Counterpoint: We the People

Amit Sengupta

As I write this, the blackout is breaking, and so is the curfew in our television and newspaper spaces. They will have to break it. They can't block it anymore. This censorship will be broken. They can't hold these perverse barricades of information into a corked bottle full of newsy fizz, blocked in their rotting conscience and five-star power corridors, shamelessly blasé, perversely thick-skinned, eternally at ease. It's like The Club, in a Gestapo-like, sinister, collective manoeuvre, has redefined the political economy of silence and censorship. 

So how come editors have become brokers and messengers of corporate and political scamsters? And what is so surprising about it anyway? It was all over there since the last many years, written on the smell of newsprint and on the walls of introspective memory, as transparent as stink, as smelly as a filthy quagmire, expressed and glorified in its own moral low ground, day after day, in word, image, sound, text, in convention and protocol, in rhetoric and clinical realism, in the banality and tyranny of mediocrity and success which has come to dominate contemporary journalism in India.

But, despite its awesome corporate and political power, and its abjectly shameful, transparent methods to block all news since the story broke in two mainline Indian magazines, it's spilling over in bursts and outbursts, flooding the cyberspace, internet social networks, email and mobile networks, even while the endless Radia tapes are being played again and again in drawing rooms and internet spaces, recorded, discussed and transcribed by journalists, students and citizens, painstakingly unravelling the filthy games being played deliberately, and with a plan, across the club of 'in-famous' journalists. 

Indeed, all these illustrious journos should assemble in that Great Get Together on that great, conscientious prime time slot on that great English channel, and play the collective game for all to see: 'We, the Corrupt.' Ah, all of them should sit around, as thick-skinned and cold-blooded, their skin oozing with success and affluence, and discuss how best to subvert the tapes, of what is dubbed as the biggest scam in Indian history. 

Editors as deal makers and power brokers. Editors who have sold their souls for goddamned what? The lust for power, more wealth, more luxury? When they have it all, in such unprecedented abundance, including those who have lived their entire life eating, praying, flying, enjoying freebies, all the finest luxuries of the rich man's super rich club. 

Indeed, many of them are tycoons, not journalists, anymore. And all of them seem tied up in knots with this or that corporate lobby of the neoliberal regime, which has come to strangulate the Indian media into its relentless quest for vast profits, endless and relentless, unable to quench their thirst even with billions overflowing in their treasure chests in India and abroad. It's a myopic club of the rich and powerful, market fundamentalists most of them, typically anti-poor, against enlightenment or social emancipation, bereft of values, knowledge, sensitivity, a sense of history, compulsively distanced from the social reality of marginal India, who manipulate 'national interest' for corporate interests and legitimise the quid pro quo of their personal and professional lives. 

They give awards to each other, they pat each other's backs, they publish their own photos in their own papers, they hog all media space, they want columns even when they are all over TV channels, they blabber endlessly on anything under the sun, without research or thought or pause or understanding, they make unimaginable amounts of money, they patronise mediocre and sycophantic loyalists, they hate intelligent dissent, they distribute columns to each other and their families on their edit/op-ed pages, they invite each other to inane, banal, pukish TV discussions, they plant stories to help this or that lobby, they completely degrade and demoralise the editorial ethos, they force even the good and honest journalist to toe the line, or get sidelined, they use persuasion, bribes, aspirations, coercion to manipulate, they fix deals for their proprietors, politicos, corporates, for each other, and they use The Club as if it symbolises the Great Moral Code of Good Conduct. 

Most of all, they have utter distaste for the basic, ritualistic ethics of journalism. Or the idea of a nation-state, the imagined community, the collective margins of society, a different social order where 'national interest' is not measured by the likes of Niira Radia. 

Truly, a true Counterpoint, of the historic, We, the People.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: DECEMBER 2010