I have always maintained there are two Rajdeep Sardesais – One the buffoon on TV and the other a profound thinker when he’s off it and writes blogs. RS himself has stated sometimes that he would have loved to continue as a print journalist than as one on TV. I can understand that. Anchoring on TV doesn’t need being thoughtful, it’s a ‘show’ as they all call it. His latest lament is about the lack of genuine public debates on issues. And, as with the family extension of CNN-IBN and NTDV, his choice of publication is naturally Hindustan Trolls (HT). His latest Friday Blogbuster is “No Questions please” on June 15. We’ll come to that in a minute.
“The lowest part was just being in prison, it is a lonely place. You are sent to prison to serve time but I reversed it and let time serve me… You are just no good to anybody when you are inside”. That is criminal Ade Orioke who had spent about 1o years in prison. He now has a regular career and is frequently counselling prisoners and criminals. So you see, it took prison to help Orioke see there could be another side: A life of decency. That may not be an isolated story. Closer home we have the story of Laxman Gole. He was a prisoner who is now into spreading the message of Mahatma Gandhi. Rajdeep’s story is somewhat similar. He is acutely aware of his crimes on TV but when he puts pen to paper or words from a keypad to the screen he sees things differently. But, unlike reformed criminals, RS is still unable to move away from his TV agenda. Let’s see what he has to say.
|That's dirty & upside down.. Buy a new mirror|
“Move over George Bush, Baba Ramdev is here. In the course of a recent interview, I asked India's tele-friendly yoga guru-turned-black money avenger, the source of his great wealth. "Why are you asking me these questions? Are you with us in the fight against corruption or with our enemies?" was the Baba's riposte. Ah! Asking mildly uncomfortable questions to an anti-corruption 'crusader' meant that you had somehow switched to the 'other side'. Us and Them…. Last year, the redoubtable activist Aruna Roy was virtually chased away from the Ramlila Maidan by Anna Hazare's army of cheerleaders and dubbed a 'traitor'. Her 'crime'? She had sought a wider public debate on the Lokpal Bill as formulated by Team Anna. But then, when you are so utterly convinced about your own cause and your infallibility, where is the space for any debate or dissent”? First, RS is a terribly confused man. To equate BRD with Bush is outright stupidity. BRD speaks from a position of weakness and Bush spoke from a position of immense power (after the biggest attack on the US). Poor analogy! Besides, the fact that RS has an in-built dislike for BRD was already established last year when his channel indulged in extra-ordinary mudslinging against the saffron clad Guru. And what about Aruna Roy? She wasn’t literally chased away as readers might understand. She’s not just another activist, she is a member of the powerful NAC, Sonia Gandhi’s tool to draft unwanted laws. So if she is at odds with TeamAnna they are well within their rights to reject her. Would RS invite Arnab as an expert on his channel or vice versa? Or even his close friend Barkha Dutt?
“The intolerance that appears to drive the anti-corruption 'revolutionary' mindset is equally applicable to those in the government who oppose them. Last week, when Team Anna members raised the pitch on coal allocations, senior ministers responded by dubbing them 'anti-national', even raising the spectre of the ubiquitous 'foreign hand'. Yes, the language used by some of the respected members of our anti-corruption brigade has been coarse and ill-judged, but is that reason enough to dub them anti-national”? Alright, so it doesn’t take even a petty criminal to decide who is in a position to cause greater damage. TeamAnna or the Govt.? Don’t complain about the language of TeamAnna. They are being far more polite than the language ordinary people use to describe UPA, the most corrupt govt in the history of this country. Come on Rajdeep, have you not been provoked to use the F word yourself when agitated, in public? So why sweat the small stuff? Why poke holes into language and bury the main issues. What exactly had CNN-IBN done to pursue Coalgate even after the CAG report? You see, on TV we do shows, we can’t do more than that now, can we?
“Indeed, a creeping intolerance now threatens to destroy the very basis of democratic freedoms in the country. Don't like a cartoon? Ban the book. Don't like the questions asked in a television chat show? Walk out of it, and dub the audience 'Maoists'. Don't want a debate in Parliament? Block the House by forcing repeated adjournments. Don't like questions raised on sensitive issues like the Gujarat 2002 riots? Start a character assassination campaign on social media, or worse, file a sedition case. Narendra Modi, the BJP's poster boy, in fact, is a good example of the polarisation of public opinion. Praise the Gujarat chief minister's administrative acumen, and you run the risk of being accused of a 'sell-out'. Question the Modi government on its attitude towards minorities and be damned as a 'pseudo-secular' 'anti-national' humbug”. I won’t go into the fact that RS was one of the pioneers of the massive campaign of lies against Narendra Modi in the media. And what’s the point behind quoting a few incidents to characterise all of democratic freedoms? Who was the guy, as head of the Editors Guild of India, who staunchly defended the corrupt journalists in Radiagate? There wasn’t any outside influence there. Or is it okay when media is concerned because “Hammam main sub nange hai”?
“This 'twitterisation' of news now threatens to overwhelm us, within and outside the media. Governments and civil society groups have a proclivity to play to the gallery, offering few solutions but ever-ready to enter into slanging matches. The result is more heat than light, a greater emphasis on noise than knowledge”. Of all the people and groups that RS names the only ones truly playing to the gallery are the utterly corrupt media morons. It is no secret that media celebs hate the freedom of internet. How does RS explain the art of blocking anyone who even slightly questions any media celeb? How does he explain calling them trolls or fascists as media celebs do? How is that different from tagging and character assassination that he laments? Where does such hatred for ordinary people come from? And then talk of tolerance? Whoa! And much as RS may lament Twitter I can bet his last dirty mirror that there are far more gems of genuine wisdom on Twitter and social media than all his filthy mirrors and all the pole-dancers on TV channels.
“Sure, the media offers a ready platform for this 'game' to be played out, but it isn't as if a television studio is a magnet that should make us lose our finer senses. Why don't those in leadership positions recognise their obligation to enriching the public discourse rather than making it more debased? The answer is not long periods of silence as preferred by our PM who appears unwilling to even attempt to converse with the nation. But neither is the solution a hyper-ventilating 'shoot-and-scoot' culture that is preferred by some of our so-called moral guardians”. Well said! But people have come to expect less from politicians but expect journalists to be a lot more decent. Why does Rajdeep’s channel keep bringing on the most uncouth, uncivilised guttermouths to their debates? What finer sense compels him to allow a slanging match on his channel? I don’t know if RS considers his role as a media head a leadership position. How does he allow a person like Sagarika Ghose to still continue on the channel despite her many serious goof-ups? Can’t manage his own house and then tries to sermonise ordinary people on decency and tolerance. At least you can't accuse Baba Ramdev of not managing his own house pretty well.
Still, I have often given credit to Rajdeep Sardesai for having a conscience (and still do) that often strikes when he’s off TV. He does make an effort to be thoughtful and wanting change. But change won’t happen if you keep looking at the same dirty mirror. Maybe RS should just buy a new mirror without dirt and smudges and look at himself in it. That might tell the truth.