Dear Ravish Kumar,
Former American President John F Kennedy once said “For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." Apropos your moving open letter to fellow scribe and Union Minister Mr. M J Akbar, it is this fear of yours to let people judge the truth that bears discussion.
To begin with, let me take a moment to condemn the troll who spoke those unspeakable things about your respected mother. As someone who voted for BJP in the last two elections, I understand the pain of having your mother dragged into the quagmire of polarized political discourse. A few months earlier someone said “BJP members can sell their own mothers for votes.” Despicable! (http://scroll.in/article/718353/ashis-nandy-on-being-an-indian-christian-julio-ribeiros-pain-and-why-he-opposes-conversion)
Oh, one small difference though Ravish, the person who insulted your mother was a nameless, faceless troll taking cowardly pot-shots using the anonymity of the medium. The person who insulted all the BJP members’ mothers was Mr. Ashish Nandy. A member in good standing of the liberal community and in your own words “one of the finest and most challenging professors of our time.” (http://www.rediff.com/news/column/view-why-ashis-nandy-was-wrong/20130129.htm)
While we are talking about mothers (like couple of small town guys), let us also spare a thought for an illiterate Gujarati woman who from age 80, is forced to witness her 50 something child subjected to one of the most ruthless, sponsored and focussed witch-hunt in the history of modern politics. You say in your letter that your mother asks you if you are keeping well. Did you ever think what old Heeraben Modi must have asked her son Narendra during those dreadful days between 2001 and 2012 each time they spoke? Was it “Are you going to jail son?” or “Why is everyone calling you a mass murderer?” These are my guesses and I welcome you to take a shot at it. You and your friends at NDTV have spent a lot more time thinking about Gujarat 2002, some may say you have obsessed over it for over a decade, so you may come up with something better.
It also deeply anguished me to read your pain about being called a pimp or a hustler or Prestitute. The term Prestitute is especially inappropriate as it insinuates that a commercial sex worker takes something without giving anything back which is far from being true. The lives of most of the prostitutes are about exploitation or desperation. And even you, aggrieved, pained, hurt as you might be, will be first to agree, that two things today’s journalists are definitely not, are exploited or desperate.
Two facts about the online trolling though, and there is no escaping from them. One, while the bile, the hate speeches and the vitriol is flying thick and fast from both sides, there is a marked difference in its origin. While the hateful tweets coming from Right (Hindutva/Nationalist, choose your nomenclature) invariably originate from nobodies with a smartphone and an internet connection, the filth spewing from the Left (liberals/ intellectuals) is coming right from its intellectual, thinking base. Here you have the spokesperson of a ruling party equating RSS with ISIS as Digivijaya Singh did, there you have Rajyasree Sen fat shaming Union Minister Smriti Irani after the Fab-India hidden camera episode.
Rajdeep Sardesai went to the extent of physically attacking a Modi supporter on American soil in 2014 and one of the famous woman journalists’ gave us the ‘memorable’ twitter term: Guttersnipe. So while the filth from Right can be contained by blocking/reporting the abusive trolls, the filth from the Left will thrive even without social media as its perpetrators are occupying positions of power in the mainstream media and can use newspapers and TV channels to spew their hatred for the majority of this country. Your friend Aakar Patel regularly uses the words Hindutva and poison and he gets space in Sunday Times to propagate his hate speech. The Telegraph called Smriti Irani ‘Aunty National’ and ‘Spindrella’ and got away with it. By the way, I tried to google your open letters to The Telegraph about these horrific personal attacks on a woman’s dignity but came up empty. Can you help?
The other point is, unfortunately today you and your friends in Main Stream Media are high on narrative and low on investigative journalism. That is the reason why your coverage of Dadri gives impression of a nation under siege of Saffron radicals, while the mobs destroying a village in West Bengal barely gets a footnote. That is also the reason why you chose to blacken your screen while alleging the videos of JNU protests were doctored, but skipped a follow up program admitting your error, when investigation revealed the videos were, indeed, genuine. The Right Wing Troll is just another part of the left narrative, and therefore, evidence where not present, must be manufactured. Thus, Barkha Dutt tweets about receiving threatening phone calls, but does not follow it up with a formal complaint with police that would allow a search of her phone records, and nab the culprit. In his bestselling non-fiction book about horror genre in popular culture, Stephen King observes: If darkness did not exist, creators of horror movies would have invented it. I rest my case.
An interesting aside before we move from the subject of trolls: Why is it that in the mind of today’s liberal, the only transgression without a possibility of any mitigating circumstance whatsoever is the online abuse coming from the Right Wing? Why is it that journalists like you, who can pontificate about what causes people to gun down Kashmiri Pandits and rape their women, (not religion, oh boy, whatever may be the motivation, it can never be religion!!) and yet forget the cause-effect chain when it comes to abuse on social media? “Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me, Officer Starling” says Dr. Hannibal Lecter in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. Perhaps killing people had purged him of lesser rudeness, observes the author. Is this the case with liberals too? If yes, then do you find it disturbing that the role model of today’s liberal is a fictitious character who dines on his victims after killing them?
Upon careful reading of your missive to Mr. Akbar, one can’t help but notice the parallels between the letter, and your black screen performance back in February. As Sanjay Kaul observes in this excellent take down of your rant (http://www.firstpost.com/india/a-ravishing-spectacle-ndtv-anchor-ravish-kumar-only-succeeded-in-surrendering-publicly-to-times-now-2636866.html), your target was not a political party or Arnab but us stupid audience who choose to watch Times Now over NDTV. Similarly, in this letter, your anger is not at M J Akbar joining a party whose trolls are making your life miserable, but actually at the political discourse at large that allows people like Akbar to change their political affiliations, and still become successful. Well people change their opinions when faced with evidence contrary to their previous beliefs. Even Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It doesn’t reflect well on your standing as a journalist that when it comes to political discourse, you come down on the side of insanity.
You know Ravish, in spite of your insistence of lumping people like me with the ones who abuse your mother and sister, we both know the reason why majority of the country is against journalists like you. It has nothing to do with nationalism and anti-nationalism. Fundamentally, today’s liberals see India as this hostile, barbaric place where women are not safe, patriarchy rules and saffron wearing radicals keep weekly targets of murdering minorities. Unfortunately, most of your target audience experience this country differently. They perceive it not necessarily as a Utopian land, but still one of opportunities. It is a straight deal where the product you offer does not interest us. The hostility begins when you call us bigots for not buying from you.
In Curt Siodmak’s ground-breaking science fiction “Donovan’s brain’ the protagonist Cory resists the hypnotic power of the dead millionaire Donovan by repeatedly chanting “He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.” In defence of young Cory, it must be said that there was a ghost in the story.
No ghosts here Ravish, please stop thrusting your fists against the post.
(At the risk of inviting your wrath for this display of nationalism)
A Bhakt with less than 750 followers on twitter.