Controversial NDTV journalist Sreenivasan Jain put out a thread on Twitter earlier this week which was subject to widespread ridicule. Among the things Jain tweeted was how the media should have collectively boycotted the prime minister for following an abusive Twitter handle, and that this move would have pressurized the prime minister to fall in line. Sreenivasan Jain is living in a fool’s paradise. His own outlet has become increasingly irrelevant after Narendra Modi’s advent onto the national stage, and boycotting the prime minister would have only further alienated such outlets from mainstream discourse, which the prime minister dominates.
What if we collectively had taken a call for a media blackout of the PM until he stops following Nikhil Dadich? And other abusive handles?
— Sreenivasan Jain (@SreenivasanJain) October 2, 2017
But Sreenivasan Jain is not alone. An entire class of people who call themselves journalists continue to live in a fool’s paradise, and still believe that they play an important role in mainstream discourse. The irony is that they are the ones who make up what is known as the mainstream media, but are now relegated to being fringe elements. The string of failures their narrative has encountered, and their bloated sense of self-importance, give us an insight into their motives and their inability to cope with ground realities.
After the 2014 general elections, their narrative has been largely centered around certain key themes. Religious intolerance has been an important theme, with Akhlaq and Junaid as the poster-boys since they were allegedly lynched for consuming beef. Discrepancies in both the stories emerged the moment they were brought to light. Data from the home ministry to counter their narrative about the minorities being under attack, was also spread widely on social media. Apparently, the number of communally motivated crimes had decreased under the new regime. The alleged Church attacks turned out to be petty robberies. And several stories about cow smugglers murdering those who came in their way, also emerged. The narrative was successfully countered and busted on social media, a medium this class of journalists still hasn’t come to terms with. It resulted in a massive loss of credibility.
Dalits being under attack was another pet theme of theirs. Rohith Vemula was their poster-boy this time. However, the fact that sections of his suicide letter were hidden and that he might not have even been a Dalit to begin with, punctured their narrative. Smriti Irani’s speech on the floor of parliament tore whatever was left of their narrative to shreds. Subsequent elections have shown that the Dalits are gradually moving towards the BJP, and the political annihilation of their self-proclaimed messiah Mayawati is testament to this.
The youth of India rising against the current dispensation due to its jingoism, was another theme they attempted to peddle. Their poster boy for this was Kanhaiya Kumar. However, some digging up on this fresh face, and the emergence of other fresh faces like professor Makarand Paranjape in mainstream discourse, is all it took to relegate Kanhaiya to the fringe as well. Once again, subsequent elections and social media illustrated how the youth of this country continue to be firmly behind the current dispensation.
When demonetization was announced, this class of journalists believed that it was all over for prime minister Modi.
They listed out its demerits, and as usual, were countered on social media. Irrespective of the results of such an exercise, many of which one still cannot gauge, the BJP registered a resounding win in India’s largest state. Once again, these journalists found themselves completely out of touch with the ground realities of India.
Another theme they took up, which turned to be a huge blow to their credibility, was how dissent had no place under the current regime. This was peddled when Gauri Lankesh, an ardent critic of the current regime and a Naxal sympathizer, was shot dead. The blame was squarely laid on the right-wing with no evidence whatsoever, and it has now emerged that a Naxal angle into her death is being probed because she might have ruffled some Naxal feathers by bringing some Naxalites to the mainstream. Moreover, it was pointed out on social media that several lesser-known vernacular journalists were killed in the last few years, and that instead of claiming an assault on press freedom then, the mainstream media turned a blind eye.
The two themes they are have taken up right now, are the failures of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and the impending economic gloom. The first one has been countered with unexpected vigor, since the prospect of a yogi as chief minister seems to have ignited a spark of hope and excitement among millions across the country. Be that as it may, most of the stories they have used to advance the anti-Yogi narrative have turned out to be hit-jobs. The biggest one so far, about children dying in the hundreds at BRD Medical College in the chief minister’s own constituency, resulted in a loss of face for mainstream media. Yogi Adityanth’s work to counter Japanese encephalitis is well-known, and the deaths at the epicenter of this epidemic have reduced by half since he took over as chief minister, including at the very hospital that was under the media’s lens. The fact that they turned a blind eye to this, and that they chose instead to project it as a failure when they never bothered to question previous administrations, wasn’t taken very kindly by people. Earlier this week when it came to light that the chief minister would participate in a five-day Poojan, the mainstream media was up in arms claiming that his priorities were wrong. Political entrepreneur Shubhrastha’s reply to an old commie on a television debate captured the nation’s mood towards the media’s shenanigans: “My chief minister is a Mahant, deal with it.”
Shubhrastha, Political Entrepreneur and Suneet Chopra, CPI (M) in a heated argument on #YogiVersusOwaisipic.twitter.com/lLxVO0FdWY
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) October 2, 2017
The narrative of an impending economic gloom is something they are trying to sell to the country at a time when India is the world’s fastest growing economy. The economy’s growth rate might have slowed down for a short period due to certain structural changes and the government’s cleanup act. But one cannot deny that they were necessary, and that the government did not cringe from taking bold measures. This narrative too is beginning to sound increasingly hollow, as every major automobile manufacturer claims to have recorded their highest sales. Moreover, with these structural reforms in place, with an enhanced network of highways and electricity reaching every household soon, with the massive state-level reforms in sectors such as agriculture, this narrative is fast becoming one that is based exclusively on what disgruntled old men who considered themselves to be potential finance ministers had to say. That ship has sailed, and so will this one.
The way these themes have been peddled and subsequently rejected by people, tells us three things about this group of journalists. They’re fundamentalists. They have no shame. They’re in denial.
As many observed two years ago, the intolerance campaign against the Modi government was really a display of intolerance towards prime minister Modi. How could a man from a humble background who sold tea for a living, outsmart each one of them and become the prime minister of India? After all, these posts were reserved for people from certain families, people who had a legacy, who had Ivy League education, who could make small talk over champagne and finger food at elite soirees, who could sit in air-conditioned television studios and wax eloquent in chaste English about how backward India was. And even if someone from outside the club made it, the least they could do was to subscribe to certain ideas that were universally acceptable- that Nehru was the best thing that could have happened to India, that no matter what happened India would always remain backward, that the minorities had the first right over the country’s resources, and that anything Hindu or saffron was toxic.
These journalists have held such ideas close to their hearts, and have gone about upholding them as if their lives depended on it. They have spewed venom against prime minister Modi and the BJP as if he was deliberately making things worse for the country. As we saw in the earlier paragraphs, a lot of the facts they base themselves on are humbug and their selectivity knows no bounds. They pick stray incidents, color them to their liking and create an issue where none exists. At the same time, when Muslims riots in any part of the country, when RSS workers are murdered or when Kashmiri Pandits attempt to speak up, they turn a blind eye to them. Their rabid hatred towards one man and his ideology has made them lose any objectivity they might have had. Their desperate charades to malign him have backfired, and have exposed their hypocrisy threadbare.
What is funny in this supposed battle that the journalists think they are fighting against the current dispensation, is that they haven’t come to terms with their insignificance as yet. A Twitter user described it as the neighborhood dog trying to stop a truck by running behind it. They don’t wield the influence they used to in the corridors of power once upon a time, when one of Srinivasan Jain’s former colleagues used to lobby for ministries on the behalf of a regional party. But most importantly, they haven’t come to terms with social media. They don’t hold a monopoly over information anymore. They aren’t above scrutiny anymore. In the past, when they spoke into the camera, the camera never spoke back. All that has changed.
They live in denial, thinking people still value what they say, and continue to forward their agenda unabashedly. They do not understand that they are harming their cause by driving their own credibility to the dumps, that every charade makes them objects of ridicule and makes prime minister Modi stronger. At least Arvind Kejriwal was smart enough to realize this after successive defeats, and stopped hurling nonsense at the prime minister. Even Mamata Banerjee says she has a bone to pick with Amit Shah and not Narendra Modi, indicating that there doesn’t exist much legitimate ground to attack the prime minister right now.
As this group of journalists celebrate irrelevant student union victories of the Congress Party and cheer for Rahul Gandhi by whitewashing a trip to the United States that caused major embarrassment both to him and the country, they do not realize what they are up against. When India votes again in 2019, it will be a new India- 99% of the homes will have electricity, 90%, will have toilets, 87% will have cooking gas and each one of them will have bank accounts. It will be an India that corners Pakistan, that is unafraid to take on China. It will be an India with a booming economy. It will be an India that hold its head high in the world, an India that is proud of its culture and heritage. How long will these journalists wallow in their blissful ignorance?