Thursday, 6 August 2020

Blissful Ignorance

Updated: April 20, 2013 5:34 pm

INDIA THAT IS BHARAT

 Satiricus is a journalist, so he can authoritatively say that the advice contained in the heading of Justice Katju’s recent newspaper article is superfluous. That heading is “How not to be a journalist”. With all due respect, may I point out, Your Honour, that only a journalist can know how not to be a journalist. The essence of journalism, Sir, is to say nothing in so many words. And that is by no means easy. As you have pointedly pointed out in your very first sentence, “Journalists comment on everything under the sun.” But can journalists do that unless they are not journalists? Blissful ignorance is our stock-in-trade, and the newspaper in which your article appeared is an excellent example of this. For instance, this newspaper had once run a week-long series on how madrasas are pious schools of religion. Isn’t that an inimitable instance of ignorance of what the whole world knows they are? Then there is a shining secular light of journalism who recently wrote in a column in the same paper that Islam and Islamism are two different religions, and Islam is good, Islamism is not. Had this journalist read and so knows those 24 ayats of the Quran against which there was a court case years ago on the ground that they were inflammatory? Apparently not, obviously because it is criminally communal for a secular journalist to know. Then again, Satiricus recalls that when, some years ago, the RSS conducted a national awakening campaign for which it published a series of booklets describing the amazing scientific achievements of ancient India, how did Indian journalism treat that description? It rubbished it as just “claims” not worthy of considered true. Why? Because all this science is written in Sanskrit, and for a self-respecting journalist of modern India it is indecently infra dig to know that language of outdated Bharat. On the other hand, a few years ago you had yourself delivered an extensive lecture on Sanskrit as the language of science. What does that show? It shows that, handicapped with knowledge as you are, you cannot become an acceptably erudite journalist equipped with adequate ignorance.

Then there is also another important aspect of ignorance that is a sine qua non for journalism. It is that journalists are wordsmiths, so it is required that they should not know the meaning of the words they use. Look, for instance, at how routinely we of the English media use the word “cleric” for a mullah or a maulavi. We do not know that a cleric is specifically a person who performs religious functions in a Christian Church.

All these solid arguments against Justice Katju’s heading should convince the court that he may know how to be a journalist, but he does not know how not to be a journalist. Unfortunately, his subheading is equally untenable. In it he says a qualification should be a must for a professional journalist. That is a dangerous doctrine, for a qualification would need an education, and being educated would strike at the fundamental right of a journalist to being illiterate. It would also denote deplorable discrimination, for it would unfairly exclude us journalists from those 90 per cent Indians whom Justice Katju had recently certified as idiots.

And finally, the question of questions apropos Justice Katju’s questionable thesis does he really believe a professional qualification makes a better professional? If it does, why, as Satiricus recalls, had the US government many years ago instituted an official inquiry into why so many doctors were so wrong so often? What came out of that inquiry Satiricus does not know. Why? Because he is a journalist, a professional journalist, and the cardinal canon of his profession is not to know.

Of Donkey Contesting And Horse-Trading

A student organisation of Bengaluru has reportedly nominated a donkey to contest the coming assembly election in Karnatak. The general secretary of the organisation said, “If elected representatives can participate in political horse-trading after every election, why can’t a donkey be a part of it?” Satiricus quite agrees. In fact even the dictionary agrees. For ‘donkey’ comes from ‘dun’ and one of the meanings of ‘dun’ is a ‘dark brownish horse’. So the contesting donkey would be better at the usual post-election horse-trading, being etymologically almost a horse itself. But will the Election Commissioner accept the donkey as a candidate? He may resort to trivial technicalities for rejection and say the donkey is not a citizen or that the donkey is not on the voters’ list. That would be a pity. For many an accepted and elected candidate would later probably make an ass of himself.

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