“The presstitutes deserve it”

Responses to my previous post, about the MS Dhoni presser, have been illuminating. I’ll just say thank you to the positive responses — and to my surprise, there have been many such — without elaboration.

On the negative side, two responses — or rather, two types of responses — surprised me. One view, expressed in different ways by a few people, said in sum that “presstitutes” deserve that kind of response. On a related note, someone suggested that public figures should stick with one word responses in future.

That line of thinking misses one point: A journalist, however good or bad, is a conduit between a public figure and the public itself. The answer the journalist gets is the answer you get. So if you are fine with being fed platitudes, or say-nothing BS, or even angry non-responses, fair enough. But do understand that the ultimate consumer of interactions between journalists and public figures is the reader, that is to say, the public. It is not for the private pleasure of the journalist. Or is that too much nuance to handle?

And on that note, to those defending Dhoni’s response, one question: How much did that response help you understand the bafflingly inept India-Bangladesh game, and its implications for India’s progress in this tournament?

The second category of response that baffled me runs somewhat on these lines: When Dhoni says something it is uncool, but when the reporter is questioned it is an FOE issue.

Say what?

A reporter asked a question. That is what he is there for — and for the purposes of this argument, let’s not get side-tracked with how the question was asked, or what baggage the questioner and his subject carry from the past. MS Dhoni responded as he thought fit. That is ok too — no one questions his freedom to speak as he wishes.

My post did not seek to question Dhoni’s freedom to express himself as elegantly or inelegantly as he likes, or is capable of — it questions the content of the response. What on earth has FoE got to do with any of this?

The knee-jerk, off-point responses that used “FoE” and “presstitute” (one particularly articulate gent used “presstitute pimp”, which betrays an abysmal lack of knowledge of the mechanics of the sex trade, among other things) and “MSM” (particularly laughable, given I am not employed by any media house, and this is my personal blog) makes me wonder.

It strikes me that Twitter, which forces a 140-character limit on our thoughts and also puts a premium on instantaneous response, has created a class of people who have grown incapable of holding and articulating larger thoughts.

For this section of people, Twitter is a god-send: You just need to memorise the favored tropes of your particular peer group (“anti-national… presstitute… FoE… sickular… pseudo-intellectual… commie… right wing fundamentalist… chaddiwallah… sanghi… goon… “) and then throw them around like so much confetti, irrespective of what is being discussed.

The illusion is that you have contributed something relevant to the debate, but that illusion mistakes abuse for argument. The reality is that you have shown all the intellect  and nuance of a bumper sticker.

And with that, sufficient unto this day… see you guys tomorrow.


25 thoughts on ““The presstitutes deserve it”

  1. While I do not agree with Dhoni’s response, I am also sympathetic to him. That is the general sentiment among fans and people who follow the game. And there is wide spread hatred of journalists, may be the journalist and writer community ought to introspect why the general public dislike them so much? why the faith in journalists is so low? The answer is very few journalists do their job in good faith, very few are unbiased, almost no news paper is fair. And the readers see that. So you see this anger… Dhoni tapped into something with his response. We won a close match and the rather than asking a question on the captain’s thought process, the first question you ask is how badly we played..

    • Yes, Dhairya, I understand. And, speaking as someone who voluntarily left mainstream journalism for pretty much the same reasons you state, I empathise. I submit merely this — if you let personal feelings, or even the state of the media, affect how you interact with the media, you will drive away the good people. And be left only with the bad. As to thought processes, that IS the question: How does this outcome match with your expectations, are you content?

  2. The problem is essentially that our mediafolks think of themselves as the conscience keepers of us all. Especially since the masses are ingnorant idiots like us in ur eyes.
    U write: ‘That line of thinking misses one point: A journalist, however good or bad, is a conduit between a public figure and the public itself.’
    This no loner holds true. I am as much a journalist as u are or that reporter. My knowledge and qualifications are no lesser than urs. So be humble & do ur job. U r nt better informed than ur audience. Remember that

    • Oh wow. That much contempt for people trying to do their job the best way they know how? Ok then.

        • No, actually, though you’ve been posting the same Hindu-related stuff on every post of mine, I have patiently — and politely — responded thus far. Now it stops, because I realise you have only one thing to say and you just want to keep repeating yourself ad infinitum. I don’t stop people from saying what they want to, but I am not about to get dragged into irrelevancies. Anytime you post something that relates to what I say here, I’ll respond. Cheers.

  3. “A journalist, however good or bad, is a conduit between a public figure and the public itself.” Missing one adjective before conduit “self-appointed”-don’t like the idea of public having a mind of its own eh? Also “The reality is that you have shown all the intellect and nuance of a bumper sticker.” To me, sounds rather condescending-Judge, Jury, and Executioner (and of course the sole repository of all wisdom-on whatever the subject may be!).

    • Sorry, Ujjal, we are not “self-appointed”. Journalists are hired to do their jobs, just as you are hired to do yours. And yes, we like the public to have a mind of its own — not merely to repeat contemporary tropes and buzz words. Which was sort of the point of my piece above. I am sorry if it all sounds “condescending” to you — I am sure you had no such intent when you put down journalists as “self-appointed” and suggest we don’t like a thinking audience.

  4. Thanks Prem for capturing the real essence of the match. India was lucky to scrape through the match. Dhoni did make tactical mistakes but was quite funny to read the tweets calling him a genius and what not.

    Having said that as others have pointed out, Dhoni always being a level headed person might have let his guard down after being emotionally drained out.

    Please continue to post your thought provoking articles.

    • Thanks, Sengo. No matter how it appears, it is not my intent to play gotcha. Ironically, while the game is on, when he pulled off that stumping, I posted on Twitter: “That is a gem of a stumping. Some day they are going to auction this on Sotheby’s” — and I got slammed for it, by at least one poster who asked me if I had seen Kiran More in England in 1998. My point is this: When someone does something good, pointing it out is part of the brief. But by the same token, when someone does something not kosher, it is equally pertinent to point it out. I find it ironic that people expect the media to play cheerleader — and then when they write fawning pieces, dismiss them as “paid media”.

  5. Nice read..
    Someone sent this analysis that I haven’t had time to verify and authenticate…. Here it goes: ” Dhoni’s distance from the stumps for the last ball : 13 meters from the stumps
    Mustafizur Rahman was standing at the non striker end when the ball was delivered: 19 meters from the stumps, with the bat and hand extension giving him a 1.5 meter advantage: 17.5 meters from the stumps
    When Pandya bowled the last ball, Mustafir had already left the crease and when the ball reached Dhoni’s hands, he was already half way down the pitch: 10 metres
    Now it was a battle between Dhoni at 13 meters from the stumps (who had to start running) and Mustafir who was 10 meters away from the stumps with the added advantage of 2 meters (extended bat): 8 meters ( who had already running in full throttle). Mustafir had a 5 meter advantage; infact 6 meters considering the fact that he just had to cross the crease
    No other wicket keeper in the world would have tried to run all the way to the stumps considering the fresh fast legs of Mustafir. Some might have thrown the ball at the stumps. If Johnty Rhodes was behind the wicket, he would have attempted to fly down and knock the stumps. But Dhoni tried to do the unthinkable. He tried to do the impossible. He took on Mustafizur.
    Dhoni covered the 13 meter distance in 2 seconds (A start that Ussain Bolt would be proud of) and also defeated Mustafir’s extended bat.
    Everyone talks about the presence of mind that Dhoni has and the manner in which he removed the gloves for the last ball; yet if we analyse the last ball minutely, we will realize the roaring lion that resides inside the captain cool Dhoni that made him run like a mad man. That is the confidence that moves the entire team.”

    I am not one given to jingoistic adulation of public figures.. Sport to me is not war and an issue for national survival. Sport is just a sport, to be enjoyed and appreciated. For sporting excellence irrespective of the color of jersey and the logo of the board that the player represents. Also, Dhoni is a sportsman and thankfully not a politician or a diplomat. Although post facto analysis could reveal glaring tactical errors made during the play, I have little reason to believe that he gave less than 100% during the matcriticism therefore possible to feel outraged and slighted at any form of perceived criticism. Especially if there is some “history” between the journalist and MSD.. Which goes to prove that he is definitely human, and thankfully so. Let’s not be too harsh about that ill thought of response. He had after all won a hard fought game against a side that today is much improved from before, capable of giving any established cricketing nation a tough competition. Yes we all are worried about the NRR.. But his actions during the play of that last ball were pure insane.. That of a man whose instincts helped carry the day. Should be have taken a shy at the stumps instead? What is he was a split second too slow and the batsman had made his crease.. After all, he had to be twice as fast. And if he had failed, we would have questioned the logic of trying to take on an impossible task, when throwing the ball was more sensible. But that was a choice he made, and a play that won us the mad. Analysis is a great thing. Unfortunately, it’s always in hindsight. During the play, it’s more of instinct and dare… And that’s what makes sport so much more interesting than commentary. Let’s cut the man some slack. I could not find malice in his speech.. I would not want to. Neither should anyone else. Let’s just play cricket. Win or lose, it’s not the end of the world. I think MSD is a better man than many… And a good sportsman too.

    • Thanks for the first half of the mail. I agree that the run out was well executed; it has much to teach us about self-awareness, evaluation in a split second of the options, etc (like Jonty Rhodes’ famous flying run out, actually). I’ll leave aside the hypothetical of “If he had failed” — simply because that IS only a hypothesis. What I don’t get is the “cut the man some slack” thing. As a fan, certainly. As a cricket reporter — and now I am thanking all the gods I know I quit that line ten years ago — isn’t the job to analyse, to point to what went right and equally what went wrong? What has MS being a better man than many (certainly including myself) got to do with any of this? If I am doing a match report, I see my job as to cold-bloodedly analyse what actually happened, not to make allowances — that I do as a fan, but as a writer on the game I’d fail in my duty if I had that mindset.

  6. Hi Prem,
    Two thoughts, one on the question by the journo, and the other, slightly tangential.
    1) The question itself wasn’t inappropriate, just badly timed. It could have waited another day, when the excitement had died down a bit and some perspective had returned to proceedings. In the context of the aftermath of a once in a decade win, without even waiting for the victors to avoid the win, it was a pretty dumb question to ask. IMHO.
    2) Your statement above, “A journalist, however good or bad, is a conduit between a public figure and the public itself”, was really opportune. What are your reactions to the piece by Andrew Fidel Fernando a couple days ago, after SL lost to the Windies, claiming that SL conspired to keep Gayle away from strike? Did you think that showed any degree of journalistic integrity? It was passed off as a tongue in cheek piece, but the passive aggression shone through, and completely betrayed the team’s trust in their main conduit to the public.

    • To (1): Sadly, you only get one bite at this cherry. The presser after the game. And in that, you get to ask ONE question, IF you are lucky to be picked. The option of waiting another day does not exist – layers are not available. (2). Fernando’s piece was out of line. As journalists, we sometimes hear things off-record. We can claim “public’s right to know” and publish – but sense and sensibilty applies. For instance, an official might brief me about say a security threat. The need for security trumps the right to publish. Here – I haven’t read the piece yet – it would be ok ONLY IF during the conversation the journalist sought permission to publish. Else it is a betrayal of trust.

      • Sorry, Krishna, that anonymous reply above is from me. I was typing that without having logged in to my account.

  7. There was also bit sarcasm in reply to @SrBachchan
    “T 2184 – With all due respects, it would be really worthy of an Indian commentator to speak more about our players than others all the time.”

    MS reply to above
    @msdhoni Mahendra Singh Dhoni Retweeted Amitabh Bachchan
    “Nothing to add ”

    And today Harsha:
    Thanks to some of you for your comments on what seems a misconception of the role of a commentator. For the rest, will post shortly

    There is a difference between being a world feed commentator and a geographically specific local feed commentator.

    • Also, there is a fundamental difference between cheerleader and commentator. The latter is supposed to talk of what is actually happening on the field — and if on the field the other guy is doing well, then he can’t just keep going rah rah our boys.

  8. Hi Prem, your pieces are never less than thought-provoking, thanks as always for sharing your thoughts.
    To your point: “the ultimate consumer of interactions between journalists and public figures is the reader, that is to say, the public. It is not for the private pleasure of the journalist”
    You’re right, of course, but I think the issue is that many of us in the public feel that mainstream media [the journalist who asked the question, not you] no longer speaks for us. They seem to operate from a worldview so diametrically opposed to ours that whatever response they get is not really relevant to us. It’s like if someone who believed the earth was flat asked a bunch of questions on that basis. Yes, whatever answer they got is the answer the public would get, but as a member of the public I’d sympathize with the celebrity for telling off the journalist instead.
    My point goes way beyond this one cricket question, of course. There is a general sense of disgust at the mainstream media that is very clearly perceptible. And I come from a family which has had links to journalism going back 3 generations. It is unfortunate to see how low the profession has fallen in public esteem due to the brazen acts of a few bad eggs. At this point, for me and several others like me, anyone who “gives it back” to a journalist is almost a hero by default. Sounds unreasonable, I know, but that’s how frustrated I am right now at the mainstream media.
    I realize I am generalizing from my own experience here, but curious if you’ve observed any similar trends, or what your thoughts on media houses like HT, Indian Express etc are.

    • Of course there is a lack of trust in the media. And undoubtedly some part of the blame for that situation rests with the media itself — we fucked up in many ways over time. Equally, some part of that is the result of the echo chamber, which visits the sins of some on all. To say the media as a whole is compromised is to say that the airline industry as a whole is a bunch of crooks because, Vijay Mallya — but that is the equivalence being drawn vis a vis the media today. I do have thoughts on why this is happening — and yes, I do have some similar thoughts — but that is possibly a subject for a lengthier post/response, another day.

  9. Thanks for the posts. Completely missed Dhoni’s comments. Dhoni got carried away with his personal issues with the reporter. Was Dhoni implying the reporter was anti-national ?

    Can you translate the Hindi dialogues to English, next time ? All of us do not understand Hindi fully.

    Did you notice that if Dhoni did not force Ashwin to run the risky 2nd run on the last ball of Indian innings, India may have been 1 run short ?

    • Will keep that translation bit in mind, Arnott. And yes, I noticed. Also a few occasions during the innings when the normally sure Indian running between wickets faltered, with the result the strike didn’t get turned over and we bled possible runs. We were 25, maybe 30 short of what was possible given the pitch, the conditions, the bowling and our own line up.

  10. Actually, there was another point 😀
    M R Dhoni… left me wondering if there was something wrong with the teleprompter at that end haha. Like you know, M R S Sirisena or if that was a typo. Yes, all contributions are welcome, sometimes just for the hilarity that ensues. Have a good night…

    • Dhoni’s reaction was not cool definitely but definitely not uncalled for.Tone and intention are important. Which is why most of us found the questions asked to Sunny Leone (which were legitimate according to the journalist) offensive. Yes we know a public figure has to be used to this, but they are at the end of the day human and it we the fans who deify them.While Dhoni could have responded the way you said, I am sure the journalist would have got the response he wanted if he had simply phrased the question as ‘ While it is great we won, but the narrow margin hasn’t really helped the NRR situation, what do you think could have been done better today ? ‘ I don’t think Dhoni meant to bring in the anti national element at all, it was more of ‘ you arm chair critics only know how to crtisize without any understanding of the game.’

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