I was supposed to be in Kerala this week — partly for personal reasons, partly to meet with some local journalists and grassroots politicians from both sides of the divide to gain some sense of what is going on in my home state. Torrential rains and a landslide blocking NH17 along the Thamarasherry stretch of the Ghat road caused a postponement, but news from there continues to stream through my email box. Like, so:
#1. Students Federation of India goons attack policemen attempting to prevent them from clashing with a rival group. Nine suspects have been booked in the case, under Section 332, causing hurt to deter a public servant from his duty. (more stringent clauses, relating to assault, attempt to murder etc would be a more effective statement).
A bunch of local BJP leaders embarked on a cleanliness drive in Seoni, Madhya Pradesh. A bystander asked one of the leaders, a woman, when she will clean her own locality.
You will totally believe what happened next. (Apologies for the clickbait phrasing, and for the foul language contained in the video clip linked above, but you need to see the video clip for yourself.)
Man, someone once said, is the only animal that selects someone less capable to lead him.
H/T Saji Nair on Twitter.
And that reminds me: my DM is open on Twitter. And then there is the comments section here. Appreciate tips to stories that I should read and/or that you seek comments on. I’ll try to swing by at least twice a day to check.
Arnab Goswami is again in the news. This time, for making up an entirely fictitious account of his encounter with a lynch mob during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
“Making up an entirely fictitious account”, which is how I described the act in the previous para, is of a piece with “alternate facts”, the coinage popularized by Kelyanne Conway — epistemological obfuscation. What Goswami did, shorn of such window dressing, is: he lied.
Rajdeep Sardesai and other senior journalists who were Goswami’s colleagues at NDTV at the time were right to call out the lie. One of the issues with the press is that it takes unto itself the power, and the responsibility, to ‘speak truth to power’, but when it comes to wrongdoing by peers, falls strangely silent.
This is — I can’t seem to find the right word — a revealing speech by Narendra Modi from back when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Fake news damages public trust in news media.
Fake news undermines public confidence in our democratic discourse.
Fake news exacerbates economic pressures facing quality news organisations.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, fake news highlights issues of responsibility and regulation in our fast-evolving media ecosystem.
Excerpted from a speech by Lionel Barner, editor of the Financial Times, that is worth reading in full. Bonus: Octavius Caesar.
On a tangentially related note, I’ve been thinking about and collecting examples of clickbait journalism — which, along with fake news, is metastasizing into a major problem for a media already shorn of credibility. My growing collection includes annotated examples from various media houses (all of which I’ll bring together into a post one day soon). Here is the example I picked to annotate today — see the comments appended to the highlights, and the summary story right at the end.
Update“We are out here cleaning India Gate. Cleaning programmes are going on across the country. The message is we have to keep India clean. Everybody and not just government officials will have to participate in this. And it has to be an everyday operation, not just once in a year and not just for the camera.”
Alphons Kannanthanam, a recent inductee into the Union Cabinet, was doing his bit for the Swach Bharat cause — pity that he first arranged for cameras and the press, and then had volunteers litter the India Gate lawns so he could “clean it up”. That he then lectured about camera-ops is merely the ironical icing on the cake.