The Siege of the Media
The times have changed. Editors have been reduced to the status of lap dogs. Gone are the Editors who risked being sacked rather than compromise on the media ethics. The rest of the rot which has deprived the media its credibility is due to the systematic infiltration by the Liberals and left-leaning intellectuals.
Time was when the media was so much trusted that its views shaped public opinion and the governments were careful not to irk them. Editors were respected for they were upright and fiercely independent. Remember M. Chelapati Rao, S. Mulgaonkar, Durga Das, B.G. Varghese, Vinod Mehta, Arun Shourie, and several other Editors who never suppressed or changed news stories to please powers that be.
The story goes that one day at about noon, Rao’s secretary brought an article which eulogised Sanjay Gandhi and summed up that his life’s mission was to help the poor. With pictures the write-up would take a full page. Rao said, “Have they sent advert money”, to which the Secretary responded, “No Sir, Indiraji herself sent it to you.” Rao said, “Call her office and ask them to send Rs25000 and we will publish it.” The money was sent. Once Pandit Nehru came to the National Herald House without any prior intimation and went up to Rao’s chamber. He was writing editorial so he asked Nehru to wait. And he did wait.
Shourie collected scalp of three chief ministers, all favourites of Mrs Gandhi. Verghese was un-ceremoniously sacked because he defied censorship under Emergency.
Compare these examples to a question put by one of the Jains (owners of The Times of India) to the then Editor about a decade ago: “If you have an appointment with the Prime Minister but I ask you to come to me, what will you do?” The Editor survived because he said he would come to him. The times have changed. Editors have been reduced to the status of lapdogs. Gone are the Editors who risked being sacked rather than compromise on the media ethics. The rest of the rot which has deprived the media its credibility is due to the systematic infiltration by the Liberals and left-leaning intellectuals.
The intellectuals and liberals, ever in pursuit of making themselves more dominant so as to extract more favours from the government or the party in power, realising the reach and power of the media, took over the powerhouses, the news rooms, the editorial room, and in TV channels, anchors had also been replaced by like-minded ones. They were more than willing to do whatever governments wanted. They were no journalists. They believed in give and take. Such trade-off began during Indira Gandhi’s tenure who needed support from the journalists during the Emergency. These intellectuals unconcerned about ethics or the country’s interest—they are only
concerned about their privileges and freebies—started doing what they were asked to–suppression of true stories and replacement by ‘creating’ some ‘sensational’ news. This has come to be known as burying the bad news. The English media persons are adept in this.
If you find, some evening, lots of rushing around and the buzz in the news room, it means a last minute replacement of the real and factual news is being done by trying to write something sensational, under the category of Breaking News. These days, for instance, good news about the government is buried by bad news, if available, otherwise some unverifiable report about something sensational is slipped in.
These intellectuals smug that they are repositories of all wisdom and others outside their clan need to be controlled (brainwashed) by feeding filtered news, become editor-dictator, without any knowledge of journalism. With their air of superiority, they think they are sacrosanct and above scrutiny, particularly by the ones with lowly IQs. These gentlemen become law unto themselves. They have utter condemnation for those who try to upset the status quo —for that would upset their lifestyle and dominance.
The hostility of the media during 2014 election led to constant tampering of facts by them, and the subsequent attempts to highlight bad and derogatory stories about Modi. Thus, over the years the media lost the credibility arduously built by the pioneering Indian Editors, who took over from English editors that included Desmond Young who wrote about Field Marshall Rommel in the book, Desert Fox. They were all astounding editors and their Indian successors kept up the tradition.
Since these “Durbari” Intellectuals infiltrated and became more loyal to the Queen, media has lost its credibility. For instance, why the crowds at Rahul Gandhi is never shown, because the attendance at his meetings is very low. On the other hand there has never been an editorial or panel discussion of the highly successful Jan Dhan Yojana. Why?
Well, Modi has not even seen even portals of Harvard, Oxford or St. Stephens. His heredity is nothing to write about. The intellectuals do not wish to accept his existence. Whereas Rahul has been to Harvard, even if he did not get any degree, his three generations have been prime ministers. He is one of them and thus needs to be protected. Modi needs to be dethroned, how a man like him can lord over them. How embarrassing to tell others that their prime minister used to sell tea. One of them Mani Shankar Aiyer had even offered a space in front of 24, Akbar Road for opening a tea stall, but look at the ’gall’ of the man, not only he ignored the offer but he went on to become Prime Minister.
Intellectuals are thus presently on a permanent state of war. They had to hibernate when Modi’s ratings hit a high. But that does not matter, media has been infiltrated systematically. The professionally correct journalists were hounded out of newsrooms and the ones willing to submit to kill the news asked by the intellectual brigade and substitute them with whatever is given to them are in.
The air of superiority and lack of introspection, which have always been particularly evident among liberal media elites and intellectuals who have become regular commentators in both papers and TV channels apart from stuffing newsrooms and junior editorial in charge by those who do their bidding without demur, has made them feel they are beyond any censure and nobody dare oppose or question them. Recall how the editor of Tehelka who allegedly molested one of his staffer by stopping the lift they were in. He and likes of him consider themselves beyond reproach.
The virtual fourth pillar of a democratic government, operating as a watchdog on the formal branches to further check their potential abuses of power, they themselves have been party to those who usurped all democratic and Fundamental right.
If one has a sense of humour, just watch panellists during a discussion on some TV Channel. The air of superiority and ‘you all asses before me’ attitude of the intellectuals is just laughable. Aiyer in rage called a co-panellist a fool, while another gentleman of similar genre oft says ‘I have the knowledge of Indian politics accumulated over 40 years. In simple words he means, no one else except him can dare talk and opine.
They strut around as if they have a crucial role in keeping our government honest. “That’s fine, but are they aware that they too are capable of corruption and vulnerable to the trappings of power. They are astonished that anyone would ever question their noble character and honourable intentions. It is as if they are saying, “As to the dissemination of news, we are gods, and gods do not need oversight.”
The real abysmal low in the history of Indian media’s history when the Radia Tapes controversy made banner headlines. A report published then is worth reproducing. ‘The Barkha-Vir-Nira tapes have created a storm all over the country. The nation, already reeling under the spectrum scam, wherein an ex-minister is being openly accused of massive misappropriation of the public exchequer, received a far greater jolt with these tapes, wherein it was revealed that Barkha Dutt, the renowned and widely respected star reporter of NDTV was heard discussing with ‘consultant’ Nira Radia how to manipulate formation of the UPA cabinet in Delhi, specifically the DMK share of portfolios and berths.
Not one or two, but five such tapes have so far come into the public realm. There is at least one tape of a conversation between Vir Sanghvi, the authoritative and moralistic columnist of Hindustan Times, with Nira Radia, and it is clearly about ‘fixing’ the cabinet, among other things.
Then there is an interesting conversation of ‘Mr Clean’ Ratan Tata talking about a business rival! All in all, an unedifying story of New Delhi’s corridors of power, which seem to move through five star corporate sleaze, official complicity, political connivance, and media collusion.
This affirmed what is always known–the nexus between business, politicians, intellectuals and journalists, and in this case Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt. “Theek hai, not a problem. That’s not a problem, I’ll talk to Azad—I’ll talk to Azad right after I get out of RCR [Race Course Road, presumably, the PM’s residence]–Barkha Dutt, celebrated NDTV journalist “600 crores! It is hard to argue with that kind of pressure…. Basically what they want is a little bit more flexibility. One more Cabinet, I suppose–Vir Sanghvi, then Executive Director, Hindustan Times.
What happened to them? Nothing to Barkha Dutt, except that her face looked drawn. As for Sanghvi, his weekly column on the Edit page disappeared for over a year. The clan of intellectuals is a very well-knit unit, and they come to the rescue even if they do not know the person in trouble. Remember the number of tweets and statements that followed the arrest of Tehelka editor.
But one must admit that they are very thick-skinned and resilient, possibly they require it to be able to classify themselves as intellectuals. But their insufferable arrogance, bias and corruption has, with the change of the political wind, led to their becoming endangered species whether they rebound or vanish depends on how long they are forced to hibernate. That is why find from time to one of them comes out to make a cause out of some inanity. The aim is to show themselves to the people before they are totally forgotten. But they don’t realise the present generation comprising 65 per cent of the youth dislikes being lectured and hates the snobbish and the arrogant. The Intellectuals must realise that they had, had golden period, it’s over now. The times have changed.
AS Vivek Agnihotri put it, “They filled India’s psyche with fear and hate. They hated all indigenous, grass-root thinkers. They hated Sardar Patel, Lalbahadur Shashtri, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Chandrashekhar, PV Narsimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and now Modi. They are the hijackers of national morality, including Secularism. They are the robbers of Indian treasury. They are the brokers of power. They are the pimps of secularism. They are the Intellectual Mafia.”
And to defeat them, the wall built by the then rulers had to be cracked. It’s now begun. For now its elite vs masses. However, once the intellectuals’ stranglehold on media is over, one can ensure that there will be fair dissemination of news. And is based on the old saying, news is what someone, somewhere is trying to suppress.
By Vijay Dutt