Indian TV Channels Cower as Post-Trump US Media Puts Up a Fight
Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim
I made my first bi-coastal trip to post-Trump America in mid-August 2018.
It’s always an illuminating journey, given how India mimics an American trajectory in media, business and politics, lagging by a decade or two. Today, it’s spooky how similarly charged India’s and America’s political atmosphere is.
President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hugely dissimilar personalities in outward conduct – one writes crude tweets, the other remains strategically silent – have nonetheless created equally polarised democracies ten thousand miles apart.
Both have fanatical followers who blithely spew hate and intimidate adversaries. Even mild critics are branded as traitors. Either you are a lackey, or an enemy. Immigrants and minorities are chained to fear. Both leaders beat big chests, claiming credit for everything, from high economic growth, skyrocketing stock markets, to cleansing the previous regime’s muck and draining the capital’s swamp.
But unlike our craven surrender in India, I saw real spunk in how America’s news outfits are fighting back against Trump.
‘Justice with Judge Jeanine’ is a weekend show broadcast on Fox News. I watched her utterly partisan show on Robert Mueller (who is unrelentingly investigating President Trump). She virtually called him a “mafia man”.
She ended the diatribe by saying that Mueller was “panicking” because he had “nothing” on Trump. No journalistic evidence was cited. No facts were produced. Just a grand, unsubstantiated observation was made – “Mueller is panicking” – and repeated, and repeated, and repeated, to somehow convert it into the “truth”.
Next morning, I switched to CNN. Brian Stelter’s ‘Reliable Sources’ was on air. He audaciously plucked the “Mueller is panicking” clip from Fox News and inserted it into his CNN show! And then Stelter went after Pirro for manufacturing the news that “Mueller was panicking”.
It was a straight one-on-one reprisal. In the same show, Stelter also cut into a clip from NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ with Rudy Giuliani, where the Trump groupie made the eye-rubbing assertion that “truth isn’t truth”.
This was clearly the new normal in our staid world of news. The professional restraint of a bygone era – thou shall not comment on a competitor’s news story – had been jettisoned.
Perhaps there’s a lesson here for India’s fast-dwindling pack of credible, honourable news editors. It’s time to shed the old-world professional reticence when our “desi” (local) Jeanine Pirros manufacture news; for example, when they go ballistic against Rahul Gandhi for speaking an unpalatable truth in London, that “it is very dangerous in the 21st century to exclude people”.
Rahul also said, in another context, that Indian men are patriarchal and treat women unfairly.
How can anybody disagree with these axioms? But of course our desi (local) Jeanine Pirros took off, accusing Rahul of “insulting Indian Muslims, Indian culture”.
The artillery fire ended with the predictable “pro-Pakistan” taunt. Once again, a grand, unsubstantiated observation was repeated, and repeated, and repeated, to somehow convert it into the “truth”.
Straight, one-on-one, like Brian Stelter of CNN took down Jeanine Pirro of Fox News? No. So the time has come, for India’s Editor Arjun(s) to have a conversation with Lord Krishna on New Delhi’s battlefield, which is likely to go somewhat like this:
India’s Editor Arjun(s): My Lord Madhusudan, I am surrounded by evil, compromised professionals who utter lies and falsehoods. But how do I fight them? My hands shake while holding the bow, after all, these Editorial Kauravas are my professional cousins?
And Lord Krishna shall reply: Hey Arjun(s), this is a Holy War of the righteous, and every soldier-journalist gets a stairway to Editorial Heaven. Stand up and fight, with peace in your soul.
: Dear reader, please quote-tweet and tag #India’sBhaktTVAnchors with this piece. Perhaps that shall stir our dead conscience.