Friday, September 16, 2011

Shrillery Of The Shill

Skills can be transferred, not talent. A look at some of the film stars who are kids of great actors would be a good indication. In his landmark book “First break all the rules”  Marcus Buckingham (A Gallup researcher) effectively lays down this principle after researching over 80000 managers across the world: “People don’t change, don’t try to put in what is not there. Try to get out what is left inside and that is hard enough”. Some of our TV news channels and journalists do well to use that principle. Among quite a large group Sagarika Ghose stands out as a media celeb who dishes out opinions, debates and articles that are filled with misleading statements that would make any reasonably sensible journalist think ten times before making. On TV she tries to make up with her shrillery her acute poverty of insight. Incidentally, you may not find the word in a regular dictionary but ‘Shrillery’ is a nickname awarded to Hillary Clinton.

Sagarika Ghose does come from a family of media persons but that is where it ends. This is where I emphasise that skills can be transferred but talent cannot. Her latest post, on September 14, on her blog (quite appropriately called Bloody Mary) is called ‘A class apart. I am simply trying to understand some of the gems from her article. (Quotes in blue)

In the crowds at Ram Lila Maidan, at the height of Anna fever, there was anger against corruption, but there was also anger against the rich. An "elite class" milking the system, sending their children abroad, "looting" benefits was the particular target of rage.Is that really so? If this wasn’t a poorly crafted untruth it would have been laughable. Fact is, there were no slogans against the rich. There were no effigies of Ambanis, Narayanamurthys or any rich people burnt during the agitation. The most horrible slogans were reserved for politicians and, may I add, some media celebs. It is also strange that people who are usually seen as ‘elites’ by the public live in blissful imagination that they are not in that group. Most media celebs are clearly part of that elite group, Sagarika included. If she doesn’t know it, that’s blissful ignorance.

Today `Hindu nationalist rage and massive sangh parivar mobilization is taking place at all levels of society. Large sections of youth are becoming radicalized along right wing religious lines. The only way to win hearts and minds is to urgently start speaking the language of equality, without doublespeak or condescension. This idiotic assertion makes it amply clear that Sagarika perhaps really needs to brush up on terminologies. Hindu nationalist rage and radicalized religious right wing? Fact: It is unfortunately only the right wing in this country that talks about equality for all. The right wing doesn’t recommend covering up sins of political failure by populism or by sops or appeasement. Sagarika cleverly tries to associate the right wing with the Sangh Parivar and Hindus. This is another clever untruth that the media has perpetuated. Many right wingers are neither RSS nor BJP members and they do make up substantial numbers in the media too. And the sly injection of “massive sangh parivar mobilisation” is almost as if this mobilisation is going to hold the nation under siege.

Already, millionaire ministers and babalog MPs appear far removed from daily struggles. Birth-based privilege, so much in evidence in UPA II, is anathema to the millions who have to compete to survive. Really? Does Sagarika ever hold a mirror to herself? The mainstream media is supposed to frequently serve a reminder to these millionaire ministers and baba logs on what they are removed from. Instead, the shills are busy in the deploring the few states and their administrators who are doing well. A journalist who has shown scant respect for even the supreme court cannot be more farther from reality as Sagarika is. After all, she was the one pleading for at least a moral stricture by the lordships on Modi. CNN-IBN, NDTV are both part of the cottage industry that has been a platform for excessive hate-mongering against a politician with no real evidence or logic.That would leave much less time for real journalistic pursuits.

Rahul's wannabe "I have a dream" speech read out unexpectedly in Zero Hour even as the Anna crisis boiled over, showed a lack of understanding of New India. I don’t believe that… hahaha! A lack of understanding of New India? How did Sagarika ever come to that conclusion? I repeat for a thousandth time even though I have probably bored many with this actual statement of Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN. This is the statement made when CNN-IBN gave out the sham award of ‘Indian of the year’ to Rahul Gandhi: “Rahul Gandhi has been chosen CNN-IBN politician of the year over many of his more experienced colleagues and rivals because no one toured India the way he has in the past 60 months. Nobody has enunciated a vision of new India the way he has and none has understood the immediate need to bridge the city-country divide the way Rahul Gandhi has. His efforts show that hard work pays even in the uncertain world of politics.” Take that Sagarika. That is your channel recognising Rahul’s vision of New India. And now you think that moron is suddenly disconnected? Question your own organisation why they were in such a rush to please and award a politician who was around for just 5 years then. It is these very acts of servantile media that’s reflects the media disconnect with people.

UPAII's loathing of television media is another mark of its elitism. TV may be noisy, in-your-face, but it is now inescapable. The camera never blinks and often is the only recourse to those wanting to make their voices heard. To scorn television media is to scorn the millions who watch it. To refuse to use television for a political outreach is also to fail to recognize how fast the electorate is changing.   Another clever distortion of facts. Far from loathing television the UPA, particularly Congress, and the Left have extra-ordinary access, influence and presence on TV. If Anna’s fast had become similar to that of Irom Sharmila I doubt CNN-IBN would have cared two hoots to cover him. What forced the media to cover the event is the massive public support that his movement received, particularly after his arrest drama. To equate the scorn of the UPA for TV just in the case of this event to scorning the millions who watch it is another lie. A majority of those millions watching TV news neither trust the media nor believe media is unbiased. Doesn’t Sagarika receive enough tweets about it? Doesn’t she respond with anger on many occasions? The typical argument you will get from her is that there is a world outside internet. Well, that is true but much of that world is not watching her or her channel. If that had happened the loathing for her channel will be phenomenal.

Cambridge-educated Nehru spoke to rural crowds about foreign policy and non-alignment. Can we imagine any high grandee of the UPA respecting an audience enough to take them through the nuclear deal clause by clause? Has any UPA minister gone before a public rally in a town and rationally explained their objections to the Jan Lok Pal bill? Can Sagarika give us a quote or reference of what foreign policy or about non-alignment Nehru talked about to rural crowds or when he did that? The NAM was established in 1961, China War happened in 1962 and Nehru was going around talking to rural crowds about foreign policy and NAM? Where did you get that from Sagarika? Nehru was definitely a mass leader but a leader of a budding republic should be measured by his legacy and not merely his speeches. With all due respect to Nehru, both his foreign policy and the NAM  do not reflect a great visionary. Both his foreign policy and NAM are in shambles. After the 1962 war Nehru was quite a broken man before he died in 1964 so when did he go around talking about such stuff with rural crowds? Frankly, some the ‘Cambridge’ educated people in public fields haven’t exactly been great leaders in any domain.

Here’s where I would like to quote Marcus Buckingham again: "What a leader does for followers is..turn anxiety into confidence. They’ve always done that throughout time and in every different society and situation. When leaders lead well, it’s because they’re able to rally people to a better future and make people spirited when they were previously anxious." That is where the leaders in the Congress and UPA have failed miserably. Comparisons to Nehru based on inaccuracies is not the logical answer.

And here’s the final gem:

The entitled sons and daughters of the rich and powerful, whether in politics, film industry or in business have forgotten the essential ingredient that built modern India: treating every Indian as an equal. Domination by star children has robbed Bollywood of its precious common touch. In the media there is danger of a disconnect between readers and the imitative 'Sex and the City' type columns that pour out of glossy outlets. Academics, closeted in their ivory towers, are failing to engage with new realities and generate new ideas.    

Sagarika recognises the domination of ‘star children’ in Bollywood but won’t admit the same may be partly true for the TV news media. Barkha Dutt, Sagarika Ghose are all star children of media personalities. There isn’t a danger of disconnect between readers and viewers with the media – There is already a serious disconnect. Mind you, she says “readers” and not “viewers”. To my best knowledge there is still a great deal of honesty and value in print media and online media. It is channels like CNN-IBN that represent the disconnect with viewers. Talent cannot be transferred as in the case of Bollywood’s star children. But Sagarika can surely take a break and refresh her journalistic skills.

Hillary is fondly nicknamed Shrillery. I have fondly nicknamed Sagarika ‘Cacofonix’. And till the TV news media reforms itself we will continue to be blasted by the shrillery of the shill.


  1. Too good! Does Ms. Shrillery Cacofonix, read this column? It would be nice to see her response. I once wrote to their site, some years ago, calling her "Shouting Sagarika". The comment never got published! Their moderators are the worst censors of even sensible comments, since they hurt their political masters. I watch them to see how explicit is their bent towards their masters. Rajdeep was finding it inconvenient to his conscience covering Anna, made that famous line - 'A zero met Hero' and he too bought a Anna topi. A school girl in Ralegaon to whom he told wearing Anna topi is not enough, quickly responded ' Jail kya, Jaan be Denge Anna ke liye'. Rajdeep was stumped! Most of these anchors are playing with their viewers faith. In this context, the personal apology of Johann Hari, of The Independent is worth reading. Here is the link:

  2. A great post. You have hit the nail on the head. If MSM have an iota of integrity left in them, they should report only the happenings and stop imposing their views on the watchers.

  3. Sagarika is a classic example of marrying right! Frankly never heard of her before she burst on CNN IBN, her husband's channel. Any other channel would have fired her long back for her tendency to cut in her guests or talk simultaneously, drowning her guests' voices with her shrill high pitch voice! And her writings have not much substance either. But why concentrate on her alone...when it comes to shrillity in voice or tone or both, we have so many other worthies!!

  4. Another Gem from you... hats off sir

  5. Superb, hope this reaches wide and far.

    Infact all of your articles need to be read.

    I have circulated the link among my friends.

    Do you have something in hindi as well ?

    Which can be for non english speaking people?



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