BCCI: the Man Piaba edition

A few news items caught my eye in sequence.

#1. The BCCI will issue another notice (because he blithely ignored the earlier one) to its GM (Operations) MV Sridhar, in matters relating to conflict of interest and possible corruption.

#2. Javagal Srinath to inspect new cricket venues for suitability — his fact-finding trips to be planned by MV Sridhar.

Huh? I’d imagine that if I was employed by a company and it had reason to question me about acts of malfeasance, the first thing that would happen is I would be blocked from playing a role in daily operations. No?

Meanwhile: the Committee of Administrators in a submission to the Supreme Court spoke among other things about the huge expenses being run up by senior board officials. The board’s response? ‘I am not expensive. You are expensive. Nyaaah!’

Elsewhere, the Supreme Court has issued show cause notices to the head honchos of the board, for deliberately flouting their orders.

It’s looking like one of those farcical scenes in old time Westerns, where everyone is holding a gun to everyone else’s head. And in the background, Harry Belafonte’s Man Piaba plays on, softly.

It was clear as mud but it covered the ground
And the confusion made the brain go ’round.

PostScript: In my most recent Scroll column, I had made a tangential point about women’s cricket:

Recent media reports talk of the money officials of the rump BCCI have been spending on themselves. Which reminds me of a point made in an earlier column about women’s cricket. The last time our women cricketers had a contract – in fact, the only time they had a contract – the total annual outlay on 11 players was Rs 1.3 crore. Compare that to the amount of money being spent on acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary and treasurer Anirudh Choudhary.

A question: Have our women cricketers, whose contracts expired in November 2016, gotten their new contracts yet? No? Oh?

Seems a no-brainer, no? Contracts expire, you either renew, or cancel, and whichever it is, you inform the concerned people? How hard can that be to understand, and practice?

The reason the BCCI drags its feet on the question? This.

“Even now, I would still say that it is not yet well accepted within BCCI that women’s cricket is doing well. It is very difficult for them (some BCCI members) to accept the fact that this team has done very well,” said (Diana) Edulji.

Recalling her first meeting with former BCCI president N Srinivasan after he took over the reins in 2011, she said, “When Mr Srinivasan became president, I would like to say that I went to congratulate him at the Wankhede Stadium. He said, ‘If I had my way, I wouldn’t let women’s cricket happen’. He hates women’s cricket.”

 

 

 

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Trumpkins

Donald Trump’s rant at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona yesterday is creating a ton of disbelief, even outrage in media circles. It demonstrates, the consensus goes, that Trump is not fit to be President.

What, again? In just the Charlottesville incident, Trump had already demonstrated that, twice. First when he veered off the carefully scripted remarks on his teleprompter to add the palliating interjection “on many sides… on many sides”. Then again when he rebelled at being made to read an unequivocal statement of condemnation and, first chance he got, veered off the development track at his New York press conference to defend the racists and denounce the protestors. Why does it take a repeat performance in Arizona to convince anyone of the blindingly obvious?

This is now fully in rinse/repeat mode. Trump does something batshit. Cue outrage. The White House tries to contain the damage. Trump breaks free of his handlers. Cue more outrage. And so on, ad Infinitum — the issues change, the pattern never does.

So no, there is nothing about Phoenix to outrage about. At least, there is nothing new to outrage about — the Trump of yesterday is the same Trump who kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists, the first salvo in a series of racist, misogynistic, bigoted remarks that no right-thinking person could possibly condone.

What I find hard to believe is the crowd that surrounded him in Phoenix. As Trump deliberately distorts the case against him, as he portrays himself as the wronged party by fudging his own public words, watch how they nod in agreement, watch how they cheer.heer, applaud, n

Surely they had seen the “many sides” clip too? Surely they knew — as anyone who is not clinically brain dead would know — that he was lying through omission? So how do they smile, and cheer, and endorse a pathological liar?

Is it that they have invested so heavily of themselves in the dream Trump sold them that they cannot now turn apostate, without risking the loss of their self-esteem? And how does this map to events in India, where the powers that be have a large, active cheering squad ready to shield them from their follies, to attack anyone who dares criticize them?

Trump is a walking talking Rorschach Test. We look at him — and what we really see is ourselves.

 

 

 

Media Matters #4: The rise of the pseudo-event

THE PHRASE “pseudo-event” officially entered the lexicon in 1962 and is defined as “an event, such as a press conference, that is designed primarily to attract attention”.

It was coined by historian Daniel J Boorstin, and is the leitmotif of The Image, his 1961 jeremiad on mass media and the rise of the faux celebrity.

Boorstin linked the two developments – the emergence of the instant celebrity and the proliferation of pseudo-events – to argue that news, which from the 15th century onwards has meant “a report of recent events” and “previously unknown information”, was being subsumed by manufactured events.

The proximate trigger for Boorstin’s book-length thoughts was the 1960 Presidential election, backlit by the drama of the first-ever televised presidential debate, September 26, 1960, between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon. (The events surrounding that debate, and the election campaign itself, was the theme of Theodore E White’s Pulitzer-winning book The Making of The President 1960; the debate is here in full).

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Delete “alt-right”

The Associated Press style guide weighs in:

Usage

“Alt-right” (quotation marks, hyphen and lower case) may be used in quotes or modified as in the “self-described” or “so-called alt-right” in stories discussing what the movement says about itself.

Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.

AP explains the reason why:

Finally, when writing on extreme groups, be precise and provide evidence to support the characterization.

We should not limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves, and instead should report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actual beliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them.

Exactly. And while we are on this, there is no such thing as the “alt-left”, either. As far as I can see, the “alt-left” is something the right-wing media cobbled together in a spirit of ‘your momma’ name-calling, turning a label they dislike back on their political opponents.

George Orwell in a timeless essay warned against such imprecision in speech and writing:

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.

In passing, replugging here an earlier post on the “left media” red herring (Since I wrote this post, by the way, “left media” has lost most of its meaning through overuse, forcing Arnab Goswami to come up with a new one: “Lutyens media”.)

Media Matters #3: Enter the Excel jockey

There is only one teeny problem with TimesNow anchor Navika Kumar: She talks so fast, so incessantly, and at such high decibels that her mind never manages to catch up and make itself heard.

Late last week, Navika Kumar hosted a debate on Vande Mataram, which Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath wants to mandate as India’s answer to the Tebbit Test. On the same day in Gorakhpur, the UP constituency Adityanath has represented in the Lok Sabha since 1998, 31 children died in the span of 24 hours of what early reports said is a combination of encephalitis and the cutting off of the hospital’s oxygen supply for non-payment of bills.

As the Vande Mataram debate gathered sound and fury in the TimesNow studio, one of the invited guests sought to question BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on the Gorakhpur tragedy. “This is an issue that is very sensitive,” Patra said in exasperation after the nth attempt to bring up the tragedy, “but for God’s sake, we are debating about an issue that is also equally sensitive, that is, Vande Mataram.”

At this point, Navika Kumar cut in:

“We understand that today is a sad day because 30 children have lost their lives in Gorakhpur in a hospital because of certain conditions of lack of oxygen supply, we understand that. Let us not beat our chests in a manner as if something like this has never happened in Akhilesh Yadav’s time. When the debate is on Vande Mataram you are bringing up this issue because you are running away from the real issue.”

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The scariest thing you will see today

Yeah, that is a classic click bait headline, but for once I mean just that.

Here it is, a Vice documentary on Charlottesville.

Since last night, I’ve watched this half a dozen times, trying to unpack the many layers — and yet there is more to be seen at every subsequent viewing. But, broadly, this is what I see:

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The ‘patriotism’ red herring

(One of the issues that I intend to touch on in my ongoing series on the state of the media relates to how governments, with the active contrivance of media houses, periodically creates ‘issues’ intended to vitiate the atmosphere.

One such ‘story’ is gathering steam right now; I’ll use this post as a scratch-pad to capture it as it unfolds, and then circle back to the larger point in my Media Matters posts. So:

On December 10, 2014 then Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani, via her office, sent out a circular to all schools in the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya scheme mandating that December 25 — the birthday of, among others, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and freedom fighter Madan Mohan Malaviya — should be celebrated as Good Governance Day with essay contests and other activities.

Newspapers reported that this would entail schools having to compulsorily remain open on Christmas Day. There was, predictably, a sizeable backlash. Minister Smriti Irani, on Twitter, termed the report ‘deliberate mischief‘ on the part of the Times of India and that schools would remain closed for Christmas and the essay competition was online only; suggested that the reporter should have checked with colleagues covering the HRD beat or directly with the Secretary of School Education;  and asked for a front page retraction in bold type.

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