The new guerrillas of news…by Pritish Nandy

Everything was going fine, just fine. And then suddenly, in the midst of a warm season of 9% GDP growth rate and a sizzling sensex, when India was the toast of the world, came the Radia tapes and all hell broke loose. No, it’s not that no one knew about the telecom scam or how vast sums of money had been looted. But till the first stone was cast, no one in the media wanted to pick it up. No one wanted to risk the wrath of the Government and the corporate sector, both prominent players in this ugly scam as well as important stakeholders in the media.

WikiLeaks is the same story. Much of what has emerged till now was known to everyone, including the fact that US foreign policy has many faces, not all of them very pleasant, but till Julian Assange took the daring step of putting millions of classified cables on the net for everyone to see, the sheer impact of the lies and chicanery that go into it was never that obvious. The next lot of posts, one hears, will relate to US banking and its dark secrets. This, again, is not new. We all know why the recession happened but to see the truth in chilling cold print is another matter. What’s protected under the code of secrecy is usually the ugly truth, be it in politics or banking or telecom or war. And that’s why a new journalism is now emerging to combat this,

Some call it citizen journalism. Others call it whistle blower journalism. I think it’s simpler to call it the journalism of the eighties. Post Emergency, when everyone was sick and tired of the lies the Government had told us, journalism came back on steroids to redefine its role. It’s the same mood now. Everyone’s fed up with the diversionary tactics of the media which has, over the past two decades, made food, celebrity quirks, the private lives of movie stars, travel and lifestyle, music and brands the opiate of a reality-shy generation that prefers reality TV instead. So a new, muscular journalism is once again emerging, to challenge Bollywood and cricket. Not many agree with Ratan Tata and, now, Deepak Parekh that such journalism can’t trample on privacy and business. The focus right now is on probity. Probity in public life.

The new journalism is actually about self service. WikiLeaks and the Radia tapes offer you vast amounts of raw data to wade through and come to your own, definitive conclusions. After that, you can read or listen to what journalists have to say. You don’t have to depend on people like me to tell you what’s right or what’s wrong. You have the facts in front of you. It’s easier that way and you are less likely to be led astray by manipulative Governments and, occasionally, compromised journalists.

But doesn’t that make the job of the common citizen more onerous, more tiresome? Who has the time to wade through so much raw data? Not many, true. But people like access to unprocessed, uncontaminated data. It gives them a sense of power. It’s like going to a buffet lunch. Most people don’t even see the entire array of food on offer, leave alone eat it. But it gives them a huge high to see such a spectacular spread out there, from which they can pick and choose what they want. It’s the power that choice proffers.  It’s the same reason why people take so many channels from a DTH menu even though they may watch just a few. People love choice. They like access to variety. The bigger the variety, the more empowered they feel. That’s what WikiLeaks is all about. That’s what the Radia tapes are also about. They make us believe we have insider information available to us to make up our own mind. It is about democratizing information. It makes the common man feel he is participating in the process of history. And, as we all know, it’s the bad stuff that finally makes history. Not Lindsay Lohan’s sexual cravings. Nor Yana Gupta’s missing panties.

So, much as the US Government may try to browbeat WikiLeaks or corporate leaders in India may appeal to the Supreme Court to protect their privacy, the common man loves the anarchy. Every new leak gives him a sense of power. It gives him access to stuff that’s officially denied to him. That’s what is important. And that’s what journalism is all about: Our right to know what Governments hide from us.  We know nothing will ever change. Our leaders will continue to loot us, cheat us, lie to us, extort us. The only time to celebrate is when we access their darkest secrets and embarrass them.  That’s why Julian Assange and whoever leaked the Radia tapes are the new heroes. They are the New Age guerrillas of the media. They are the ones empowering us to mock the rich and the mighty who have made a mockery out of democracy.


37 Responses to “The new guerrillas of news…by Pritish Nandy”

  1. Dear Mr. Nandy, and Sharmila,

    Getting information or managing information is not the issue at all.

    The question is why should such information be generated. The reforms that the common man seeks is not why and how the information gets disseminated or managed, but a radical change in the system that allows such acts of omission and commission.

    I do not believe that the common man advocates an anarchist approach to managing information. Nor is the common man driven by envy – which hatred of the good for being good.

    I do believe that the common man is truly and sincerely devoted to a family, community, society or a nation.

    The objective of global economic activities without government protection and controls or ethnic intervention is not on the common man’s radar. It will take another decade or two before that becomes evident.

    For example, I believe the framework of the Kyoto Protocol with legal ramifications for all participating nations is a step towards that. If it works here it will be refined and introduced in other sectors. A clue to that was the parting remarks of the forum: That technology would be freely provided to under-developed nations and the IPR issues will be sorted out. That was the whole purpose of the protocol.

    • Correction para 3, last line should read: Nor is the common man driven by envy – which is hatred of the good for being good.

      Forgot ‘is’…

    • Well, if information is not generated, we the people would continue to be blind bats. I am glad that this info is there. Yes, one may ask what got us to this. Corruption and nepotism have led to this. It is too late to change the ways of governance, but it is never too late to change who governs.

      • The ways of governance can be changed. Don’t lose hopes on that.

        Those who protect or serve these regimes will perish with the system. Everyone knows that even if no one can publish it in words.

      • And this is one aspect of social existence that is not steered by economics.

        History is an evidence.

  2. The internet is the key reason why news spreads fast today. If not for the internet , most news would be suppressed and continued to be shoved under the mat by the media. Julian Assange is a hero in every sense of the word. I quite like the “buffet” term. We the people have the right to choose what spread we would like to see, what we would like to devour and how much of the morsel we can digest. The cables are voluminous, but if one sifts through them, we can interpret it the way we wish to and reach our conclusions without depending on the media to draw one for us. Not just cables and tapes which have given us a new high and taken journalism to another level, it is also the videos of ND Tiwari and Nityananda ( though disgusting ) were lapped up eagerly. No longer are the rich, powerful and the corrupt sitting on cloud nine, they are sitting on cloud nine which is tapped. Nobody is sure who to trust anymore. The citizens of this country have been fools for too long. May Julain Assange and his tribe ever continue to grow!!

  3. Sharmila,

    I recognize the need for exposing wrong-doings. Even if it sounds tabloid.

    I lived for 5 years without a TV or newspaper in the desert, and it made no difference to my personal life.

    I mean what is a piece of information that has no idealisttic value?

    Capitalistic or Socialistic or any other ‘istic’ media that does not stand up for the ideals of their readers serve no purpose, in my opinion.

    Media has a role other than being messengers of doom.

  4. News Live:

    Mammo has just supported Tata’s case on the Radi Tapes in the Supreme Court, live on TV.

    He says, the dignity of the individual supercedes all other rights.

    For the first time, I agree with him 100%.

    • Oops: Radia Tapes

    • This is a cowardly move by Mammo. Of course Sonio would support the Tatas!! I most surely do not agree with this move here. The congress are squirming, the signs are telling..

      • The Congress is breaking up. I Agree.

        I had said earlier that no government can survive against a hostile administration (corrupt bureaucrats in our case) and a hostile, devious and divided media.

        TimesNow was discussing a mid-term poll two nights ago. HT is talking of a failed government on its last leg today.

        The challenge is: Even if the people do not elect corrupt or exposed politicians again, will that save us from corruption? Can the failures of this government be prevented from happening again?

        My take is: The system needs intervention. And the people are helpless.

  5. Reader – The questions with no answers –

    1 Who will intervene?

    2 How can one intervene?

    3 When people are working for a slice of bread, why will they intervene?

    • It’s very simple.

      1. Every citizen will intervene.

      This is how:

      Back to basics:

      Do not under-estimate the intelligence of the people. When a system collapses, leadership is a bad idea. There are no leaders. Each person leads himself and herself. People then do what is good for themselves.

      When each person lives for himself and his dependents, the society re-organises.

      Keep leaders out. No groups. No parties. No leadership.

      Judiciary is a service. Judges are not Gods nor leaders.

      Law and order is a service. Policemen are not Gods nor leaders.

      Administration is a service. Bureaucrats are not Gods nor leaders.

      Banking is a service. Bank Managers are not Gods nor leaders.

      Politicians are not required. Every citizen will represent himself or herself.

      • When a system collapses, sacrifice becomes a crime, not a virtue.

      • The system has already collapsed, I do not see any reorganization happening in India…not at least to now..

      • Parliamentary democracy has not failed completely yet. It will not collapse till their is a constitution and all government offices and employees are wedded to it.

      • Oops: There, not their. I am thinking in German!

      • Reader,
        Where in History did you find that that ppl can operate on their own…!!!?
        It will be a chaos if that happens…some dictator will crop up….or it will be a Jungle rule…
        When beans were spilled out, what option your PM had other than to support Judiciary System..? Do you expect him to come out in public and cover up the whole thing in favor of Tata or Ambani…!? No one seems and would be that naive in politics…!
        Did Jaya Bachchan support Amar Singh..!? She stayed with Mullasingh…! right..!? No one support the fallen one….there are only few lucky ones like AB…who got help on time from the same guy…they abandoned when time came….! Oh…well…!
        Then why should Mamosingh leave his governance aside- which is himself…he is the PM..! hehehe… and support Tata…?
        ppl have short memory and things can be taken care later….many ways…nothing will happen to anyone… 🙂

      • Good point, Mamo supporting the corporate big wigs fully endorses who is running the circus in India.

      • But the “sytem” is not just parliamentary system, even the way schools, colleges, hospitals, businesses, police stations , airports, airlines , PSUs and a million other organizations form this system. I don’t see efficiency or transparency in many..

      • Corrective actions become a fait accompli when the opportunties for prevention have been missed.

        The rest of the systems like education, law and order, merchant trading etc are all derivatives of the constitutional framework.

        The constitution is not just a printed book. All those in power need to justify their decisions. The constitution provides that justification.

        A system does not collapse because it is inefficient or corrupt. It collapses because it does not deliver its objectives. That is what takes time for people to realize.

        Once people become aware, the rulers change the rules of the game. In some cases, when the number of those who are aware is small, they make a law. When the numbers become too large, they try the 4Ds:

        Deny, Delay, Delegate, Destroy.

        Destroy is the last option. But the rulers do it themselves. Like Raja brought down the media’s facade…

  6. MonaLisa, Sharmila,

    There is no ruling mechanism in History that has been abdicated by its beneficiaries.

    The historical evidence that I speak of is the journey from Kingdoms to the Magna Carta to Constitutional democracies to Aristocracy to Parliamentary Democrcay, Socialism, Capitalism.

    There is no reason to believe that a system cannot be changed. It has changed hundreds of times in the world.

    It is always rejected and thrown aside by the common man.

    It is unfortunate that we have to tell people these days who we mean by a common man.

    My father was a common man. For all that he did in his lifetime of 82 years, he will be remembered by 3 living children for another few years.

    I am more common than him. I am not leaving any legacy behind.

    There are 1.2 billion such people in India. These are common. They are class-less so-to-speak in a modern way. They are neither celebrity class nor ruling class nor the embattled class. So they won’t find any place in the history books, neither by name nor for any achievement.

    • Reader,
      but what these 1.2 billion people can do to remove this government midway through the term..
      what i feel people are utterly dissatisfied by this government,never so many issues came to fore in such a short period of time..
      corruption,lobbying,inflation,corporates running the country,weak,absentee and ineffectual pm and we could go on and on..
      another question is if congress go then who can provide us a transparent,effective and stable government ..can NDA do it?…
      I have my doubts .but what I feel is that anything will be better than current fiasco going on the centre…
      your views..

      • Saurabh,

        Firstly, half-hearted solutions never yield desired results. Voting for another corrupt poltician will not replace the system.

        The administration is rotten. The collectors, the judges, the commissioners, the IAS and state Administrative services etc are devils. It is not about efficiency as Sharmila thought. The system has decayed.

        The system is protected by law. A civil servant in the governement has to show due diligence, he is not accountable. He cannot be punished by the voter.

        Intelligent and educated Indians must study the problem. The solution cannot be outsourced from US, UK or Europe. We must find it ourselves.

        The source of the government’s power is the Constitutoion. There is an authorized soft copy to the latest one on the nic web site.

        Read it carefully, like a religious text. See how your life is trapped by law.

        You’ll notice that every right from the preamble to the last amendment is undercut and compromised by the system.

        At some point of time people will realize it.

        Meanwhile, to safeguard your own life and those of your near and dear ones, read it once and take cautious steps.

        Don’t trust the Constitution. It is evil in black and white.

  7. Sun Tzu’s Art of War gives many strategies on this front.

    There are certain conditions in which a kingdom, or in todays world a town or a city surrenders:

    1. When the food supply chain is broken or

    2. When the defense is broken or

    3. When law and order is broken or

    4. When economic activity is stopped.

    Governing systems are fragile by default. They are sustained entirely by the trust of the users. When systems collapse, leaders disappear.

    Take a famine or flood stricken area for instance. There are no leaders around. People run behind NGO trucks and choppers who are dropping aid on the roads.

    When Lahore was encircled by the Indian Army, where were the pakistani leaders? They had left the city the night before.

    When East Pakistan was captured, the army generals had left a week earlier.

    By the time Baghdad was captured by the US, Saddam and all his key persons had left the city.

    The common man is abandoned by all the classes when a system breaks down. Thats the truth.

    Governing systems are fragile by default. They are sustained entirely by the trust of the users. When systems collapse, leaders disappear.

    • Reader,
      youhave been given very valid points to support your views..
      even during the 26/11 seize our government was nowhere to be seen …leave aside our pm..
      I have never seen such a silent pm in my life.Doesnt he realise he is the prime of a country ,people need his reassurances .
      as Sharmila said in one of her earlier comments the only role he has of a cleansing agent in the present government.

      • Saurabh,

        Thank you. Sharmila is right too. Iss duniya mein do tarah ke kidey hoten hai.. ek jo pesticide se marta hai.. aur dusra jiske liye pesticide bana hi nahin!!!


  8. On Media and the Wiki ignorance test:

    [ Courtsey Scott Adams]

    I often get into political debates in which one of the participants is ignorant of the basic facts. Worse yet, that ignorant person is usually me. Oh, and it’s usually the other person too. We think we’re entitled to our opinions, but we probably aren’t.

    Imagine an objective standard for deciding who is entitled to have an opinion on a topic. All we need is some sort of wiki (user created website) where the basic facts on any debate can be assembled in the form of an ever-evolving multiple choice test. When you find yourself in a debate with someone who hasn’t yet passed the test on that topic with a score of 100%, you declare yourself the winner by virtue of being better informed, assuming you scored 100%.

    If both of you have taken the test and scored less than 100%, you declare yourselves “not entitled to your opinions” and walk away. If each of you scored 100% then you are, by my definition, entitled to your opinion.

    I suppose the website would need to send out emails to anyone who took the test whenever a new question was added or altered, just to keep everyone current. That means you would need to register when you took the test.

    For example, let’s say the topic is How to Reduce the National Debt. One question might look like this:

    1. Which of the following ways to reduce the U.S. national debt is impossible
    (as opposed to politically difficult, painful, or highly unlikely):

    a. Increase taxes
    b. Cut spending
    c. Grow the economy
    d. Inflation

    The answer is here, at least according to one expert.

    Another question might be something along these lines:

    2. Supply Side economics holds that cutting taxes will stimulate enough extra growth in the economy to increase tax revenues by more than the amount you cut, thus reducing the deficit. According to 90% of economists polled (per some hypothetical survey), in the case of the current U.S. national debt, this approach has the following potential:

    a. Likely to succeed
    b. 50-50 chance
    c. Unlikely to succeed
    d. Zero chance of succeeding

    You can imagine a few dozen more questions on this topic that a person would need to understand before being entitled to his opinion. And if this dream ever comes true, I’d like to see opinion polls limited to only the people who scored 100% on the basic facts.

    The second thing I’d like to see is the television media labeling pundits in real time. That sort of interview might go like this:

    Media: How would you balance the budget?

    Politician: I would cut spending.

    Media: What part of the budget would you cut to balance the budget?

    Politician: I would cut the pork.

    Media: If you think that’s enough, you’re either a liar or an idiot. Can you clarify which one you are?

    Politician: I am insulted by that question!

    Media: If you understood the question that rules out “idiot.”

    That fantasy can’t happen, obviously, because no one would agree to go on a show where the questions are tough and the outcome is humiliation. But I can dream.

    Posted by Scott Adams in General Nonsense, Permalink

  9. The Managing Director of my company has some strange ways of assigning tasks in the business plans. He assigns the most important task to the person who is busiest and most occupied. The logic is that the busier a person, the better he manages time.

    You may ask how this is relevant to Mr. Nandy’s post.

    This is how:

    People, who are busy, are visible only to those with whom they are engaged in their business. The general eyes and the media are scarcely aware of their existence.

    Ministers and public servants, who hog media space, are often those who are either up to some mischief or mouth-pieces of someone’s agenda.

    Like the environment minister J. Ramesh, who is busy trading the natural resources with Foriegn Institutional Investors (FII) and Praful Patel who needs credibility for the next assembly polls.

    Any minister or industrialist who needs to talk to the media is either hiding something or selling something.

    I wouldn’t trust the media even if they call themselves a pillar of democracy or whatever. The law-makers, industrialists and the media are having an orgy due to the economic downturn in the G7.

  10. News Live:

    Wildlife officials have killed two rhino poachers (both human) in the Kaziranga National Park, Assam in the last 48 hours.

  11. News Live: Media tells us the truth.

    CBI’s plea to drop criminal proceedings against the Italian don Ottavio Quattrocchi will be decided by the court on Jan 4, ’11. The don was accused of receiving INR 7 billion in kickbacks in the Bofors deal.

    What is the truth?

  12. Here is an example of the third-rate congress minority politics and the ideologically bankrupt media anchors:

    On Thursday 9th of December ’10, Ajmal Kasab’s lawyer, Amin Solkar, concluded his arguments in the hearing for the confirmation the death sentence.

    The trial court judge, M.L.Tahliyani, has verified reports that ACP Hemant Karkare and Salaskar were not shot by the gun that was recovered from Kasab. Also, Kasab was arrested in a Skoda car on the streets in South Mumbai, not at the Taj, Trident or the CST railway station where the attacks occured. Kasab claims that he was picked by the police from Juhu.

    On 13 Dec, ’10, Congressman Digvijay Singh spoke to the media and said that the slain ACP Karkare had told him of a threat from Hindu right wing fundamentalists.

    Was such a statement necessray from one of Sonio’s closest members in the Congress party? Was the media doing its job correctly? Is reporting the only purpose? Is reporting an Ideal?

    • Yes, Digvijay has something up his sleeve here. Sonio is most certainly not happy. I still believe Kasab should have been hung without trial. A complete waste of tax payers money while he sits in jail relishing biriyani. There is no denying the CCTV footage of Kasab storming the station with his counterparts. I give a damn where he was found, I eagerly wait for him to be put to rest.

  13. Developing Story: Forgiving Raja.

    Raja has made innocent mistakes. Etisalat is an arabian company. Arabic is written right to left. Nira’s name reads Rani in Arabic. A. Raja wonly liked the sound of Raja and Rani. Is that wrong?

    The CBI today is investigating Mr. Mahesh Jain and Mr. Daulat Jain of New Delhi in laundering the sleeze money involved in the deal through overseas accounts in 10 different countries including Cyprus and Mauritius.

    So, Raja did not manage the money. In India real money is managed by the Jains.

    That is braking news…

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