One question has become impossible for me to avoid. Wherever I go I am asked why the media breeds, indeed promotes, “a culture of negativity”. In other words, why do we constantly print ‘bad’ news. Is there nothing inspiring or uplifting happening in the country? The gloom and doom may be an inarguable fact, but the media ferrets it out, embroiders it in order to make the citizen feel depressed. It is a charge not without merit. Politicians revel in it. According to them, we spread cynicism about the political class, painting it in the worst possible colours. My response to politicians is that they create the cynicism, we merely spread it around. However, my worry is not the neta grouse: given their conduct, their complaint is entirely self-serving. I am more concerned about what the aam aadmi thinks of us.
Undeniably, much gloom and doom prevails. The wise Dimple Kapadia once said she did not read the morning papers because they gave her a stomach-ache. In Outlook, for over a decade, we carried a page called Making a Difference in which we reported positive things happening across the country. Believe me, material for the page was difficult to find—so difficult we had to drop the feature. Unless we resort to falsification of reality, we have to go with what there is. It is not perversity but reality which defeats us.
When genuine good new comes our way, we eagerly seize it. Consider the February 5 coverage of the appointment of Hyderabad-born, India-educated Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO. Most national papers played up the news with banner headlines, providing every detail of Mr Nadella’s private and professional life. The celebrated journalist Hunter Thompson said, “Good news is rare these days and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished.” That’s what we try and do.
A Word for RaGa
Now that everyone and his uncle has told us what Rahul Gandhi did ‘wrong’ in the Arnab Goswami interview, I thought it might be useful to check if he did anything ‘right’. Since many of you are convinced I am a paid apologist of the Nehru-Gandhi family, this exercise might sound as chamchagiri. Be that as it may, here is my pitch:
Do It Like A Hollande
The mystery of what women find attractive in men just got deeper. The menage a trois in Paris involving a president, his girlfriend and his mistress seems to violate the popular precept propounded by Henry Kissinger regarding the aphrodisiac pull of power—Francois Hollande was pulling in the ladies even when he was an ordinary member of the Socialist Party. British novelist Daisy Goodwin summed it up neatly, “He (Hollande) is the most unattractive man on the planet, yet he is surrounded by beautiful women eager to bed him.” Rumour has it that the French President possesses a great sense of humour and pays “attention” to his concubines when they are talking to him. Is that enough?
Europe and America are agog with the mystery. Among French Socialists there is no shortage of males with hyper libidos and they are handsome in the Gallic sense with an excellent taste in clothes. President Hollande is neither handsome nor can he be described as a sharp dresser. Ironically, his dismal poll ratings in France improved marginally thanks to his busy and complicated love-life. One critic, however, noted: “He is running his private life very much the same way he runs the country.”
Francois Hollande is an unlikely Lothario. But he once again proves that a man does not need killer looks to be a successful philanderer.
Before Going to Press
Readers of my last diary might have been slightly astonished by the ringing endorsement I gave the AAP even while chief minister Kejriwal was sitting on a dharna in the heart of Delhi. Simultaneously, his aides were spouting racist slogans against Africans living in the capital. My excuse is technical. This diary goes to press on Wednesday (Jan 15) when all seemed well with the AAP. The so-called populist anarchy broke out on Friday (Jan 17). So, I was caught in the middle. Incidentally, I remain an admirer of the party, but now with some caveats.
I had some very good news. Details in Lucknow Boy’s sequel.
Vinod Mehta is editorial chairman, Outlook, and its founding editor-in-chief; E-mail your diarist: vmehta [AT] outlookindia [DOT] com
Come on Mr Mehta (Delhi Diary, Feb 17), the four reasons you have given in praise of Rahul Gandhi’s Times Now interview are quite pedestrian. We expect better of you.
P.N. Razdan, Gurgaon
I too thought Rahul came off quite well in the Arnab Goswami interview. It was refreshing and he put his ideas across well. In fact, Goswami emerged from it as a trumpet-blowing megalomaniac.
A.K. Chaturvedi, Calcutta
Rahul Gandhi has been telling crowds in non-Congress states about corrupt practices and central funds meant for local development lying unused. This is a relatively lesser evil compared to stealing the country blind.
H. Parshuram, Mumbai
Till now there were still a few who had doubts about you being “paid apologist” for the Nehru-Gandhis. After this, their doubts will be removed.
Modi’s so-called “running away” interview happened because the high-brow host violated agreed terms, unlike the RaGa-Arnab fixed match.
B.V. Shenoy, Bangalore
Apropos his Delhi Diary (Feb 17), a little advice for Mr Mehta on ‘RaGa’: a wise man should limit his npas. As Churchill famously said: “Light travels faster than sound, which is why some people appear bright till you hear them speak.”
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
" In other words, why do we constantly print ‘bad’ news."
Because the likes of Tarun Tejpal were in the news.
The culture of negativity does not occur without any basis. The moment anyone gets even an iota of power, they start misusing it. Politicians and bureaucrats are the obvious show offs. But even journalists go around supporting a "press" sticker on their cars just to show how important they are and the police dare not challan them. In such an environment, is the common man to blame for the negativity?
>> You agree that positive things are happening in 'tough place like India'.
If you are trying to give benefit to Sonia clan for the "Positive things" , you are sadly mistaken .. if you attribute India beoming a "tough place" in the recent years for anything positive to happen , then you are bang on.
" Unless we resort to falsification of reality, we have to go with what there is. It is not perversity but reality which defeats us. "
Common Vinod, the four reasons you have given in praise of RaGa's interview, portray a pedestrian thinking unlike a brilliant analyst like you. Why are you bent upon this chamchagiri. We know your life long experience and can't misread you.
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