‘Us vs Them: English media is being pigeon-holed’

The branding of the “English media” as “elitist, pseudo-secular, left-wing, liberal, disconnected, rootless, pro-Muslim, anti-Hindu, pro-Congress, anti-BJP”—as if the English media is one animal; as if all of us receive our assignments from Prakash Karat and our paycheques from the Pope himself—would have gone down as one of the most successful campaigns undertaken under the right-wing captaincy of L.K. Advani, if only it weren’t so subversive in its intent.

Essentially, the premise has been as kindergarten-ish as George W. Bush: either you are with “us” or against “us”.

If you can tom-tom Hindutva as the greatest liberating force on earth, you are with “us”; if not you are anti-Hindu. If you can wear your blinders (supplied) and only see Gujarat’s stratospheric rise under Narendra Modi, you are with “us”; if not you are anti-Gujarat. If you can suspend your disbelief and applaud slaughter as statecraft you are with “us”, if not you are pro-Muslim. If you can call Sonia Gandhi names, you are with “us”, if not you are pro-Congress. Etcetera.

Certainly, the “English media” is not without fault. We get many things wrong; probably, we get everything wrong. We must be questioned, criticised, scrutinised, corrected.

But the result of this Goebbelsian campaign is an extraordinary (and growing) cynicism of the “English media” that plays right into the hands of those who sowed it and pays them rich dividends. Picking holes and splitting hairs has become a fine art, and a national pastime especially among adherents to the “cause” who cannot distinguish between journalism and propaganda, news and opinion, journalists and pamphleteers.

That hallucinatory state of mind got amply reflected in a chat that RAJDEEP SARDESAI , the editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, had with viewers on the channel’s website this evening. In the wake of the victory of Narendra Modi in the Gujarat elections, and the channel’s perceived bias against him, Sardesai ended up batting the usual bouncers.


Vijay: The English media is biased against Modi and BJP. “Many” are pro-Congress. An easy way to increase the TRPs is rake up the post-Godhra issue. Why don’t you talk about Godhra or Nandigram?

Rajdeep Sardesai: I think there is an attempt to pigeonhole people, especially the English media, in pro- and anti-camps, especially in the context of Gujarat. Why can’t we discuss issues honestly and dispassionately without attaching labels? At CNN-IBN, we speak on a range of issues from Godhra to post-Godhra to Nandigram.

Raju: Mr. Rajdeep, can you accept it (the victory of Modi) is a defeat of media, particularly CNN-IBN also? Because the media is showing maligning and insulting pictures of Gujarat everytime in the name of Modi!

RS: A victory for Modi is not a defeat for the media, it is the defeat of the Congress party. Far from showing an insulting side of Gujarat, we have attempted to show all sides of the Gujarat story, the good, the bad and the ugly. I might add here that in every poll we did on Gujarat, we said Modi was winning.

Sareeta:Why do you think the media failed miserably to predict such overwhelming majority of BJP despite all odds? The English media was optimistic till the last minute that there would be a Congress swing and anti-establishment buzz throughout the state, but it didn’t happen. Modi dislikes English media strongly for this biased and parochial attitude for the media’s so-called pseudosecular tilt. He has not yet given any interview to any news channel, last time it was bad blood in the Karan Thapar show. How do you foresee the English media’s relationship with Modi will go from now? Will it be anti- or pro-Modi now when the Gujratis have given their verdict in huge numbers?

RS: I think the media and pollsters got Saurashtra horribly wrong. We cannot escape responsibility for that. But let me be honest: at no stage, did I feel that the Congress had any chance in Gujarat. In fact, I’ve just won a single malt bet for predicting more than a 110 seats for the BJP!! I think we need to look at Narendra Modi and Moditva without the ideological blinkers. I think the media tends to look at the Modi phenomenon in black and white terms. We either demonise him or lionise him. We should analyse and report on him in a more complex manner.

Rao: Rajdeep. Don’t you feel that “Moditva” is a creation of the media, now a much used word in elitist English media, to try and draw a line between Modi and BJP?

RS: I think there is a new strand of Hindutva politics that Modi is injecting. It combines an aggressive, muscular commitment to religious identity, but also a strong commitment to governance and developmental issues. The politics of Moditva revolves around the personality of an individual, hence the use of the term.

Whizkid_NO1: Why is Rajdeep Sardesai being seen as someone who has become biased?

RS: Because, as I said earlier, we are dividing people into “them” versus “us” based on our own ideological blinkers. I dream of an India that allows greater space for debate and dissent without accusing people of bias simply if we dont agree with everything they say. As a journalist, my aim is to report what I see.

Suyash: Modi’s positive aspects and what he did for Gujarat were not illustrated by the media. Don’t you think so Rajdeepji? Because it’s quite obivious without this he must have not won the hearts of Gujarat.

RS: Modi has definitely won the minds of a large section of people living in Gujarat. I agree his positive aspects need to be looked at more honestly. The media can’t see Gujarat as an ideological battleground only; it must be also seen as a state on the move.

Aamit: You say, “I think there is an attempt to pigeonhole people, especially the English media, in pro and anti camps.” Then how would describe the concerted and chartered media propaganda against Modi, which we have been seeing on channels like CNN-IBN?

RS: Only last week, a Hindustan Times media critic accused us of being unabashedly pro-Modi! I guess we must be doing something right at CNN-IBN to attract such diverse opinions. We have never run any campaign against Modi. We have, as I said, attempted to present every shade of opinion in and outside the state.

(The transcript has been corrected for spellings, punctuation and grammar)

Read the full text here: The live chat

Photograph: IBN live

Cross-posted on sans serif

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19 Responses to “‘Us vs Them: English media is being pigeon-holed’”

  1. RC Sharma Says:

    I will pick just one extract;

    RS: I think the media and pollsters got Saurashtra horribly wrong. We cannot escape responsibility for that. But let me be honest: at no stage, did I feel that the Congress had any chance in Gujarat. In fact, I’ve just won a single malt bet for predicting more than a 110 seats for the BJP!! I think we need to look at Narendra Modi and Moditva without the ideological blinkers. I think the media tends to look at the Modi phenomenon in black and white terms. We either demonise him or lionise him. We should analyse and report on him in a more complex manner.

    I say: If he had really felt that BJP would win 100+ seats, why was he saying even on 23 Dec morning that it would be closec race?? A tally of 100+ vs 72- is a close race??

    He kept it a well guarded secret!!

  2. Pradeep Kumar Says:

    The curious thing is that all the allegations made on English media can be summarised in one word, “anti-hindu”. Other labels are spin-off from this one word.
    Fact is, Rajdeep and his gang tried very hard to portray Modi as the greatest demon on earth. And the people of Gujarat did not care a hoot about it and gave a kick in the back of congress+allies, which Rajdeep is not admitting.
    Let these pseudo-seculars bark. We should just stop giving importance to them.

  3. Sathya Says:

    My simple question : Why should we give importance and prominence to RS or Enflish media? In any state people are not generally carried away by these maligning campaigns. You may have powerful language, try very hard to drive a point , at the end you leave everybody confused. The common man is worried about his daily needs. How many will sit before TV and watch these programmes? Educated class will not be swayed away by these discussions. If at all anybody is interested it is children who find the advertisements interesting. Whether the media condemned Modi or not he won. Accept the fact.

  4. Manju Says:

    Graceless and Shameless English Media..

    They’re still damning the gujarati people (NDTV ran a 9:30pm witness show). Where is Nandigram Coverage? Where is Afzal Guru coverage? where is the sustained attack on the “terrorists”, maoists and naxals?

    If the damned Media projects an adult (albeit under influence of drugs) allowing ak-56 in his house for terrorists, by projecting him as a sane guy in the name of some “gandhigiri”, you can know how low they have stooped. They can’t seem to differentiate between fantasy and reality.

    News channels feed bollywood in the name of news during prime time (for a huge money – recent ex. OSO on NDTV).

    Yes, English media behaves like their paycheck comes directly from the Vatican, Karat and anti-national forces?

    Where does these Karats, Akthars, Azmis, Setlawad’s go during 100s of attacks on hindus and the conversion drive of xtians.

    Colonial Mindset still?

  5. Mahesh Says:

    For the Karnataka side:

    Will Madam Sonia learn the lesson and appoint a CM-choice candidate
    for Karnataka assembly nowitself so that Cong can try to make something out of it in assembly polls ?
    BJP has again got it early by announcing Yeddy as CM candidate.

    Without a
    CM candidate in picture, cong will loose again in karnataka due to so many factions and leaders with only regional presence and command over votes. Kharge, Siddu, Dharam, HK Patil each one of them will get few seats here and there but not whole of Karnataka will vote for any one of them. Will SM KRishna get similar backing like previous time ?

    Hope Madam Sonia wakes up atleast for now. (while Mayavatis and SP (Bangarappa) others are trying to fish in the vacuum.

    Cong lost so badly not only because of Modi’s strengths but also because of lack of a local leader (single person) who commands respect.

  6. Not A Witty Nick Says:

    Why are you doing a UR Ananthamurthy on this one?

    ee aD gODe mEle deepa yaakE!?

    These news sources and The Great China Post and its great intellectual columnists seem to think for congress rather than thinking themselves!

  7. hari Says:

    I think much discussion does not happen on the terrorist and kind because they are expected to be so and discussion has no purpose. Anything extreme done or supported on behalf of hinduism raises questions by many… if thats the way of the community. People do not expect it or some do not identify with it and so forth. Of course, if this carries on… it will soon be accepted. And then no one will discuss this so much.

  8. jeevarathna Says:

    i am no hinduva sympathizer. But any one viewing CNN-IBN gets an impression that RS had a personal agenda and he and CNN IBN did more than what even a Congress script writer would have done. At times it becomes extremely difficult to watch CNN-IBN now days. Similarly churmuri seems to be following suit. In print media Editor’s page is seldom read and the main news is generally balanced and many times it comes from PTI etc. But in visual media Editor’s page is the main page and theer is no PTI etc, so that makes the difference

  9. Vivek Says:

    Rajdeep Soredesai claimed:

    “Why can’t we discuss issues honestly and dispassionately without attaching labels?”

    The same question: why isn’t the media discussing the issue of its own bias and politicization without attaching labels to and attacking its critics?

    Whether all of the media is one animal or not, most all of it did crawl when asked to bend in 1975, and is righting now crawling even without being asked to bend. Why are the Soredesais of the world scared witless of being pointed out the services they are rendering to the Congress?

  10. gatekeeper Says:

    So what’s the issue? That the English media failed to predict Modi’s victory or Modi won the elections despite the English media taking him on? Or is it both?

  11. Aatmasakshi Says:

    BJP, Modi and gang find it necessary to vilify the English media because they have managed to find their unquestioning drumbeaters in the language media— Dainik Jagran and Amar Ujala in Hindi, Vijaya Karnataka in Kannada, Aaj Tak, etc—through owners and editors with only a passing acquaintance with the profession.

    The English media has been the kabab mein haddi. Barring zero-circulation papers like “The Pioneer” and paid pamphleteers like Swapan Dasgupta and Chandan Mitra most respectable English media houses are unwilling to bat openly and unequivocally for its ideology.

    Modi said yesterday was that a “colonial mindset” was still prevalent but he’s speaking with a forked tongue. If, as everybody seems to think, the English media has gone down the tube and that the English media cannot tilt an election, why is he so bothered with the colonial English media?

    Because his omissions and commissions have been committed in the age of television. He can get the language media to ignore them but with the influential English media hard on his heels, the chickens will come home to roost, with far greater vengeance than they have for Jagadish Tytler.

  12. Pradeep Kumar Says:

    hahaha .. super joke maraya… heege dialogue hodita iru.

  13. Not A Witty Nick Says:

    Atmasakshi: Was that “inner voice” yours that saved India from Madame’s rule?
    You sound like one of her inner team.

    Remember when Tavleen Singh wrote about Teesta & Co. having made a profitable business out of anti-Godhra riot controversy and they had even incorporated a company for that! She was blasted for writing about them!
    Of course, holy cows should be worshipped not questioned.

    “Respectable” newspapers have also written positive articles about Modi, don’t know how you missed reading them! may be you are trained not to look at them.

  14. Yashica Says:

    This is the first paragraph of a IANS story on the Gujarati media reaction to Narendra Modi’s victory.

    “Reporting Narendra Modi’s emphatic win in the Gujarat assembly elections, Gujarati newspapers, many of whom were highly critical of him before the results, hailed him on Monday as a leader of national status.”

    If the Gujarati media was also critical of Modi, somebody is not telling the full story.

  15. Goldstar Says:

    There is an amazing blog called “Offstumped”. It has complete DATA on how CNN-IBN ran a media campaign against Modi. To get to the blog, google “Offstumped national interest” and click on the first link.

    That apart, what is wrong in being biased?? Why is RS so defensive about being biased. Much as I hate “Naxal.Ram” and “The Chindu”, he has atleast been honest in many interviews that his paper now propagates an ideology. He has admitted to being biased. Let us do a FOX News and wear our biases and ideology proudly on our sleeves.

  16. Faldo Says:

    As far as the English print media goes with many of the major newspapers competing with tabloids, the only ones that have ‘news’ of some kind are biased. With the visual media too it is the same story. So if the media tends to get pigeon holed, it should not surprise anybody.

  17. Aashadaboothi Says:

    Rajdeep Sardesai’s, bharkas and prannoy’s are now trying to save their face. They did everything possible and threw journalistic ethics out of the window to malign Modi. After the victory they now started a new debate on BJP versus Modi, RSS versus Modi. Why dont they track down Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and ask them questions on Gujarat. Just a few days before the italian ma beta duo were being hailed as messaihs in Gujarat by the same media. Just go to youtube and check out the talk shows and see the volte face these guys have done now.
    Irrespective of whether you are a modi / sangh parivar supporter it is clear that the media is being controlled by certain vested intrests and agenda. One clear thing is maligning Hindus gives them brownie points from their media owners. You don’t need to be too paranoid or delusive to see this. It is written all over. Just watch those videos on Gujarat pre and post elections.

  18. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    Gujarath, HP. Karnataka next? Is there no Congress person with the courage to say Sonia Gandhi is a poor manager and she should give up her party post? Surely there is some need for supervised investing of all the crores siphoned off from the many foundations set up in honor of family members. I suggest starting a chain of Italian restaurants all over the country. Name: “Ciao, Sonia.”

  19. Indian Says:

    Shame on your Mr. Sardesai, you are from Gujarat and make no chances to deface your own state. You are heavily biased and leave no space for BJP.
    I cant get why you are against Modi? Any personal issues? Better settle it with him else he has got more power than your media, he may f**k you.

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