From the time you learned to read you were probably brought up in the belief that journalism is a noble profession. You were taught about ethical journalism through which facts are brought to you and journalists are obliged to speak the truth. As you acquire wisdom you would have also learned that all that is just as much a myth as the Aryan invasion. Journalism and news media are as much a business as Shoe-making and selling or running a Barber shop. All of it is meant to ‘serve your interests’ as you’d often hear. To put it differently ‘viewer or reader interest’. Believe it or not, ethics and journalism go together as much politics and ethics go together in current times.
Celebs like Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, Arnab Goswami or Sagarika Ghose, Vinod Mehta, Vinod Sharma, Shekhar Gupta and many more are not journalists. They are ‘editorialists’ whose job is to swing public opinion one way or another, which they attempt diligently. Subramanian Swamy even stated that Shekhar Gupta has properties worth over 20 times of his known income and so has to ‘behave’ for Sonia Gandhi. Would any man with any ethics tolerate such a comment? You decide! NDTV even had a prominent tagline: “Experience Truth First”. I haven’t seen that tagline in a long time. Wonder if it went into the garbage can. CNN-IBN tagline says “Whatever it takes”! IBN didn’t stop to think that in normal parlance that can also mean by ‘hook or crook’. Effectively, news media business is only as ethical as a shoe business or a barber shop. Frankly, they don’t give a damn about the viewer or public but only about their paymasters. This is what Team Anna managed well in the first phase and later fell prey to the evil designs of the media.
So what exactly is the media agenda? BRING DOWN any person or group that goes against their paymasters, as simple as that. I am surprised Team Anna doesn’t know this.
During the two-week fast by Anna Hazare in August 2011 there was a ground swell of support for his movement all across India. Crowds waited outside Tihar jail where Anna was held for a few days. Team Anna, as his assistants have come to be known had become symbols of the crusade against corruption. By the time the fast ended they were all more or less heroes in a scam-tired nation. Among the more prominent ones were Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan, Medha Patkar and Shazia Ilmi. The media didn’t ‘make’ them (to use a mafia term) but were forced to pay attention due to the overwhelming support of people. It was truly their peak and ever since, it has been downhill.
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start! When you seethe you begin with Ag-Ni-Vesh! Hmmm! During the first round of fasts at Jantar Mantar in April this is what I wrote on April 10: “First, corruption is a sore wound that hurts all citizens. Anna got it right. Then, it was important to get some honest and credible people into his campaign. So there was Anil Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi (I am not sure I want to put Swami Agnivesh in that league)”. Later events proved beyond any doubt that Agnivesh, a morally corrupt moron, didn’t deserve to be anywhere near the anti-corruption movement. Did Team Anna learn any lessons? Doesn’t look like it. That’s where the problem starts.
A few days ago I watched an interview of Arvind Kejriwal (AK) with Barkha Dutt on NDTV. The chat was so warm I could even call it love and affection. Well, on hindsight I can now say that AK was informed that he was NDTV’s ‘Indian of the year’ award winner. He must have already known and so the interview. Two days later AK does receive that award. That’s the icing on the cake of silly acts by Team Anna. If you are campaigning for a public cause, the last thing you should be doing is accepting an award from a dubious media shop. But that is not where it began.
Kiran Bedi did an impromptu ‘ghoongat’ dance about politicians with a mask during the fast in August. MPs even wanted to prosecute her. People supported her and she was lucky to get away with that silly act. Now, if the entire movement is against corruption and cleanliness in public life why do these people go about giving sound bites about unrelated issues? Starting with Prashant Bhushan’s comments on Kashmir which earned him a thrashing to comments about Sanjiv Bhatt Team Anna simply failed to understand that being in the media spotlight beyond a point can be damaging.
Last month Rajdeep, Barkha and Rahul Kanwal went on a picnic to Ralegan Siddhi, hometown of Anna Hazare and each did an ‘exclusive’ interview with almost similar questions. Each tried to somehow trap Anna into the questions of RSS, Digvijay comments and so on. Anna bites! The objective of media celebs to support the Congress theory that RSS is evil and any association with it has to be demonised is an agenda set by their paymasters. Anna fell into that trap.
Hmmm! A few days later Sanjiv Bhatt is arrested in Gujarat for some offence and instantly Anna Hazare condemns the arrest of the so called ‘whistle-blower’. So does Kiran Bedi. Who the hell asked you people? Without touching upon the merits of the case to simply support Sanjiv Bhatt because it is anti-Modi is another trap Team Anna has fallen into. Kiran Bedi was so foolish that she failed to grasp the kind of support Modi has. After tweeting and condemning Modi all day long she had to tone down her nonsense on the same day and speak glowingly of Gujarat and her Gujarati friends and so on. Did her tweets delight the media? You bet! And if that wasn’t enough there is always gutter-mouth Digvijay Singh to throw more fuel at Anna. Pretty soon Digvijay V Anna was a street fight that became a joy for the media. Somewhere else AK’s statement of people and Anna being above parliament was widely publicised as “Anna is above parliament”. AK doesn’t seem to have learnt how the media likes to twist mild statements. Each time Anna or his team members opened their mouths the public couldn’t believe these people had become such a dysfunctional group like the govt.
If corruption was the main issue for the group where was the need to talk about Kashmir, Sanjiv Bhatt and more? Did the people give Team Anna a blanket license to talk crap on every issue like politicians? They did not! But that is how some fame in the media leads people to believe they have that license. Each time a member opened his or her mouth the team was eroding the support they worked so hard to earn. Two of the team members who aren’t so prominent have withdrawn because of the manner of AK’s working. Prashant Bhushan’s continuance with the team will bring more damage so he is more or less out. And Kiran Bedi and Kejriwal don't know when to shut up. That’s the problem being in the media. The media simply loves to destroy reputations and groups. Like scavengers they would love to feast on the disintegration of Team Anna. This is something Anna, Kejriwal and Bedi do not understand. The media works for its paymasters who happen to be the target for Team Anna. As on date Kiran Bedi’s flight details, her usage of her gallantry award for discounts is being splashed around by Shekhar Gupta’s Indian Express and NDTV. Maybe she will now understand that the media will do a hit job on her to please their paymasters.
Arvind Kejriwal increasingly comes across as an arrogant, bashful kid. This is what NDTV needed to play on. If the fight against corruption was an award winning effort then an award should have been given to Team Anna. Instead, NDTV picks the gullible AK and bestows him the sham award of ‘Indian of the year’ (jointly with Anna Hazare, of course). Even the Roman spy in Asterix comics couldn’t have done better than NDTV. Job well done! And Kejriwal gleefully falls into that trap. To top it all AK goes all out to campaign against the Congress in the Hisar by-poll. That is another act uncalled for. The three most vocal persons in Team Anna have slowly managed to erode all the goodwill that they have earned. Media is full of reports of cracks within Team Anna. Next time Anna and his team are on the streets they will find how much support has vanished.
Currently, people are sick of the excessive promotion that SRK has undertaken for his movie Ra-One. Seeing his face on every channel 24X7 is a repulsive experience for many viewers. Even SRK’s die-hard fans will admit the excess. Team Anna needs to learn from that. Being in the media too much is self-destructive by itself. And helping the media with controversies that help the adversary is a blunder that novices make. It will take some introspection for Team Anna to analyse what they have lost. It’s called goodwill blunting!