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.
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.