them and their views, and they mine. Because I know deep down, they are honest to their profession, just like so many doctors who take the Hippocratic Oath. Whenever I have called them for information on a subject I want to write about they have willingly given it to me. I respect them for that. I spoke to a couple of them when I started to write this blog, so a lot of the information here is from them. They will remain anonymous because that is how they would want it.

When I asked one of them (N) last night, what he thought of the over-the-top reaction of the media to the incident, he said. “I have stopped watching the news and reading their columns. I do my job honestly, go home and play with my daughter instead.”

Here is what another Muslim journalist from Lucknow, who I’ll call K, said to me over twitter, “Most people here including my learned journalist friends in the media do not know the difference between beef and cow meat. Beef is not necessarily cow meat, and I have never ever in my life seen a cow being slaughtered in Lucknow although we did get to hear about the occasional story of it being slaughtered in some remote Muslim dominated village purely to spark off communal tension.”

The problem, however, goes deeper. It is about do-gooder first-time chief minister doing what he promised and a bureaucracy which, in an effort to please its master, is going over the top, just like some journalists. The anti-romeo squad is another example of a good thing being messed up by over-enthusiastic volunteers.

“The new chief minister could have handled it better, but the bureaucracy went into overdrive to please him and undid things. There has been no meat available for the people in the last 48 hours, and butchers are scared they will be harassed. They have also been told by the police not to open their shops,” said N. “If the new CM really wants to save cows, he will have to.close the mechanised slaughter houses. Nothing else can save cows in the State not even this vigilantism,” he added.

The various town administrations should have created the right perception but instead, they went about indulging in populist measures to please the CM, which could backfire. They could have asked the civic bodies to determine how licenced meat shops have been functioning this long and could have passed an order that only the licenced ones operate within the prescribed limits. Instead, they have gone after all and sundry and that has created a huge shortage in the market and a lot of unhappiness among the locals.

Anyway, that is the problem of shortage at a kakab joint and meat in UP. What happened to the dumbasses in the media? Of course, this isn’t anything new. It’s been happening over the course of the past two years for very obvious reasons. It began soon after Narendra Modi forced his way into the Lutyen’s Delhi in May 2014 and hasn’t stopped. Every few months, be it an award wapasi, a protest at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, (JNU), or the uproar that erupts over the mindless incidents of some minister or MP shooting his or her mouth off, these incidents happen just around the time of an election and disappear once the results are declared depending on whether the objectives of the MSM and their masters ensconced in Lutyens Delhi have been achieved. There is, however, one common link to all these eruptions. They occur only in BJP-ruled states. Murders, assaults and riots are happening elsewhere in places such as Kerala and Bengal with monotonous regularity, but the MSM is oblivious to those. So, like all those earlier incidents of manufactured outrage, this too looks like just another award wapasi farce, only this time it was wrapped around a kabab.


Nearly two decades ago, as a member of the Pune working journalists union, I remember an occasion during one of our usual protests over something or the other, we had gathered outside the Pune Union of Working Journalists (PUWJ) office, which was then opposite the Congress Bhavan, near Bal Gandharva Rangmandir.

I don’t remember who the President of the PUWJ  was then. I remember, the late Taher Shaikh, who was my senior at Maharashtra Herald, was there with us as we gathered across the road from Congress Bhavan, It was he who spotted Maratha  strongman Sharad Pawar, coming out of the Congress office. We thought that if we all rushed towards him, he might listen to what the members had to say. We were still standing on the divider, waiting to go across in a group, when Pawar signalled with his forefinger that we were to stay put. Then he saw Taher and beckoned to him. After all, they had been classmates in Wadia College. But the rest of the journalists, including some senior journalists from the vernacular press who strutted around like they were the cat’s whiskers stopped in their tracks. Some were even rudely told to go back.

I was reminded of the incident while reading about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s complete silence when dealing with journalists. A lot of people have been asking why this prime minister is keeping a studied silence on issues which concerned the nation. And it’s not just he, but everybody else in his team also, who has suddenly shut up. The man who couldn’t stop talking before the election, has nothing more to say to the media. And to top it off, the royal snub was not being invited on anymore junkets with the PM’s entourage. No daaru, khaana and whatever else. To me it looks like the start of an extended dry day for the mainstream media (MSM)! I guess that’s why when that Ved Prakash Vaidek managed to speak with Hafiz Saeed, they wanted to get the former arrested for sedition! Honestly, guys, where does it say in any goddamn journalism manual or book that one cannot interview even the biggest terrorist? Desperation has its limits and the media is really letting it hang out!

Anyway, coming back to Modi and the media. Used to as they have always been, to speak to ministers when they need to, or having access to the PMO through a media advisor, this media has been clean bowled by the prime minister. Why should he speak when he’s got a lot of people ready to deal with the busybodies in the media who have questions to which the nation needs answers? I think it has dawned on a lot of mediapersons that they’ve been taken for one hell of a ride. They thought he was, oh, so accessible, so open, so unlike Manmohan Singh! It has now dawned on them that this guy is a different kettle of fish. I just think it’s because he doesn’t need to say anything anymore, because he and his party got what they wanted and got to where they wanted to!

Whether Modi’s silence is intentional or unintentional is something we aren’t going to know. Remember, this is the man, who sailed through every indictment made against him, without ever clearing the air, after the initial attempts. As every journalist, activist and politician threw everything at him, he stayed mum and moved on to bigger things. I’ve said this before, but his silence in the midst of all the loud noises from the other side, have only helped him get an even bigger image. He didn’t have to say a word. He remember him telling a news channel that he stopped talking because he felt people were anyway saying and writing whatever they wanted to. I guess he is employing the same tactics now. Let’s see if it works.

Now, even the most senior journalists don’t know how to approach the new MPs and ministers, because they are not quite sure how these MPs will react. It must be particularly galling for news anchors who believe they are on first name terms with politicians! Take Ravi Shankar Prasad, Sushma Swaraj or Smriti Irani, for example, who were so visible before the election? Have you seen them on a news channel after the election, taking part in any debate?

I get vicarious pleasure watching the way Modi is treating the mainstream media, especially those in the national capital who believe that when they order, any person, high or low, must come scurrying. It’s fun to watch them fretting and fuming about the silence from the prime minister and his ministers, and having to listen to only those who are supposed to address the media.

Imagine having to depend on twitter for updates about the prime minister – in just 140 characters!!