Saturday, April 28, 2012

Blackmail Not New To Media, Arnab

First, someone called Sten Lindstrom comes out with supposedly new revelations about the Bofors scandal. Chitra Subramaniam, who originally broke the whole story and followed it for long also surfaced after all these years to talk about it. Some in the Indian media were quick to dub Lindstrom the Swedish ‘Deep Throat’, after the famous Watergate Deep Throat (William Mark Felt). On a lighter side, they do share something in common though. The Watergate deep throat was named after a controversial porn movie titled ‘DeepThroat’ which was released in the same year as the Watergate burglary and the Swedish DeepThroat comes after the infamous Abhishek Manu Singhvi sex tapes. The remote similarity ends there. There’s just one small difference: the original DeepThroat led to a dozen or so convictions leading up to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The so-called Swedish DeepThroat is still where Bofors is – Zero convictions. Of the 64 crores of bribes in Bofors not a single rupee has been recovered, not a single conviction has happened and some of the players are dead. In contrast, by strange coincidence, another case of bribery involving Bangaru Laxman, former president of BJP, in a sting operation by Tehelka came to a conclusion. Today Bangaru was sentenced to four years in prison and a fine of Rs.1 Lakh, the same amount of bribe he has been convicted of taking.

The CBI court judge, sentencing Bangaru Laxman, said it is time to "shun" the "sab chalta hai" (It's OK, whatsoever!) attitude and courts should deal strictly with persons found guilty of corruption. With all due respects, your honour, most corruption cases don’t end up in courts, they are washed up by our govt and our media. Worse, in my belief the Bangaru Laxman case was one of a fake operation and more of ‘entrapment’ by a journal seeking ‘instant’ fame rather than genuine investigative journalism. It’s a classic case of journalism by ‘script writing’ rather than investigating actual events and wrong-doings. But that is not even the issue here.

Within hours of Laxman’s conviction our media was clamouring to equate Bofors with Bangaru. Rajdeep Sardesai, who called the 64 crores of Bofors scam “loose change” in comparison to current scams like 2G, suddenly found the 1 lakh bribe case similar to Bofors. He’s not the only one though. Arnab Goswami, who runs his own private court on TV, actually ran a debate “Bofors V Bangaru” on TimesNow on the night of Friday, April 27. The debate involved Meenakshi Lekhi (BJP), Vinod Sharma (Smirk Times), Manish Tewari (Head to Toe fame) and a couple more people. In the melee the discussion ended up in a question by Arnab to Lekhi: “Are journalists being accused of blackmailing?” (In the context of the Tehelka type spurious sting operations). Hmmm! Arnab shot that without thinking too much.

Long back I had narrated how media outlets approach corporate entities to get their share of ads that were released with a competitor. Nothing wrong with that, except that where companies were reluctant, the second-rung media threatened them with exposure of various misdeeds by the company. Not unusual considering most companies are in the practice of avoiding excise, customs or other taxes. The journals and journalists keep a dossier on the misdeeds of such companies and use it to blackmail them into running campaigns in their journals similar to the ones run in other media. This gets even better when the media outlet has juicy tidbits of the private lives of the CEOs or owners of businesses. Don’t be surprised if you even find govt officials or police officials under payroll of a media outlet. Once such officials are ‘sanitised’ they then remain obligated to leak news and confidential reports. Else!

One of the most glaring cases of journalists blackmailing a businessman comes from the house of Arnab’s own group – The Times Group. Sure, Arnab wasn’t associated with the group then but he’s seriously mistaken to imagine journalists don’t indulge in extortion and blackmailing. Here’s the interesting story:

Such spurious news has included gushing endorsements of flop movies, fashion and lifestyle products and the promotion of hotels and restaurants that enter into a payment arrangement with the organisation. The reader has no clue that the adulatory report is nothing but a paid advertisement masquerading as objective reportage or opinion. Even while the debate over the ethics of a newspaper 'selling news' was hotting up into a regular war of words between two of the country's top-selling English dailies, journalism was dealt another stunning blow. Last week, the Mumbai police arrested Rishi Chopra of The Economic Times along with an accomplice (a former journalist with another business daily) in an alleged extortion attempt. The duo was trapped accepting a Rs 700,000 bribe which was the second installment of a Rs 2.5 million payoff to kill a report about the shenanigans of one Poonamchand Malu of Malu Financial Services. Worse, the pay-off itself had apparently been haggled down from an initial demand of Rs 10 million to Rs 2.5 million. Although corruption in the media is no longer news, the actual arrest of two scribes and the sums involved, marked a new low in this once honourable profession”. There! That’s an extract from a report by Sucheta Dalal titled “Selling news or buying silence?” in March 2003. Do read the whole article, it truly exposes pathetic journalistic practices of Arnab’s group. Have these practices ended? Let Arnab verify and confirm they have.

In the post “India’s Biggest Mafia” I had written: "Look deep into our media.You will find extortion, blackmail, murder, connections with anti-national elements, black money. Everything you can associate with a regular mafia you will find in equal measure in the media too. But since they claim to be ‘God’s own messengers’ they will never expose their own mafia". Blackmailing is just a small part of our media’s operations even if Arnab finds it amusing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Indian MSM Wants Social Media Dead

In recent times Herman Cain, an Afro-American candidate, pulled out of the race for the Republican party’s nomination for US Presidential election in 2012. Three women from his past had alleged sexual harassment by Cain which eventually forced him to abort his campaign. In contrast, Abhishek Manu Singhvi (AMS), MP and Congress spokesman, resigned on April 23 from various posts after his alleged sexual adventures were leaked through a video on the internet. That was enough for the Mainstream Media (MSM) and even PCI Chairman, Justice Katju, to start screaming for controls over the social media. The sex CD which involves AMS and a female lawyer was reportedly made by AMS’s driver and according to AMS was “fake, doctored and morphed”. How a driver went to Darbangha (Bihar) and found enough money and support and morphed a tape will remain a technological wonder for a long time. His alleged motives are “dog-bites and low pay”. Seriously, many of us may complain about our salaries but going to the extent of morphing our bosses into sex videos is taking even revenge too far. Tsk, never mind!

The case was brought to public light not by the driver or by the MSM or by the social media. It came to prominence when AMS filed a police complaint against the driver and got an injunction from the Delhi HC against airing of the CD. On what basis the HC gave the injunction is another mystery and it almost sounds like pre-screening. Naturally, people wanted to know what was on the CD and what the facts were. This is where the MSM failed as it completely blacked-out the story. The court had stayed airing of the CD and not the reporting of the story. It was then that the story spread like wildfire on Twitter, Facebook and other social media and finally parts of the CD were uploaded by some on the internet.

In response to the public clamour for the story Rajdeep Sardesai even responded by calling them “Eternal Voyeurs”. Such is his disdain for ordinary people. Rajdeep also asked why the Opposition was silent over the issue, as if they, or any political voice, should determine what the press or media should be reporting and discussing. A dead give-away. 

Even so, when the cookie finally crumbled, the MSM wasn’t discussing the AMS sex incident, they were busy debating whether ‘Internet is above the courts’ (For uploading the CD against the court injunction) and some like Justice Katju and Sagarika Ghose were discussing ways and means to ‘check’ the social media.

Nothing would please our MSM (and some politicians) more than to see the death of social media. It has come to challenge their monopoly, their bias, their spins, their lies, and their selective reporting. In the US the Internet media has seen the death of many newspapers and quite a few TV channels. Some 300 newspapers have died in a small country like UK. Unlike print and TV, social media requires the regular MSM and public figures to be interacting with people sensibly which is where they have failed in India. Public opinions can be suppressed in newspapers and TV but not on the social media. So while raging against the people on the social network and wanting to desperately ‘check’ them the Indian media really needs to understand the way social media works and harness it productively and profitably. Comments under the post “Media as cover-up artist for Seedy Singhvi” will reveal how even keen news-watchers were totally unaware of the AMS incident. That is how successfully the MSM blacked-out the story.

The Internet wasn’t created in India. The Internet didn’t evolve in India. None of the major social media engines were created in India. For all its other problems the US still remains a country with absolute freedom of speech. President, Pope and even religion are no exceptions to such freedoms. Books are not banned and books can be burned. Nazi group marches through Jewish localities to offend them is allowed. Protests at funerals against dead ‘gay’ soldiers, in bad taste, are allowed. Bad taste is not a crime. Therefore, for Internet and social media to thrive in the US environment wasn’t as big a challenge as it is in India. Mind you, the same laws that punish defamation or illegal activities otherwise also apply to social media in the US. It does in India too. It is just that in India free-speech is largely reserved for the powerful and the MSM. Now that the situation is changing it’s causing unease among many in the media and politics. US citizens over many years have grown used to and cherished their freedom of speech. Most of them know what to believe and what to ignore. The Indian govt and media simply doesn’t trust ordinary people to have the good judgement over issues.

If the AMS CD was uploaded on the net it was because the media didn’t discuss it. It got uploaded because people generally believed that this level of gagging by a court and black-out by MSM can only mean there is truth in the story. That a prominent lawyer like AMS would seek an injunction and instead of continuing the FIR against the alleged conspirator reach a settlement with him further reinforces the belief that the CD is neither morphed nor doctored. Apart from the frivolous discussion; “Is Internet above courts” on CNN-IBN (who else but Sagarika Ghose?) and other channels, NDTV even discussed if ‘India is going the US way’ on the media issue. Among participants on NDTV was Shoma Chaudhury, editor of Tehelka, a near-gossip tabloid, and the same tabloid that famously used call girls to do their jobs. That is enough said for morality in media.

If there is evil in the social media, it is prevalent elsewhere too, particularly in the MSM and politics. It is how we respond to it that counts. It is not easy for someone to survive in the social network by constantly peddling lies and misleading information. In Indian media it is definitely possible and sometimes it even seems they are paid for it. For those screaming about morals so much in the MSM there is an example of a prominent journalist Keith Olberman who was suspended from his channel, MSNBC, for a small but undeclared donation he made to politicians. In contrast people like Barkha Dutt are celebrated in our media despite established wrong-doings. In the US Barkha Dutt would have been permanently trashed and out of the media for good. So people like Rajdeep Sardesai would do well not to sermonise on morality, which he often does. The likes of Shoma Chaudhary, Sonia Singh (NDTV), Sagarika Ghose should also be frequently reminded of the sordid NOTW affair in UK. That tabloid is what much of Indian MSM should be compared to and not values of ‘Freedom of speech’.

In the last US presidential election Youtube was successfully used by CNN to allow ordinary people to put questions to the candidates and have them debate the issues. Many other clips from Youtube are also used by US news channels in their reports. Why Indian media cannot find productive use for social media other than promoting egos of individual journalists is simply the fear of sharing their turf. Forget harnessing social media productively, the frequency with which our news channels twist and manipulate tweets to suit their agenda actually amounts to abuse of social media by them.

The MSM perceives a loss to the social media on the issue of AMS, his sexcapade and his final resignation. This is hardly the truth. Social media did not bring AMS down. In the final scene of the movie ‘All the President’s men’ WaPo editor Ben Bradley chides Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein thus: “You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit”. That’s right half the US didn’t know and didn’t give a shit till Nixon finally resigned. That was despite tremendous coverage by the Washington Post and a few more newspapers. Here we are, an entire MSM blacking out the AMS story and they want the world to believe it is the evil of social media that has to be ‘checked.

Social media didn’t bring AMS down. He brought himself down with his dirty deeds, social media just showed the courage that MSM did not just as Woodward and Bernstein didn’t bring down Nixon on their own. MSM, and Justice Katju, would do well to partner social media rather than try to check it. If ever ‘Power to the people’ made sense in a democracy it is Social Media. Celebrate it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Self-Righteous Shill & RTE

Here’s a profound statement from none other than Rajdeep Sardesai: “Bless social media! Power with zero responsibility! Have a good day”. (Twitter April 17, 8.41 am). I can use this particular statement for many debates. That can wait. In a ‘friendly fire’ article Firstpost, the online sidekick of CNN-IBN, dismissed Rajdeep’s silly tweet as sweeping generalisation. Alright, in another tweet (Wee hours of February 5, 12.14 am) Rajdeep says “Tonight time to say F off to those who call us ‘paid media.We are journalists, not sensationalists or elitists. Gnight”. Hmm! Just months back one of Rajdeep’s colleague, Pallavi Ghosh, tweeted: “..That’s the unfortunate part, came to know yesterday that some journos who I work with closely in Congress are on their payroll”. Pallavi’s tweet was made at 9.53am on October 14, 2011.

Now, would Rajdeep and Pallavi make those statements on their TV channel? I doubt it. But that’s how journos themselves use social media and then complain about it. In response to my post IWJ-2012 another prominent journo tweeted it was “hate”. I asked her how she categorised “lampooning” as hate. She responded stating it was contained in the mail that forwarded her my post and not her own statement. Well, if one stored up all the quotes of journos, most of them would find it hard to believe they actually said those words. Self-righteous shills usually forget what they said or did in the past. That is what brings me to the RTE Act. While much has been said and written about the SC upholding the constitutional validity of the Act it really hasn’t been debated as well in the MSM as it has been in the social media. So Rajdeep would do well not to dismiss social media as having “zero responsibility”. Many of the analysts and writers on social media are far superior to the ones in MSM. Those in the MSM have typically discussed the RTE in a literary flourish rather than with cold logic and facts. Do read on…

Otherwise, let's be honest - we had become the sort of people who were inured to the sight of a barely-clad shivering child, his tiny stomach ballooned into hugeness by the absence of nutrition, as we indifferently drove past the sight of him huddling with his mother for warmth on a tiny patch of pavement every night. At the traffic lights - where our cars came into enforced confrontation with poverty - and we saw a small hand stretched out for alms, or a disabled man trying to wave a red rose or a magazine at us, imploring us for help - we would barely look up from behind our over-sized designer sunglasses. We would, in fact, sink back into the plush leather of our seats and be extra determined that the story of India would no longer be told in picture-postcards of poverty….  Over the many years that we - the upper middle class - have lived in aggressive denial of the inequalities in our social order, we have become more and more cocooned by our elitism. … That is why the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutional validity of the Right to Education law for all schools - even in unaided private schools - is such a potentially seminal moment for us as a people. And nowhere is our intuitive social snobbery more apparent than in our resistance to the idea of an economically and socially heterogeneous, inclusive classroom…. Others have cloaked their subliminal social biases in apprehensions of a so-called clash of cultures or possibilities of social maladjustment….” Do I hear applause? Thank you!

Ah well, my momentary flash of literary genius has to be exposed though. I didn’t write the paragraph above, it was another literary classic from Barkha Dutt. Extracts from her article “Writes of passage” in Hindustan Times, April 13. That is how you discuss a matter of an Act of Law: in literary flourishes devoid of much logic or cold facts. And pray who is “WE”? Add “Designer sunglasses” and “Plush” leather seats in cars. Is that “WE”? When champions of MSM like Barkha want to transfer their personal life experiences as being of a larger population you don’t need sound logic or arguments for any discussion or article. That is where social media wins and does a better job.

Being in the education domain and one who has interacted with more than 3000 schools, thousands of teachers, thousands of children and parents I do know a little bit about schools and their problems. I was associated with an organisation whose directors built one of the finest schools in India from scratch. The school has become a near pilgrimage for any education professional who visits my city. That school wasn’t built by Barkha’s ‘elites’ for the elites. It was built by a group of IIM-Ahmedabad graduates who set up new standards for schooling and even for teacher education. Even before RTE that school had a practice of enrolling a certain number of slum children along with other students from upper classes. One of the founders lived in a slum for months to understand their needs. And no, they aren’t ‘Jhollawalas’ or NGOs and they don’t wear “designer sunglasses”. Those guys started another organisation with negligible capital to improve the quality of school education in India which is helping schools and even State govts. In another case, a sinking Municipal school was taken over by a private body and turned into a well-functioning school now known as ‘Mahatma Gandhi International School’. To me, the RTE Act is more a political act rather than any real act for ensuring education for all children. And just like child-labour laws it is destined for failure. Why? Govt failures cannot be passed on to private citizens by strangling their freedoms and enterprise.

But let’s get back to Barkha Dutt. She is the Group Editor of NDTV and while writing so passionately about changing caste and other equations and our “middle-class” biases she forgets what her own organisation does for schools and people. If you go back to first few paras of this post you will be reminded how journalists often forget what they did or said in the past. Barkha forgot to remember that in recent times NDTV joined Coca-Cola in some school campaign. Now, would they have done the same campaign if Coca-Cola weren’t involved and some other body without similar financial muscle had undertaken it? I doubt it but still, it’s fine if, by the campaign, some good comes to some schools somewhere.

Barkha forgets something else too; NDTV does promote a certain set of schools – Elite, Rich, Luxurious schools. More than just promote, NDTV is the ‘media-partner’ in that campaign. Yeah, it’s called “Good Schools of India” and NDTV promotes them through the directory. The news-channel had also carried a number of advertisements promoting the directory. And what’s the directory about? It’s a directory about the best residential schools in India. Ever visited any of these schools? I can assure you most of them are luxury schools which will be the biggest opponents of the RTE Act. These are hardly the very "..economically and socially heterogeneous, inclusive classroom" in schools that Barkha talks about. However, most of them won’t even be affected because no ‘disadvantaged or poor’ parents would even remotely think of sending their children to these schools. So while the MSM, like Barkha, sheds tears over the poor and disadvantaged, they haven’t really debated the finer points of the RTE at all. Like in most other cases they failed to do their job.I wonder what Rajdeep would call that: "Zero responsibility" plus hypocrisy?

So, as my answer to Rajdeep Sardesai who claims social media has zero responsibility I would recommend that he read the following posts by different writers on  RTE and evaluate the quality of the discussion. It’s far superior to what one will find on TV channels and newspapers:

There are many frivolous and even bad laws that get enacted because the MSM does not do its job. Next time you see a child working at a tea stall or restaurant, next time you see a child buying cigarettes or tobacco products from a pan-shop, next time you see a child buying alcohol for another from a shop remember the worthlessness of the related laws. The biggest Act of ‘Rights’ that the govt should pass is irreversible one that ensures they never intrude in the lives and activities of private citizens and entities. The govt’s courage to do the opposite is partly driven by the self-righteous shill in the mainstream media who have nothing at stake and who, like Rajdeep and Barkha, look down on ordinary people as much as the govt does.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Media As Cover-up Artist For Seedy Singhvi

It’s been a devastating start to the week for the media. If bad things happen to the Congress party it’s the media that gets a viral infection. Two such events drove the usually raucous media into a corner. First, a CD of sexcapades of Abhishek Manu Singhvi, spokesman of the Congress, surfaces and second, the party suffers a terrible defeat in the Delhi MCD elections. On a day like Tuesday, April 17, all the regular spokespersons of the Congress went into hiding. The only ones on TV shows were rookies like Ragini Nayak who, under the circumstances, put up a brave defence for the party.

Sheila Dikshit who led the Congress campaign in Delhi was nowhere to be found for a comment on the results. She showed up on Wednesday, April 18, to claim that the defeat and result was a “collective responsibility”. Of course, failure doesn’t have an owner. I do wonder why Dikshit went into a hiding earlier because NDTV had already set the tone of the party’s defence with a brilliant headlining story: MCD polls: “BJP retains Delhi, but Congress makes gains”. So there was nothing to worry about as the Congress had made gains in an election they lost. No further analysis required.

..Blurring the lines...
The cover-up of the various misdeeds of Sheila Dikshit is a stunning example of a completely compromised media. They had done very well not to mention CWG scam or how SD’s son was found with 10 Lakhs cash in Bhopal. Those stories had gone cold without a trace. The conduct of Sheila Dikshit herself during the campaign was unbecoming of a Chief Minister. Like others, she too thought dragging in Narendra Modi would fool muslims. Here’s what she said: “They (BJP) often say that their next PM would be Narendra Modi but they never call him for campaigning in polls. This is because they know that if he ever comes here he will be stoned by people". For the record, the Congress candidate from Ballimaran area where SD made the statement also lost. There is a thin line between journalists and politicians that should never be crossed. I’m not sure I can say that about our media. The pic of Barkha Dutt and Sheila Dikshit says a lot more than my words can.

The other devastating story of the Congress, the sex CD of Abhishek Manu Singhvi (AMS),  has so far been muzzled by the media. The best they could come up with is if public figures have a right to privacy (CNN-IBN). That discussion was, of course, moderated by Karan Thapar. NDTV completely blanked out the story. Naturally, the question everyone is asking is: What if the CD had involved a BJP or TMC leader? Public or private, all hell would have broken lose in the media. First, the private affairs of public figures definitely need greater scrutiny than an ordinary citizen. Sonia Gandhi’s tax returns maybe private but their scrutiny is in public interest. AMS didn’t have illegitimate sex with his partner at his home or in a private resort. He is reported to have had the joyride in his chambers in the court complex and that is certainly no private hideaway.

...With pants down..
AMS is the same man who responded to the Karnataka MLAs porngate story with the comment: “This is the real chaal, charitra & chehra of BJP” which, translated, means the real face and character of BJP. Another of their spokesmen, who else but Manish Tiwari, responded with “.. they are defiling temples of democracy”. Tiwari’s response was to the fake Gujarat porngate. The story about the AMS CD is less important than the manner in which the media has dealt with it. While he claimed that the CD was “fabricated, morphed and doctored” none in the media, many of whom have seen it, were willing to challenge it. Morphed and doctored? Surely, there are better models around to use than AMS for morphing sex CDs. Secondly, the media chose to hide under a court injunction that restrained airing of the CD. The court had only restrained airing of the CD and not the reporting of the incident and the episode itself. Yet, much of the media totally blacked out any reports on it. That is seedy and shameful conduct by journalists.

Here’s the most dangerous part which is not being touched upon by any channel or newspaper. AMS’s partner is also reportedly a lawyer who is aspiring to be a judge. Was the act of sex an advance for any favour? If so, then it’s a crime of a very serious nature. This is the reason the incident requires a thorough probe and cannot be dismissed as mere indiscretion and opportunism by AMS. The court granted a stay against airing the CD as it may cause damage to the reputation of AMS. Well, even without the stay there is really no need for the media to air it. I have often said, in this day and age there is really no place to hide. Some images from the CD are already on the internet and sooner or later the whole CD will be out there somewhere. Also, if the CD is ‘fabricated and morphed’ as AMS claims then that too is a serious crime against a public official. However, by all accounts and images available so far the CD appears to be genuine in which case AMS would be guilty of lying to the nation and to the court. This is what media should be investigating and this does not require airing of the CD itself.

The real funny part is: Why was the CD made in the first place? Who made it? Is AMS such a dumb idiot that he allowed his driver to video shoot his adventure? Was the driver witness to the act itself and shot the video on his own? Or did AMS have the video recorded himself for use at a future date for some reason? Did some potential blackmailer get blackmailed? These are the questions the media needs to ask. But they won’t, for obvious reasons. Regardless of the outcome of the incident, AMS will find it morally unfit for him to hold any public office till the full truth is established. He should resign from all parliamentary panels and from the Rajya Sabha membership. He would do the Congress a great favour by quitting on his own. Sacking him at a later date, when more gory details emerge, will only add to the embarrassment of the party. As for the MSM they have played cover-up artists in the episode but it’s unlikely the social media will let seedy journalism pass.

Friday, April 13, 2012

India's Worst Journalists - 2012

The previous edition of India’s Worst Journalist in 2010 on this site still remains one of the most popular posts and also a very widely reproduced one. Over the last decade or so our journalists have come to be held in the same contempt that is usually reserved for politicians. Many of them have simply forgotten the art and science of the profession and this is a serious tragedy for aspiring journalists. How they came to such a pass is a long story. The most prominent ones are not even journalists anymore; they are ‘Editorialists’ whose main job is to swing public opinion one way or another. Add to this the epidemic of ‘paidnews’ and some of our news channels and newspapers would be nothing more than Bollywood or Commercials. After all, didn’t the late Christopher Hitchens say: “I became a journalist because one didn’t have to specialise”.

Some prominent faces from the 2010 roll of honour have dropped out. Vinod Mehta has retired from active journalism and remains Chairman of Outlook. We wish him well. Suzy Roy has moved from part-time lie-mongering to full-time Maoist-Hurriyat sympathiser. ‘Pastiwalas’ are over-joyed at the ever growing size and weight of her 50+ page essays – they’re the only ones handling them now. Prannoy Roy was also dropped. He is now more into barbeque chats than any serious attempts at journalism. Even elections don’t arouse him. But there are some new faces with the old ones. Polling for IWJ ended today and thanks to all those who voted. So here are the winners from the poll, the list of India’s Worst Journalists-2012 from the poll results. Their 2010 ranking is indicated after their name:

Large & Larger..
10. Nidhi Razdan, NDTV (New entry): She has come to prominence more for many reasons other than journalistic skills. ‘Left, right, centre’ is her signature programme and happens to be one of those mindless debates on every topic under the sun. She is proof that you can be an expert on everything with specialisation in nothing. The best part of Nidhi? Now, don’t get me wrong, she likes everything large. Whenever confounded by a brilliant argument or point by a panellist she quickly jumps to her favourite line “let’s look at the LARGER picture”. One would have thought that debates are meant to look at the finer small details. No, not with Nidhi, the larger picture is a convenient exit. Training from NDTV helps. My prediction for this debutant is that she is likely to go higher up in the list in the future.

Friendly five member
9. Kumar Ketkar (New entry): Somewhere a brief bio about Ketkar says “He started his life as an active communist worker of the Lal Nishan Paksh (Red flag party)”. Now why is that not so surprising? And that also explains Ketkar somewhat. He is also reported to be a former speech writer during elections for Congress members. Isn’t that an accomplishment any journalist would be proud of? He has been mostly a Marathi journalist and last heard he is editor of Divya Marathi. A respected veteran, he was one of the privileged Five invited to a private press meet of PM Manmohan Singh around June 2011. Ever since, it has been downhill. He achieved his right to be on this list through his performances as a panellist. What can I say? I hope being a veteran he doesn’t appear here in the future.

Your Banal
8. Arnab Goswami, TimesNow (2010 #3): There can be no denying that Arnab is one of the rare patriots among journalists. Almost every one wishes our judiciary could be as quick and decisive as Arnab is. Which is the reason I conferred him the title ‘Justice Arnab’. His performance on TimesNow has definitely battered ratings of NDTV and CNN-IBN. Pick up any scam, any scandal Arnab can throw the documents at you. IB, RAW, GOI have no escape – all documents and papers have to pass through Arnab. Sometime back I remarked: Most of us wake up in the morning and want Coffee or Tea! Not Arnab, he just wants ‘answers’. Such are the never-ending questions he has. Much before Arnab became a journalist the rock band U2 wrote a song for him – “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. They were the only ones to anticipate all the unanswered questions he’d come up with. Undeniable fact is that Arnab has dropped from #3 in 2010 to #8 in 2012 on this list. That is proof of his ever-growing popularity. He can out-shout anyone in this world. Anyone, except Meenakshi Lekhi and Smriti Irani.
7. Vir Sanghvi (2010 #9): I honestly don’t have any idea whatsoever what Sanghvi currently does. I don’t even see him on any Cookery or Foodie show. He must be doing something to merit an appearance on this list again, at a higher position even. Radiagate has damaged him far more than any other journalist, which is unfortunate. He managed to surface sometime back on his home channel NDTV claiming the Radia tapes were doctored and weren’t authentic and were tested by reliable foreign forensic labs. Nobody bought that though. Sometimes, a wayward journalist, at his peak, forgets simple decency. Sanghvi will forever be haunted with two things: Radiagate and the fact that he called Narendra Modi a ‘mass-murderer’. He will regret both episodes. Had it not been for Modi ignoring his stupid outburst Vir Sanghvi would have been in prison writing a cookery book or his autobiography titled “Fine Whines!”.

No facts, please
6. Karan Thapar (2010 #4): Readers must remember that every journo looks tall in the studio but not in actual life. KT is not blessed with stature and the same goes for his journalism. One can say he has improved a bit but still retains the unwanted scowl and growl when interviewing people. Madhu Trehan in her NewsLaundry interview showed up KT for the little puppy he was. Like the ones who just need a hug and a cuddle once in a while. And if you thought you knew nothing about KT, never mind. All you have to do is hear his signature line on his promo for his show on CNN-IBN: “I don’t want to go into the facts, the facts are disputed”. LOL! Facts are disputed? You have to undo a lot of learning to understand that facts aren’t facts and can be disputed. The worst job KT did in 2011 was massaging Kapil Sibal’s brazen attempt at pre-screening content on the internet. As if that wasn’t enough he pulled out Brajesh Mishra, former NSA, out of nowhere to call serving army chief, Gen. VKSingh, the worst ever chief of army in history. My prediction: As long as he is in the business, KT will be on this list.

Wheres the smirk?
5. Vinod Sharma (New entry): For those who don’t know, Vinod Sharma is the political editor of Hindustan Times. That’s right, ‘Political’ is the key word – less of an editor and more of a politician. It’s not very hard to recognise VS on a friendly channel. He has made the ‘smirk’ more popular than child-molester DGP Rathore on television. Sharma has also been acknowledged by many political spokespersons and viewers as the most loyal spokesperson of the Congress party. No matter what the scam or what the scandal you can expect him to staunchly defend even the worst misdeeds of the Congress by blaming it on the opposition or anyone else he can lay his hands on. The one chance to get him off TV for longer periods was a Rajya Sabha ticket, when Shobana Bhartiya, his boss at HT exited, but that unfortunately didn’t happen. So we’re going to be stuck with VS for quite a while. His best moment in recent times was during the debate over Gen. VK Singh and the Tatra trucks scam. He was angry that the debate was going one way (in favour of Gen. Singh) so had to somehow twist it against the tide. In his business time VS writes a blog titled ‘Separated at birth’. I guess that refers to some Pakistani connection or maybe his journalistic independence was separated at birth. Someday we’ll find out.

4.Shekhar Gupta (2010 #10): (Content held back on account of Indian Express' legal action with Google)

I washed my hands in the Hammam
3. Rajdeep Sardesai (2010 #6): Hmmm! The guy is making progress alright. I have always maintained there are two Rajdeeps – One on TV and one off it. Whenever he is off TV his conscience strikes and one can hear a sane person, sometimes profound, sometimes emotional. But his character loses focus in front of the camera. Recently, he lamented on Twitter about being abused as a’Muslim whore and a Motherf$#!#*’. Bad, but the kind of abuse of journalistic ethics that Rajdeep has frequently allowed under his watch is far more serious. He has even given the media the right to ‘conduct hearings’ against personalities. While he wonders about ‘image makeovers’ for others, there is no way he can ever get past the Cash4Votes bungling or the terribly biased reporting on Gujarat riots. His 2007 conduct of an HT Summit which featured a key speaker reflects a character of pathetically low moral values and journalistic ethics. And to top that he defended the tainted Radiagate journalists and was rightly ‘slapped’ by his own community. Death of decent journalism owes a small debt to him. He has rightly earned the nick name ‘Hammamboy’!

If it's Friday, it must be...
2. Sagarika Ghose (2010 #2): Ms. Cacofonix stays where she was: at No.2. You can’t fault Sagarika for not trying hard enough to be India’s worst journalist. She has made every effort in the recent past to get to #1. Journalism gives her a bad name. For her truly pathetic and fraudulent ‘live’ show with SriSri she would have been sacked from any TV channel in the world. That in itself is a reflection of the ethics and morals practiced at CNN-IBN by her and her boss Rajdeep Sardesai. You can imagine the skulduggery behind all other programmes and debates. And if that wasn’t enough she misses no chance to prove she is a ‘journalistic bimbo’ by mindless tweets on the social network. Be it about ‘ugly Indian males’, or Orange being a colour in our national flag or sending out a Good Friday greeting and withdrawing it she is truly the court-jester of Indian journalism. What can I say? Better luck next time!

Me, Myself & I
1. Barkha Dutt (2010 #1): For the second time in a row Barkha retains her position as India’s worst journalist in the poll, by a whopping margin. The only road to redemption is apologising for past blunders. While she and another one have been vocal in demanding apologies and expressions of remorse from public figures the same standard doesn’t seem to apply to her. No matter what she does the taint of Radiagate and many other indiscretions are unlikely to disappear. The accusations of causing deaths in Kargil or in 26/11 are also going to linger.  She is probably the only news celeb on TV that has a ‘wardrobe sponsor’. All the image makeovers may not help much. Most of us have held Rahul Gandhi for the Congress’ UP election disaster but Barkha and NDTV must be credited with the disaster too. No one has singularly promoted RG and his cause and almost turned him into India’s saviour till the engine got derailed. Her penchant for Pakistani politics and politicians is another thing that disgusts many viewers. In the meantime her language keeps getting better and better. In a recent tweet she responded to sarcasm with: “… ‘ .. if ever language betrayed desperation of loser, it is here…” Losers or not, with over 70% of the votes polled, Barkha is the absolute winner here. Cheers!

So there you are. Let’s also not forget that are many journalists who now increasingly seem to be anti-nationals. Their ties to Ghulam Nabi Fai aren’t even being investigated by the govt. Industry leaders usually raise the standards of performance of the industry as a whole. The opposite seems to be true in the media. Systematically, many of India’s journalists have brought the profession to rock bottom over the years. I continue to maintain, they are the greatest threat to our democracy. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 10 - The Day News Media Died

Never has there been a prolonged campaign of calumny against a single individual as the one carried out by our media and certain sponsored activists. All of that came to an end on April 10. The report of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) finally established there was no evidence that Narendra Modi was involved in the Gujarat riots of 2002. The decade long campaign of evil finally died a gruesome death. Some of the most prominent names in the media also died a symbolic death. We remember those names and many more and pray that in the death of the news media there will be newer ones who will find their conscience. In ever loving memory of the conscience and careers of:

Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Teesta Setalvad, Shabnam Hashmi, Harsh Mandar, Mallika Sarabhai, Mukul Sinha, Sanjeev Bhatt, Nidhi Rasdan, Sagarika Ghose, Praful Bidwai, Javed Anand, Javed Akhtar, Manish Tewari, Prannoy Roy, Vir Sanghvi, Vinod Sharma, Cedric Prakash, Hosbet Suresh, Arnab Goswami, Dipak Parasher, Ashutosh, Nikhil Wagle, Kumar Ketkar, Rahul Sharma, Sreekumar, Karan Thapar, Shoma Chaudhary, Ashish Khetan, John Dayal.. And Many More Nameless Faces
In Fond Memory of The News Media
In his book 'The Death of Media' writer Danny Schechter states that “We can’t fix America without fixing the mediaThe Death of Media shows why the fight to change our media is bigger than any political fight yet. It's not true for just the American media but equally true for the Indian media. We can't fix our political struggles without cleaning up our media first. A good part of our media died on April 10, 2012. Let's celebrate the death of evil.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Meeting Of Two 10 Percents

There is something about Justice Markandeya Katju that’s keeping him in the news. Yesterday, the former SC judge and now PCI Chairman once again reiterated his belief that “90% Indians are fools”. I don’t agree with a lot of other things that Katju says but I do find some sense in it when he frequently suggests 90% of Indians are fools. I am also quite certain that he doesn’t mean ‘fools’ as in deprived of thinking skills but rather the unwillingness to think. For a start, it is people from this very 90% that vote for an alien to power for no rhyme or reason. It’s also quite possible that ‘Fair and Lovely’ thrives on much of this 90% population. We have been told that 70% of the nation is made of up youth. Unfortunately, most of the 70% is also made of Katju’s fools. One can’t blame the 40% or so people below the poverty line whose daily struggle would leave them with little or no time to think. But Katju doesn’t specifically state anywhere that this ‘90% fool population’ also includes much of our media. Some of our media people are not just foolish, a few of them border on outright anti-national. That is the only explanation for their going overboard over a private visit of a much-maligned President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan. Affectionately called ‘Mr.10%’, Zardari crossed over to lunch with our PM, Manmohan Singh, on his way to pray at Ajmer. Perfect! Why MMS is not called ‘Mr. 10%’ is a mystery to me.

From Times Of India
Take a look at this cartoon from Times of India. Observe carefully. There is something seriously missing. I will leave it to you to figure what is missing for now. Sometime in 1998 in the middle of all the sex scandals Bill Clinton bombed Sudan and Afghanistan. Turned out the target in Sudan was a pharma company. Never mind. Clinton was then accused of diverting attention from the scandal and the incident even seemed inspired by a movie; ‘Wag The Dog. Zardari’s visit is somewhat similar. Look at Pakistan – plagued with troubles, a bounty on terrorist Hafiz Saeed recently announced by the US, a general election around the corner and the list could go on. It was the perfect time for Zardari to go on a religious trip to a shrine in Ajmer in India. To add to emotional content he tags along son Bilawal Bhutto. Aha! Like our own Priyanka Vadra, Bilawal doesn’t seem very willing to let go of the Bhutto tag. Perfect! On the other hand there’s MMS, drowned in a sea of scams. If Zardari wants to pray at Ajmer MMS makes sure he doesn’t pray on an empty stomach. So he invites him to lunch on the way. Nothing wrong, these are common courtesies to be extended to any state head. Nothing wrong, except another foolish episode by our media.

From the morning of April 8 till around 4pm in the afternoon when Zardari finally left Ajmer all the usual suspects were on TV. Fortunately, Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami chose to stay away. However, we had Barkha Dutt on NDTV, Suhasini Haider on CNN-IBN and the rest with a non-stop commentary on a non-event. Was there anything to the luncheon meet? Except for small talk maybe nothing was expected and nothing happened. The usual invitation to the PM to visit Pak, and a similar invitation by Bilawal to Rahul Gandhi apart, the other loose change was predictable. Zardari talked about Kashmir and Siachen and MMS talked about terrorism. This is the ‘foolishness’ Katju is probably referring to. Fed on a daily dose of tamasha and cover up of real news,  people generally ‘drink the sand’ even when they know it doesn’t quench their thirst. And if nothing came out of the lunch, there was always soap in the form of Rahul-Bilawal.

Pic received from @Sheefal
So some of our media slaves started belting out stories of how Rahul and Bilawal are similar. How both are soft-spoken and thorough gentlemen, though I’m not quite sure Rahul wants to get rid of his newly acquired ‘angry-at-everything’ image. I don’t know much about Bilawal because he is yet to demonstrate his stupidity. However, if stories that abound somewhere, as here in the Daily Mail, he is truly equipped to match Rahul in every respect. Like drama-queens they even strike similar poses as the pic shows. Would be harsh to comment on Pakistan and Bilawal. But yes, it does take a nation of fools to put an established fool like Rahul Gandhi in any seat of power. But like Katju says, we have 90% fools here and which is the reason RG is even in the limelight. The much touted ‘intelligent’ youth of the nation is brought up by our media on a healthy diet of Pyjama Cricket, Bollywood crap and shows like BigBoss. I can assure you 90% of these youth, the future of India’s glory, can’t find Bangalore or Bhopal on a map. I would credit them with extra-ordinary intelligence if they even manage to name the state capitals of MP or Kerala unless they are residents of those states.

One of the other problems with the media and our politicians is this mirage of  a peaceful and friendly Pakistan. This not only gives them enough to spin tales, it keeps the money flowing. Sons often carry on the legacy of their parent or the promises the parents made. This Bilawal is the grand-son of a Bhutto who has promised a “thousand-year holy war against India”. This Bilawal is the son of a Bhutto who can be credited with fomenting and sowing the seeds of terrorism in Kashmir. There will never be peace with Pakistan. NEVER! Our option is to not seek a war or any conflict but this charade of peace is a tool with which politicians and media fool the fools from both nations. And we have 90% of them, as Katju frequently reminds us.

Change is inevitable. But we have had a long line of PMs who have had less of a political inclination and more of an emotional attachment to the nonsense called Pakistan peace. And the media, in its quest to earn a few more bucks, adds to this blatant untruth. MMS may long for his hometown in Lahore or Advani might long for Sindh. The emotional connection is fine. But unless and until India has a PM who has no baggage of historical connections and is willing to look at Pakistan for what it is today, there isn’t the slightest chance of any reconciliation or peace. Zardari is affectionately called ‘10%’ but MMS is a ‘10%’ too. MMS is 10% PM and 90% either a puppet or a doormat. Worse, MMS could be 10% and the rest of him could fall in Katju’s basket. The problem with the TOI cartoon I first referred to is that it shows only Zardari sitting on the lap of his army boss. The right one would have been to also show MMS sitting on the lap of Sonia Gandhi. That would be reality. In absence of any real powers vested in either Sardarji or Zardarji, this is just a meeting of two 10 Percents.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Shekhar Gupta Lays An Egg

General Douglas MacArthur was easily one of the most powerful army generals there ever was. He was the youngest Chief of Staff of the US Army. He was the one that oversaw the surrender of Japan in 1945 as WWII ended. For many years he was effectively the ruler of Japan. He was Field Marshall of the Philippine army as also the Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific area. In 1951, in a continuing confrontation with his boss, President Harry Truman, he was fired. Gen. MacArthur remains a celebrated hero in the US. Parks and monuments are named after him. Stories about him are told in classrooms. Songs have been written and sung about him. Films have been made about him.

Gen. MacArthur left the army in honour. But if you go by the imagination of the likes of Shekhar Gupta the general would have conducted strange manoeuvres to battle the President instead of leaving and almost staged a coup. Maybe he would have even declared himself permanent emperor of Japan and Philippines This is what journalism has fallen to at the Indian Express. Turning incidents of ‘un-notified’ troop movement into fear-mongering and misleading the nation to believe there was grave danger of a coup. We will come to all of that in a bit.

Before you proceed maybe you would like to look up a bit of history. Here are some posts on this site about Gupta’s passionate skulduggery for the Congress party. ‘Shekhar Gupta's Summer Freeze’, ‘Shekhar Gupta - Doctoring & Nursing The Congress’ and ‘Saving Shekhar’s Indian Express’. Nobody can recall how a newspaper that was famous for its bold anti-establishment stance and standing up for freedom of the press has come to be a doormat for a political party. In the recent past Gupta and his pitiful rag, including writers like Tavleen Singh, have done hit jobs on anyone that has had a confrontation with the Congress-UPA govt. This includes Anna Hazare and Team Anna, particularly Kiran Bedi, Baba Ramdev and now comes the turn of the Army chief Gen.VK Singh.

So today, April 4, the Indian Express splashes a front page story with screaming headlines: “The January night Raisina Hill was spooked: Two key Army units moved towards Delhi without notifying Govt.” This is about the night of January 16 when the Army chief and the govt. were in a confrontation over the General’s age issue. On January 16 the army chief had filed a petition in the Supreme Court in the issue of his date of birth. Strange co-incidence at best you might say. What’s the story? Intel agencies reported an unexpected, un-notified movement by key military units, from infantry units based in Hisar (Haryana) in the direction of Delhi, about 150 km away. Following this, there was a flurry of activities in the defence department with even a Defence Secretary being recalled from a foreign tour. That the troops were stopped outside Delhi. To add to the drama, as IE states: “..The situation changed rapidly, though. Reports came in of yet another military movement “towards” Delhi. This unit was identified as a large element of the airborne 50 Para Brigade based at Agra”. The govt. didn’t know and according to the IE report army spokesperson had clarified that these were routine exercises.

But the mischief is not in the event or the incident of January 16 itself. The mischief is in the headline of IE, especially when read in the background of recent bad-blood between the Army and the Defence Ministry and the govt. It clearly led all other news outlets and the general public to believe that there was a possible ‘coup’ attempt that night. Clever! And throughout the day news channels have been busy discussing if it was indeed a coup attempt and what could have been the possible outcomes of such troop movements. Somewhere in his dark, dusty office at the IE building in Delhi Shekhar Gupta and his co-writers of the article, Ritu Sarin and Pranab Samanta must have had a good laugh over having fooled everybody, including their competitors. And if all that wasn’t enough you will have Sagarika Ghose, India’s best Defence expert, debating if reporting on ‘sensitive’ matters relating to the Army is  ‘anti-national’ on her show FTN on CNN-IBN. Bravo!

So what exactly was the motive for Shekhar Gupta’s mischief? Let’s read the opening lines of his article: “This is a story you would tell with extreme care and caution. But it so starkly characterises the current state of top-level politico-military relations that it is a folly to keep it under wraps, as the entire establishment has tried to do for a full 11 weeks now”. So you read that and tighten your belts to read the biggest scandal or potential threat. But the article hits the peak in the first few lines and then its downhill all the way. For all the experts who speculated on a possible coup the IE cleverly doesn’t even mention the word even once. That is great trickery at its best because it leaves so much to your imagination. At a press conference reporters even asked A.K. Antony if there were threats of a coup and he dismissed the IE report as ‘baseless’. The PM dismissed the IE report as ‘alarmist’ and TimesNow had to call in expert Mahroof Raza to explain the coup possibilities. In his usual candid assessment Raza dismissed the possibilities as ‘nonsense’ without actually saying so. Another past senior army officer called the report “planted by anti-national elements”. I would tend to agree with him. So essentially the IE article was sensationalism at best and utter nonsense at worse. Other than the spooky headline there is actually nothing in the article that is worth being alarmed.

Given that the Army chief has had confrontations with the defence ministry, there is a stinging letter by him to the PM which was leaked (and exposed by DNA), and this has resulted in the govt cutting a sorry figure in the continuing episodes, something had to be done. That seems to be the motive behind the sensational headline by Shekhar Gupta which makes it sound as if the Army had nearly run over an elected govt in India. Secondly, the article also clandestinely casts a shadow over Gen. VK Singh and makes it sound like he may have gone to the extent of over-throwing the govt on account of his fight with the govt. Of course, it doesn’t say all this in so many words but let’s you draw that conclusion. So like with Team Anna and Kiran Bedi and others Shekhar Gupta attempted another hit job on the Army and the Army Chief. Unfortunately, his attempt can be best described as a ‘failed coup’.

Despite his confrontations with President Truman, Gen.MacArthur was and remains forever a very popular General. The govt. probably realised that there is little they could do with Gen. VK Singh considering the immense popularity he has acquired as he took on corruption and the corrupt in the Army. Had they so desired they could have removed Gen. Singh but not tried to dent his reputation and popularity. Instead, there has been a lot of mud-slinging against Gen. Singh from the govt. and particularly the ‘anti-national’ media. Shekhar Gupta’s ‘failed coup’ is another attempt at that and nothing more. That the entire story could be a 'plant' is further reasoned by this article in the the SundayGuardian: "Senior minister Sutradhar of coup report?"

Once upon a time the IE was the second most read newspaper in Bombay and in many other cities. It has sunk without a trace in many cities and survival against competition can only be with putting out lousy stories with screaming headlines. By evening today, Shekhar Gupta is the laughing stock of the nation. He will really have to start worrying how he spooked himself and IE. He managed to lay an egg alright. LOL! He made only one mistake – He should have called Arindam to count it before it hatched. As it stands, this has to be the worst report of the year gone terribly wrong so far.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Now, Media Endorses Adultery

Guy comes home after a hard day's work. Finds his wife in bed, probably nude under a blanket that covers her from neck to toe. Gets a curious look on his face. Suspects something’s going on. Starts looking around for the culprit. And there in the closet finds John Abraham. But the ever loving John has a good excuse for being in the closet. He was “searching for his bag” – Skybags! John gleefully explains the beauty of Skybags and those ‘caster wheels’. Says those are handy to ‘run’. And then demonstrates it by jumping out and running away, dragging his Skybag with him. Husband nods in admiration at his wife and says “it can really run”. Skybags saves the day and the wife escapes being caught at her adulterous affair by a dumb husband. Are you laughing? Well, you’re supposed to because the whole thing is intended to be humorous.

Skybags - Adultery is Okay!
That would have been okay for an Adults joke book. But what exactly is such an ad doing on news and other channels in the MSM? Weren’t these guys supposed to be the ‘moral watchdogs’? Be it porn or murders resulting out of affairs, our news channels don’t tire telling us how Indian values are being lost, how society is dumbing down by the day. They even get psychologists to analyse us. Ah well, I suppose given that much of our media is essentially a Page-3 club these affairs and adulterous conduct would be normal for them. Lately, very few days have passed when some channel or the other hasn’t discussed porngate and have had debates over whether porn should be legalised.

First, let’s get the Adultery part over with. Under Indian laws Adultery is punishable with a fine or five years in prison and can also be grounds for divorce. The woman is not considered guilty and is not punishable. In the Skybags ad, it implies the woman is clearly adulterous but we can’t be sure about John because we don’t know if the guy is married. But that is about the ad and I guess Skybags, which was launched around 1992-93, must be having a hard time with sales and needed a silly ad to get back into good business. But this is about our media. And greed is their creed! If it brings in the moolah, anything goes.

The editor of a news channel, as with print media, is responsible for all content that appears on it. Be it news, be it ads, campaigns and even the scrolls that run at the bottom of the screen. So if this ad appeared on TimesNow, NDTV, CNN-IBN then Arnab Goswami, Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai respectively would be responsible. True for other channels as well. So the very people who lecture the nation on morals do not think twice before carrying an adulterous ad. Is the ad illegal? No, in my assessment it is not. But surely, these editors seem to have missed the double standards they practice. Who knows, next time there might be an ad where a man rapes a woman and then escapes by using Skybags, since it’s quick on wheels, or some such product and our editors won’t mind carrying it. Looks like morals end where money starts. More importantly, these very channels who scream day in and out about women’s dignity and rights do not mind carrying an ad where one is portrayed as cavalier bimbo.

There is this Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). This is another toothless body, like the PCI, made up of media channels and advertisers and advertising agencies. Still, I am sure even the ASCI will not deny that the Skybags ad is in bad taste. So the next time our media sermonises on porn, just remember they are fine with and endorse affairs and adultery. In their Page 3 culture there’s nothing wrong with that.

Moral of the story? If you’re planning to have an affair or commit adultery, make sure you have a bag with wheels. It makes for a great ‘Getaway’ and our media supports your adventure. Have a good one ! Hahaha!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sanjay Pinto Mourns Social Networks

When the opening line of an article reads: “I'm all for free speech and against attempts to gag dissent” it’s a clear warning about what is going to follow. All the ‘Ifs and buts’ and then sound reasoning why there should be regulation and some form of censorship will start pouring. Surprisingly, in the MSM it doesn’t come from religious heads or bigots. It usually comes from news reporters and editors. The name Sanjay Pinto didn’t seem very familiar till I looked it up. Aha, this guy is from the same stable that holds the social networks in utter contempt – NDTV. Funnily enough, Pinto appears prominently in their section called ‘NDTV Social’. After all, it was originally his colleague and frustrated star Barkha Dutt, the epitome of decency and uprightness that first waged a war against bloggers and lost. Something about the social network bothers Barkha, Nidhi Razdan, Sonia Singh and now Sanjay Pinto. I am tempted to ask ‘Sanjay Pinto ko gussa kyon aata hai’ after reading his piece titled “The Social Network — Unknown abusers” in The Hindu. So let’s see what Pinto had to say.

Pinto writes: “The tenor of anonymous tweets would make even the most liberal crusaders for free speech think twice about demanding the decriminalisation of defamation. There is intolerance for ‘the other view', vulgarity and vituperation in 140 characters. There is mob psychology at play. And there is uncontrolled, apparently unmonitored rudeness on what is meant to be a wonderful platform to “find out what's happening about people and organisations you care about.” Mob Psychology? Hahaha, welcome to ‘The Family’! Of all the people on Twitter Pinto seems to be reading tweets only from the rude and vulgar ones, especially the ‘anonymous’ types. You should really be reading the feedback page of NDTV or any other channel where you can read comments from people who watch the channel are displayed. Oh, now don’t ask me where that feedback page is, because you’re not going to find it anywhere. For NDTV and Sanjay Pinto it is hard to even listen to and absorb genuine feedback or criticism so why should this guy be even bothered with rude and vulgar tweets. And where do these supposed journalists even get the right to deliver moral sermons?

The problem with these moralists is that it’s the identity that counts and not what is being said. If Shekhar Kapur were to tweet Barkha Dutt and say “Your program sucks” then that would be okay, but if an anonymous person were to say the same thing, he would be a troll. After all didn't NDTV misuse a tweet by Amitabh Bachchan to imply he rubbished Virat Kohli? (And later apologised) Still, look up Barkha’s TL on her Twitter account and you will find endless tweets of ‘Thanks’, ‘Thank you’ and so on. You are unlikely to find any response to criticism. When Prasanna Vishwanathan (@prasannavishy), a popular tweeter and respected web journalist himself, once pointed out a critical article to Barkha, she barked back: “Why don’t you and your friends go rant in your own corner”. Sagarika Ghose once responded to the same person with the remark: “You’re a gutter-snipe”. Now, I can tell you with a good deal of certitude that @prasannavishy is neither anonymous nor a troll and you will agree if you go through his tweets. Sanjay Pinto probably doesn’t read tweets from his own ‘mob’ who may be non-anonymous but are quite frequently as rude and vulgar as the ones he laments about.

And no, I really haven’t forgotten the anonymous part. Pinto seems to be unaware that if there is some serious trouble then even anonymous accounts and fake IDs can be traced and located. That, though, is not the problem here. You see, this Pinto and his mob sort of believe only those who reveal their identity have any right to comment or tweet. By this stupid logic we should also know who voted for whom in a ‘secret ballot’. Okay, that might sound silly but here’s a brilliant note on why anonymity is as much a valued possession as an identity. Tweeter @RealityCheckInd wrote this piece “Thank you from Google India” during the height of Kapil Sibal’s nonsense about pre-screening.  I recommend Sanjay Pinto and all the other morons in the MSM read the piece before breast-beating about anonymous users of the social network. And Pinto forgets, it was CNN-IBN that was begging Bachchan to promote one of their programs or articles on Twitter because of his celebrity following. Naturally, of what use are anonymous idiots!

Pinto goes on: Fake profiles, especially for public figures, have become such a nuisance that genuine users are inconvenienced. For instance, the twitter ID ‘Rajdeep Sardesai' is taken. The original Rajdeep has had to create one in true Olympic-list style with ‘Sardesai Rajdeep'. Here, the nature of the tweets, scoops or programming information, are usually enough to distinguish a real celebrity from an impostor. Really? What is it about CNN-IBN’s Rajdeep Sardesai that makes him the ‘Original Rajdeep’. LOL! Did he invent the name? The @RajdeepSardesai account clearly and sarcastically mentions he is not to be confused with the RS of the Cash4Votes infamy. And by what logic does Pinto imply that the @rajdeepsardesai account is an impostor? I can guarantee there might be at least a 1000 Sanjay Pintos in India. Which is probably why even his Twitter account has an underscore to it (@sanjay_pinto). If you go through the TL of @RS you won’t find any tweet or message that remotely resembles those of the IBN Rajdeep and nor does it claim to be even a parody account. But these are the childish concerns that seem to occupy the idle minds of journos like Sanjay Pinto.

Pinto also talks about defamation. As far as I can see there are really no serious cases of defamation on the social network. People on the network aren’t stupid enough to fall for lies and frivolous comments by others, whether anonymous or identified. And defamation happens only when people seriously believe some falsehood about a person as being true. Hypothetically, if I were to call Sanjay Pinto a part-time bar dancer not only are people unlikely to believe me but I would be receiving a lot of brickbats and very scathing criticism from readers of this blog. The problem with the Pintos, Barkhas and his clan is that they do not believe that common citizens have the brains to sift the grain from the chaff.

Here is what really bothers Pinto as he writes: "In most newsrooms, Twitter is slowly overtaking even news wires as a source of information. When this medium is going to occupy such an important role in our lives, users must be entitled to higher standards of reliability and safety. For starters, let the social-media moguls work to ensure better safeguards against misuse. And let users start reading the terms of service before clicking on the ‘I Agree' button”. That is true, the MSM is really rattled that some media other than their own has now the power to influence opinions and events. If morals and righteousness were the issues Pinto would be asking Barkha, Sagarika and many others of his ‘mob’ to resign from their jobs for the immense damage they have caused to journalism. But no, like the ones named Pinto believes they are ‘God’s lonely messengers’ and their turf shouldn’t be invaded.

Friend @WordofThefree who brought Pinto’s POS to my notice also tweeted that there are Block buttons, Spam buttons, Report buttons. I believe instead of sermons, Sanjay Pinto should first learn to use those buttons. If defamation is an issue, far more cases can be piled up against the MSM media mafia than on those on Twitter or any other social media. Pinto would also do well to read my previous post and realise the MSM channels abuse Twitter far more than any other group.