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WAR-MONGERING and a national pastime

It 's hard to say this but at some point, it needs to be said. Sometime ago I wrote saying the quality of public discourse has fallen abysmally low. The quality of debates in some channels is pathetic, where the anchor and his chosen few berate anyone who has a different point of view. Such action is downright shameful, and one could say, “Why, watch?” but then kids have access to these, and if they begin to learn that this is how adult conversation gets done, it is ephemerally wrong. 

Did the surgical strikes take place or not?  Matured economies debate it.  America discussed Vietnam. Questioning the army if there was a shadow of a doubt is no sin. Americans questioned their army men. Soldiers have been known to, and rightly so, play strategic games.  

Did the government politically milk the strike? Mature democracies debate it. Saying don’t milk it, is surely not questioning the army.  But in the cacophony that follows, the basic sense is lost. A person who asks a question of an ex-army officer gets taunted but when the spokesperson of the government calls an ex-army man ‘fake’ that’s par for the course. 

I grew up in an environment when the anchor presented news and others’ views.  Anchors can have views.  But when they scream and rant,  like no self-respecting person would;  when they don’t allow their guests to talk; and when they allow fellow panelists to yell at others without allowing the others to respond, you realise that this is not discussion, but is pandering to the basest instincts.  

There are some who tell me that these anchors are nice at a personal level. My foot. You are judged not by what you may do at your homes and offices but by how you conduct yourself in front of people who see you only while you so perform. 

To resort to war mongering, publicly calling people names and endlessly terming anyone who has a different view (forget if that was the same opinion the anchor had a week ago) as anti-national is crass.  In an already surcharged environment, this doesn’t wash.  I know people who sit in front of the idiot box like it because it offers them an opportunity to enjoy the bile thrown at people they dislike or party for which they didn't vote. It is very similar to the guy who drinks a few pegs too many and then takes it out on others. 

Like, whether Pak artistes are to be allowed to perform in India or not can be a matter of debate. But you can’t berate Indian actors because they keep quiet. For one, remember everyone need not have a view.  Also, they don't have to articulate one because people twist it out of context.  For another, the government can cancel the international artiste’s visa. But is the anger thrown at the government? No, it is at the soft target: the actors. 

And then you notice this new noise about boycotting Chinese products. Yes, the idea is good, but it’s individual choice. A lot of this noise comes from the social media also by those who live in other countries, democracy and otherwise.  If you have a genuinely different view, they flak you for not showing ‘solidarity.’ Now that America has refused to name Pakistan a terror nation, will these gentlemen show ‘solidarity’ and return to India?

On television you don’t need anchors as opinion makers who are so full of themselves; clearly and shamelessly biased, so much so that these views now no longer count.  It is apparent that they act as the voice of the government for fear of sanctions like the Doordarshan worked many years ago as a government mouthpiece without the yells, the threats and the rants. 

If we continue to walk this path, we will head towards a totalitarian state, including like the one during Emergency.  Or one day some kid will have to stand up and talk about the Emperor’s new clothes.

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