Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bark In The USA

This is the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series. Most of us love those movies, they’re fun. In ‘Goldfinger’, often rated the best Bond movie, M asks Bond: “What do you know about gold..?”. Bond says: “I know it when I see it!” That is actually a legendary line a US Supreme Court Judge Potter Stewart used in a case about pornography. True for Bias! “You know it when you see it”.

I know a few things that a journalism course might teach. I estimate, though, that they don't run some chapters on how to deal with the "Truth". So Barkha Dutt in the USA, on a “sabbatical” as she says, looked at TV channels like Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and wants to educate Indians on “bias”. So she writes “A Rashomon effect” and doubts over the singularity of ‘Truth’. She borrows the concept from Akiro Kurusawa’s movie. Fair enough. That is about perception of observers of the same event, somewhat like the tricky but gripping movie “Usual Suspects”. In contrast, if one were to use a Hercule Poirot story or movie as example it will be easy to understand how he uses a process of elimination, with even 5 or more suspects in some cases, to arrive at the ‘Truth’ about the real criminal. What creates bias on TV, which BD talks about, is really not about different perceptions but that the “usual suspects” are used to peddle “perceptions”. This is when “bias” slowly morphs into “agenda. This is the serious mistake that BD and many sermonisers make. Let’s go through some of her write.

As a journalist you train yourself to treat both accolades and abuse with the same level of levity; you tell yourself over and over again to not take yourself seriously and you even learn, eventually, to laugh at yourself. You understand that being in the public gaze inevitably comes with being viewed through a coloured prism — whether rose-tinted or jaundiced. And you develop the ability to lightly shrug off the distortions of a persona foisted on you by others.

Read that opening paragraph carefully. Read again please. Did you? Alright, in the very opening you are declared a prejudiced, jaundiced abuser if you’re not one showering accolades on BD. Smart, eh? Since when is “abuse” the antonym of “accolades”? ‘Bouquet and brickbats’ is a common phrase but ‘Accolades and abuse’? And then the “persona” is foisted by others? It has nothing to do with what the individual herself has done? The opposite of accolades could be censure, rebuke, denunciation, reprimand, criticism but it’s highly unlikely that you will find “abuse” as an antonym. Talk about “perceptions”. Hey, how about: “If you’re not with me, you’re an abuser"?

Towards the end of her article she talks about the Socratic ideal of the unexamined life. There, in that one sentence above is my assessment of BD’s examination. Now if she wants to call it abuse she is welcome to it. Let’s take up some channels BD mentions. BD has simply Coleridged herself, that’s all. Did you ask, what the hell is Coleridged? I don’t know, but I said that cuz it sounds very “intelligent” and “intellectual”. No? Look, if you disagree, you’re abusing me!

Let’s take FoxNews. It’s a known Conservative or, as BD would like to call, a Right-wing news channel. It is not driven by a single personality like NDTV, TimesNow or CNN-IBN but Bill O’Reilly of the channel is a popular and controversial media celebrity. Hard-hitting, opinionated and sometimes even humorous and enjoyable, Bill is the typical arch-enemy of the Left-Liberal channels in the US. Bill is often accused of going after people whose thoughts or actions run against his or FoxNews’ “fair and balanced” agenda. In a recent case his rants against abortion specialist Dr. George Tiller was perceived to be part of the cause for the doctor being shot dead in 2009. That is the “perception” although it may not be the reason at all. Politifact does state:“We found at least 42 instances of O'Reilly mentioning Tiller by name, going back to 2005. In 24 instances, we found that O'Reilly referred to Tiller specifically as a "baby killer”.  

Tiller the baby-killer, rhymes well doesn’t it? Now, compare that with how systematically and consistently channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN have allowed tags like “mass-murderer’, pogrom, genocide. That is not bias, that is “agenda”. Bill O’Reilly makes no secret about his anti-abortion bias. In case of the Indian channels they cloak their bias with intelligent and intellectual debates. They specifically call individuals who have an interest in the agenda and then claim tag lines like “Experience Truth First” as NDTV used to. Singularity of truth? Oh yeah! Narendra Modi is still alive. For all we know, the hate-campaign unleashed by some of our media channels could very well have had him killed. A hate-campaign based on lies, untruths and engineered “perceptions”. The truth might free Barkha but it might piss her off too. Quite often our media celebs tar the truth as “abuse”.

CNN, a lot more centrist, is going down the ratings charts as BD correctly observes. This is more because CNN makes a “fake” attempt at “fair and balanced” debates on issues that do not require debates at all. Let’s take the current Robert Vadra and Salman Khurshid cases. Do these require TV debates? There can be the Rashomon tactic of movie making or the Hercule Poirot method that channels can adopt. Obviously, the Poirot method requires “little grey cells” (as Poirot himself would say) whereas the Rashomon one requires just creative scripting. Both Vadra and Khurshid cases are ones where documents can be scrutinised and investigated and may be one or two legal experts can comment. Instead, getting political spokesmen is the idea of deliberately clouding issues and engineering “perceptions”. Which is the reason CNN’s pretences of bipartisanship fail. Documents, facts, truth do not require a debate all the time unless you are conducting a “show” as all our channels do. Do they?

Let’s turn to MSNBC that BD mentions, a prominent leftist channel. It has celebrities like Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann. Oh wait! Olbermann? Yeah, the same guy who was suspended from the channel because he made an undeclared political donation to three political candidates. That broke in the same month as Radiagate – November 2010. Haha! Regardless of what the bias, indiscretions aren’t tolerated by MSNBC. Fareed Zakaria was suspended too. But hey, even after suspicions of “lobbying” and “power-brokering” in ministry formation, BD merrily continues on NDTV without any censure or investigation. Now that’s at least one major difference between the “biased” US channels and the “biased” Indian channels. Let’s read some more by her:

But if there’s one accusation that can still get a rise out of you — triggering annoyance, exasperation or weariness at different times — it is the charge of Bias. So whether it’s from the online armies of ideologues and their weapons of mass fabrication; or more sincere feedback from people who may demand to know why your views on a certain issue have altered — in India, the debate around Media Bias remains volatile, but essentially shallow and infuriating…..

Yet, wearing your political bias on your lapel microphone seems to be the new mantra of successful television in the US. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vitiated political environment in India and the constant pressure for a more provocative and opinionated media, sees a similar trend for us. Whether that’s a good thing or bad- ah well, that would probably depend on your ‘Bias’

So the online armies have their “weapons of mass fabrication” and BD alone has the truth. Ah well, she has the truth, you have the fiction. Like I said there is something worse than bias; it’s called “manipulation”. We know it when we see it. It is precisely for this reason that a few months ago I monitored every minute, every second of a program by BD on NDTV. Instead of merely peddling an opinion, as BD does, I decided to check with statistics and timeshares. In the post titled “NDTV–Evolving The Gandhi” I found that the entire discussion, just before the last UP elections, was manipulated in terms of timeshare in favour of the Congress party. BD herself was more or less the spokesperson for the party. Even her “acting” was bad. That is not a one-off episode. Just before the 2009 general elections BD did an interview with Priyanka Vadra (or Gandhi at election times) which can be best described as “emotional rescue”. Perception or truth? We know it when we see it!

The comparison with the US model is mindless. If they wear their bias on their lapel mics, the Indian counterparts wear it on their mics and even their sleeves. The US has only two main political parties across the board. In India there are more than 60 big and small parties, all vying for power and for the loot. A vertical division of media in the US by bias is not the same as the devious manipulation by news channels as we see in India. The right-wing or conservative channels in the US too came up only in response to the biased, manipulative left-liberal channels. Fox News came up only as recently as 1990s and has been very popular with the conservatives. If the leftist Indian media doesn’t stop their manipulative ways then right-wing news channels will come up here too, and that wouldn’t be bad either.

The problem with Indian news channels is far worse than mere bias. The media celebs rarely touch upon the epidemic of “paid-media” and other media crimes. Recently, a channel has even been accused of blackmail with a sting operation. Now who is to say which channels are not guilty of such crimes? As for Barkha, there is no real need to justify bias. A prominent panellist recently told me: “When I want the Congress viewpoint on issues I just turn to NDTV, it’s a lot easier”. You see, she might feel Coleridged. It’s a reference to the “Albatross around the neck” she carries; that of Radiagate. It’s from a poem by Samuel Coleridge. As an English-literature expert I’m sure BD is unlikely to have missed that. That’s probably the reason for her frequent anguish over accusations of bias or her persuasions and “imaginary abuse”. What would be considered a “bite” by Barkha in India is just another Bark in the USA.

“A second-class mind dealing with….” is a quote from famous British Political Scientist Harold Laski.


  1. only by true penitence was the 'ancient marner' able to cast off the dead albatross from around his neck . barkha ,radiagate , penitence ??? like the kid in 'the sixth sense' could see dead people 'we the people' will always see the radia albatross around dutt's neck

  2. Brilliant as always!!! I so wish for a indian version of the 'mccarthy witch hunt' of the media mafia with who else but you in the lead when this morbid govt goes!!

  3. Barkha is trying very hard to prove to us that what she did during Radiagate was a 'normal' thing for the journalist and hence she has done no wrong. But she forget that we audience can also analyze. The Supreme Court has lambasted media for their role in Mumbai terror attack. She will not touch that at all. The TV media blocked all the news related to Abhishek Manu Singhvi having sex with one of the lawyers in his office. Robert Vadra has been given security check exemption from the airport since 2004. But Barkha never made that an issue. She give us the example of US journalists but had she been caught in that country playing the role of power broker she would have been fired and made redundant.

  4. As usual a nail on the coffin and shaming some one who is shameless. The substance in BD article is like Kesab sitting in Gandhi samadhi for non violencce. Ravinar has brought out nicely the intolerant attitude of BD towards other point of view not agreeing with that of BD. Her bias in her views as well as their Channel in toeing the line of Congress in general and the dynasty in particular.

  5. Superbly wonderful. Your eye for the detail is simply amazing. I had read the article before i read your critique and i must say that being careful about MSM as i have now become, i was still somewhat fooled by her verbal jugglery. Amazing stuff. You are such an inspiration....

  6. Tired of saying...Good Article once Doubt about it. Its only an irony that Barkha Dutt thinks US media r politically biased bt forgets abt herself.
    After reading ur blogs and tweets, my way of watching the news and debates had changed.


  7. Post after post I'm just amazed how you can go on writing Such simple yet incisive Writing! Hats off mate!

  8. Hi Ravi,

    I am going to provide a link to this article of your via my latest article. Hope it's OK with you.

    At a recent event I had posed the Radia Tapes episode to Vikram Chandra, maybe it has been relayed to her either by Vikram Chandra who did not reply to my question or by Shekhar Gupta who had replied on behalf of NDTV.

    Anil Kohli

    I sincerely hope that this article by her was in response to questions being raised by us on her role in Radia Tapes.

    1. just go through link regarding sharing n distribution of Content on this Blog.

  9. Barkha Dutt is the Robert Vadra of media. Everyone knows the Padmashri, Radia, 'evolving Gandhi' etc. Bias, favoritism, quid-pro-quo; everything is as evident as the Sun. Unfortunately nobody will recognise this 'evidence' till a Kejriwal conducts an "expose".

    On Barkha Dutt there is a national, or perhaps international consensus on her being a Gandhi family / Congress poodle. She claims that she treats accolades and abuse with the same spirit. If that were true she should have blocked Mr.B.Raman aka papa spook on twitter ages ago. Her brief estrangement from TV(albeit on a sabbatical) has only increased the frequency of papa spooks accolades (or love tweets - accolades are objective, no?). Of course she blocks only those who disagree with her, oh, I mean those who abuse. Enough said about Barkha.

    Now to Mr.Mediacrooks - absolutely awesome one Sir. One of your best posts. You bring together literature, history, global insights and of course satire with a brilliant balance of being entertaining and informative without sounding pretentious. Keep them coming.

  10. NDTV with the likes of Barkha is going to go the KingFisher way pretty soon. In my area the cable operator has removed this channel saying NDTV is charging too much, and to his surprise nobody seems to be complaining - that is how unpopular they have become after the 26/11 charade of broadcasting and of course radia gate.

    I have lived long enough in the US to understand why a channel like Fox News had to be born to counter the leftist media. In the US, you have everyone from MSNBC, Jon Stewart & Hollywood rallying behind the leftist thought process. Now I am not saying that is a bad thing, nor am I a conservative or right wing ranter, but evolution has shown that when a great force builds up on one side, it is only natural for a counter force to be born. That is the beauty of nature and I only hope India gets a channel to counter the existing media crooks, because I honestly don't believe they are going to change on their own

    Love your blogs and every word in your writing reconfirms my contempt and lack of faith in India's paid media. Sadly for them, the people who watch their shows are also the ones that are active on social media and as every day passes, they are being exposed more and more

  11. Sometimes I wonder will happen to Barkhas and Rajdeeps of Indian media after 2014, will they be there or will they disappear, well we can keep on guessing on that, but one thing is sure with Kejriwal roaming around with explosives, any day can be a doomsday for these media celebs

  12. i hated barkha, but now fel sorry for thorough is your deconstruction of her...superb..!

  13. Only u can give a befitting response to the BD post and it was coming as soon as i read that post by BD And as i tweeted that time also US channels are not hypocrite like ndtv and cnnibn .These channels show their bias (as admitted by Barkha)openly.I am not privy to those channels but it is clearly showing in her post.These celebs are ok with praises from "Shaukeen"s driven by their open infatuation. The opposition of bias is labelled as abuse .Today on Big Fight there were panelists with agenda and Ms Sucheta rightly said dey were their to crucify Yogendra Yadav(i m nt a big fan of him)and the irony is that what the very same celebs have been doing all these years to Modi is being done to their paymasters .Now they have problem with prejudging,tarnishedimage,reputation,pronouncement of guilt even before trial.They look so foolish .Their memory may be short but not ours.And then they accuse us of abuse.

  14. To Barkha,

    Good luck with your sabbatical!! Keeping in mind the 2014 India elections, the timing seems just about right to learn propaganda based news/opinion from the masters of the newsy universe (FOX/MSNBC). Good luck with your training. Learn well.

    As you will spend more time in the US you will realize that most people who watch Fox News and MSNBC are hard code right wings or leftists. These "news" channels, or "opinion" channels, are strictly targeting their respective audiences. There sole job is to stroke their conservative and liberal base and keep them warm and cozy. The ratings are really meaningless and just a business representation of their success (money). Fox has the highest ratings because about 100% of the conservatives stick to it like the gospel of truth on the other hand liberal's are really not as devotional as their conservative counterparts. CNN, though struggling with their ratings, is still the representation of unbiased media in the US thus far.

    However, keep in mind that slowly but steadily majority of the world is getting its news from the internet where users can catch your lie and call your propaganda without having to interrupt your "live" feed. So, cable news business models (Fox, MSNBC) may not really apply to the this new "Free" world. Therefore, I suggest that you keep that in mind while you train yourself in the US. Contant brain washing by biased news creates extremist!! Does our country need more extremists? Look at the Gabby Gifford (US congresswoman from Arizona) shooting incident. Look at the gun control policies in the US. These biased news channels will destroy the fragile fabric of the Indian society and further divide us into smaller fighting groups (like we already aren't)

    1. "These biased news channels will destroy the fragile fabric of the Indian society and further divide us into smaller fighting groups (like we already aren't) "

      Totally agree with this last statement !!!!!! Exactly my fear too. But the jokers in the industry are moving the whole system to that inevitability, dont you think ? Does BJP stand a chance against the NDTV/CNN propaganda barrage unless they start their own?

  15. Ravinar I am privileged to read your post. It feels like I am reading articles like Lokmanya Tilak used to write in Kesari. My grandpa used to speak highly of him. You are a credit to your profession.

  16. Barkha Dutt's lame attempt at equivocation is superbly demolished by Ravinar. She is by far the vilest of media celebs. Undoubtedly her article was aimed at justifying Indian media's bias in general and her channel's in particular. There is a ready audience in India which laps up even the untruth if it's packaged in a Western label. By citing American channels she tried to obfuscate. Ravinar rightly said that FOX was a direct outcome of a response to break MSNBC's stranglehold over opinion making space prior to 90s. We are evolving towards that. It's high time we got our own version of anti-LibLeft mouthpiece, not necessarily a rehash of FOX. Social media has definitely turned the tide against leftLib space but its reach is limited. Vast majority still follows TV.

  17. Barkha, Ravinar and people who are on this comments thread are all giving Indian journalists too much credit. They should be regarded - rightly I may add - as corrupt, on sale to highest bidder, not biased. Bias at MSNBC or FOX comes from some coherent political ideology. They are not freeloaders like Barkha and Vinod Sharma who can be bought by anybody for the right price.

  18. The problem with pitiful Barkha Dutt is that the US model can not be applied to India.

    Barkha Dutt should look to Communist China for how to run a propaganda machine for the state more efficiently. China's state agency will provide goods tips for Barkha and Congress on how to subjugate the population with lies and censorship.

  19. In 5 years if India is polarized the top seven people I'd blame are
    1. Barkha Dut
    2. Rajdeep Sardesai
    3. Sagarika Ghose
    4. Nidhi Razdan
    5. Vinod Sharma
    6. Vinod Mehta
    7. Sonia Singh

    I'd like to see an ultra Hindu channel that just says things I'd like to hear.
    Am affraid to admit thats things got out of hand for the absense or weakness of Saffron Terror.

  20. Those lecturing on US media forget that most Indian reporting is actually 'editorial'driven.
    The only time a Kashmiri Jihadist was ever questioned on camera,it was the JKLF terror-commander on Hard Talk-BBC by Tim Sebastian.
    India's self acclaimed 'liberal' media facilitated political makeover of Pak-fed Kashmiri jihadists responsible for the continued 'death & destruction' in Kashmir & who deserved to be tried for crimes against humanity. They roam free now peddling pan Islamism inspired 'separatism'.
    Why is media shy of acknowledging that extremist Kashmiri nationalism is associated with only those Kashmiris who are Muslims who regard Kashmir unfinished agenda of Jinah's two nation doctrine led partition? Conspicuous silence over India's only ethnic cleansing i.e of Kashmiri Pandits who were tagetted for they were seen symbolise Indian presence in Kashmir & for they professed a different faith continues to prevail.

  21. As usual a brilliant ananlysis. I wonder whay a channel like FoxNews does not come up in India even now? Is it shortage of money or lack of courage? Or does the creidt for it also goes to UPA govt?
    We only hope that such a anti-secular anti-liberal channels comes up soon and we can watch Ravinar and his kinds, ripping off likes of Barakha Dutts live on the channel.

  22. Brilliant dissection, Ravinar. I stumbled across this site an year and a half back, and have been glued to it ever since. Hats off to you, and keep up the good work of exposing these media crooks.

  23. Great article again... BD is worst of all

  24. As paragraphs from her article have been reproduced, Mention the link to that article at the end of your article as "Courtesy:". These frustrated media guys can stoop to any level.

    1. @Deshabhakta

      The article itself is mentioned and highlighted as a link in the 2nd para.

  25. i got same thoughts like u but putting that on to paper only you can do it...hats off to u man...may god bless u

  26. Dear Ravinar,

    Awesome analysis. First of all, would like to thank you for introducing me to the US media world when you started with Jon Stewart and Bill Maher - i picked on from there and graduated(via youtube :) ) to Maddows , Letterman , Olbermann, Bill o Reilly , Wallace , Glen Beck etc etc.

    I learned that 90% of the 'shows' in English Indian media are cheap and feeble imitations of whats shown there. And like how we imbibe the western cultural traits, only the bad ones are being copied over - not the good ones.

    As much as i like our BD's, RS's, SG's and Pranny Roys to go down the drain,i disagree with you on your view that we need a fox equivalent here.

    If every political party ( sorry, whom are we kidding? every business family in the country) , starts their channel to control the narrative in a country like India where 'basic literacy' is still a measure of progress , our streets will be full of 'rage' demonstartions and riots. That kind of media narrative works properly only if the average education level of viewers are good - dont you think?

    P.s : Coleridged !!!!! , I've got to remember that one :D :D :D


    1. @Praveen

      Read again.. I have not said "we need" a Fox equivalent. I have said if our media continues this we might have a right wing equivalent which may not be bad idea either. That is not the same as me wanting or recommending a new channel of any wing. That's not my business.

    2. Ahh. ok. What i meant is, 'we' the viewers.Followers of a political party will always find sources for their information( at least i am getting mine). Despite the existing propaganda , i dont think any party in opposition is having trouble in letting their followers know their view. Its the not-so-political class which is at a disadvantage. But, not very sure a similar rant in opposing narrative is good idea either.

  27. Sir

    You are doing a nice job of seperating of truth from lies uttered in the MSM. In some ways easy because all that MSM says mostly is false, but to provide the facts is quite a tremedous job.

    I would like to get your views on, why the average Indian repeatedly gives votes to the Congress even after scams and corruption and the MNC style of working.

    I have recommended your site for few of mine friends, but I have gone through all the articles and now if ever see the news debates it will be like watching some comedy shows, which I doubted previously. But my doubts are completely cleared.

    Thanks for the enlightening articles.

  28. Barkha Dutt is Burka Dhutta..........


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