The case against ‘left media’

Swarajya, the soi disant alternative to ‘left-wing media’, has an interesting piece up.

The opening gambit: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a touch over the top when he spoke of a shadyantra, a conspiracy, against him, but he was right in its essentials — to wit, that the left-controlled media deliberately seeks to torpedo all the good that the central government is attempting to do. Further, that the left-media picks its time, and rakes up ‘issues’ only at opportune moments, for definite ends: Dadri to deflect from the visit of Angela Merkel; JNU to disrupt the budget session, etc.

I’ve been a practising journalist for 25 years and six months now, and I am yet to encounter this “left media” — if by that you mean a hydra-headed beast that thinks as one. My experience has been somewhat different — competition, not camaraderie and certainly not some Left Central GHQ where opinions and talking points are shaped and transmitted to all outlets. Equally, my experience has been that none of us like each other very much (probably because of serious disagreements, but equally likely because we are each trying to eat the other’s lunch). And yet, I keep coming across this trope — a “left media” that thinks and acts as one.

A think piece doing the rounds attempts to define this notion of ‘left’ and ‘right’. Quoting, first, the “left”:

When I say “Left” I club all those people who call themselves secular, liberal, freedom-loving, pluralistic, et cetera, into this category. I have no problem with terms like secular, liberal, freedom-loving, pluralistic, et cetera (in themselves they are highly noble terms ) , it’s just that I don’t believe that they truly follow these ideals.

Now, the “right”:

Right, for the time being, are the people who are opposed to the Left-thinking people and additionally, they are not apologetic about voicing their opinions when it comes to issues related to Hindus and Hinduism. In my category of Right, these individuals are not hostile towards other religions but they want to put a stop to the nonsense going around about Hindus in Hinduism.

Shorn of verbiage, the definition appears to be: Left is everyone who ever profess to hold an ideal, which however they don’t believe; the Right is everyone who opposes anyone who by this definition is Left.

Which brings up my immediate dilemma: I happen to love freedom; I am secular/pluralistic if it means I don’t give enough of a fuck to ask a person what his caste or his creed is before I interact with him; I am sort-of liberal (my friend Amit Varma, who has won the Bastiat Prize, an unprecedented two times, for his truly liberal viewpoint, will tell you I am not all there in the liberal stakes; another friend, Ramesh Srivats, who is a practising liberal, told me over a few beers yesterday, in as many words, that my ‘liberalism’ is a joke.)

Trouble is, for what they are worth, I happen to believe in the ideals I hold — whatever the author believes. So now am I disqualified from membership of the Left club because I happen to actually believe what I say, whereas club membership is restricted to those who mouth those ideals but don’t believe in them? How does this definition work, exactly?

Back to the Swarajya piece which, having set up the premise that shadyantra might be too strong a word but there is definitely a conspiracy, segues into an exhaustive laundry list of the Right’s serial lunacies:

· Anupam Kher likens the action against protesting students as pest control to get the house rid of cockroaches and insects.

· BJP national secretary H. Raja suggests that CPI leader D. Raja, in order to prove his patriotism, should get his daughter shot for being part of anti-national protests at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

· BJP MLA beats up a supporter of Kanhaiya Kumar, the arrested president of the JNU Students Union, at the Patiala House courts in New Delhi. He is unrepentant when questioned and says he would have shot the person if he had a gun.

· Lawyers claiming to be patriotic go on the rampage at Patiala House courts, not once but twice. They go about bragging about it, are felicitated and take out a march. Perhaps they have nothing to do with the BJP. But how can one explain the lack of action against them by the Delhi Police (which is under the union home ministry) when there are clear visuals of the hooliganism they have indulged in (and no one is claiming the pictures are morphed)?

· Aligarh’s BJP mayor insists beef is being served in the Aligarh Muslim University canteen and when initial investigations show it is not, threatens to storm the university “even if she has to pay with her life”.

The crux of the argument appears to be that the Left uses these idiocies to direct and dictate public discourse — a deliberate attempt to deflect attention from such life-changing events as Make in India Week and thus sabotage the good the Modi government is trying to do.

It’s a bit perplexing. Conferring on myself membership of this “Left media” simply for the sake of argument, what would you have me do?

Would you have me ignore the fact that the national secretary of the ruling party actually suggests that someone gets his daughter shot — for a crime, incidentally, that hasn’t been proved yet? Would you have me ignore that an elected representative of the people, in broad daylight, resorted to physical violence and then only expressed this regret, that he did not have a gun to do the job properly with? Would you have me ignore that a mayor insists there is beef where there isn’t, and threatens violence anyway? Would you have me ignore this guy below — another elected representative of the people — openly purveying libel and slander?

The argument, reduced to its core, seems to be this: We have a lot — a LOT — of idiots in our party. Misogynistic, casteist, racist, dangerously violent idiots. We hand-picked them to run on our ticket, we gave them free rein for their hate speeches and their hateful violence, we will do nothing to control them, to rein them in, to prevent them from vitiating the atmosphere with their toxic words and deeds though we agree that their words and deeds are “rabid”… — but it is the “Left media” that is out of turn for making a big thing out of these little peccadiloes because, you know, Make in India Week.

I have a variant of Hanlon’s Razor for you: Never assume our malice where your stupidity will suffice.

Seriously? You are a government. You are organising, as a showpiece for your leader, an event intended to kick-start investment across the board. You know that immediately following, you have a major session of Parliament coming up.

And knowing all this, the leaders of your party and your government do nothing, say nothing, to stop what you call the “utterances and actions of the rabid right”, so that attention can be focussed where it matters? Worse — your own home minister makes a bad situation worse by citing fake tweets to draw connections between (allegedly) slogan-shouting college kids and a wanted terrorist, while your own party spokesperson goes from studio to TV studio peddling fake videos?

Seriously — how incredibly inept are you anyway?

The Swarajya piece ends with a prescription on how to counter this grand shadyantra:

The left has to be fought using its own tactics. It operates in a very insidious, sophisticated manner, quietly infiltrating institutions – from research bodies to press clubs – and ensuring that all ideological opponents are neutralised or removed, destroying their credibility through sly rumours, not ham-handed doctored videos.

This is how the right needs to operate.

I have, gratis, an alternate suggestion to defeat this grand conspiracy:

Shut your lunatics down, hard. Tell them that no act, no speech, that distracts from the government’s agenda will be tolerated; that any violation will have serious consequences. Not “arrest” an MLA who, in front of a courthouse, deliberately assaults someone who was doing him no harm, send out a policeman to buy him a nice meal keeping his dietary preferences in mind, and gift-wrap his bail for him (while Kanhaiya Kumar’s bail hearing — on the as yet unproven allegation that he shouted slogans, is still pending).

Try that. Try shutting down your tame lunatics — after all, you have a strong leader of the government in Narendra Modi, and an equally strong leader of the party in Amit Shah, no?

In one stroke, you deprive the “Left media” of the “little incidents” that they, as part of this grand conspiracy, latch on to. In other words, you deprive them of what you yourself identify as their main weapon.

You can’t do that, can you? Because your lunatics are the muscle that you depend on come election time.

In my next think piece, I hope to write a 15000 word piece on how the extreme Right comes up with these serial lunacies — Christ was a Tamil Hindu, it seems — as part of a deliberate shadyantra to disrupt the progressive Modi government.



4 thoughts on “The case against ‘left media’

    • I presume you are making a point? Just to assist thought — ‘left’ and ‘right’ are not absolutes. They are relative to where *you* stand.

      On second thoughts, why bother with nuance?

      • The problem is basically consistency. If you are outraged by a dalit suicide, be outraged by all suicides ( farmers, poor wives etc). don’t just be concerned only by the rituals of hindus (diwali/ganesh nimarjan mess) show your concern for muslim (women’s rights) and christian rituals as well. Do all these media head’s criticize congress and their coalition with as much vigor and persistence as they are doing for bjp and modi? open the opinion pages of any of the leading news media sites. its one author after another criticizing modi and bjp and ‘bhakths’.I am surprised there is not Fox News equivalent in India.

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