Breaking Down News: Storm in a Covfefe Cup

An act of media resistance for a less than grand cause and why a 12-year-old Indian student infuriates POTUS.

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published:June 10, 2017 12:43 am
kerala pakistan, times now, kerala amit shah, amit shah in kerala, potus, indian express news, india news BJP President Amit Shah Shah

In a correction, Times Now claims to have mistyped ‘Kerala’ as ‘Pakistan’. Do not try to emulate them at home. You could do permanent damage to your anatomy, twisting your fingers all over the keyboard like that. In the course of the coverage of Amit Shah’s visit to Kerala, the channel had likened God’s Own Country to Pakistan, ruffling Malayali feathers. Since they are not exactly a powerless lot, the channel had to back off, claiming an “inadvertent error” in typing.

Pakistani feathers may be slightly ruffled, too, or perhaps the people over there are merely amused. Without benefit of quantum mechanics, the Zee group has caused black holes to appear in its subcontinental cricket coverage. Sudhir Chaudhary tweeted: “Not reporting an India-Pakistan match dents TRPs. Zee News is willing to make this sacrifice to expose #SabseBadaDroh.” That’s playing with a country that has been in limited conflict with Indian troops on the border. DNA, Zee’s print avatar, had holes in its pages where the coverage of India’s win over Pakistan in the Champions Trophy series should have been.

The issue of censorship is back in the news with the CBI raids on NDTV’s promoters. The New York Times and the Washington Post in the US, and The Guardian in the UK, have rung the alarm bells, and the government could face embarrassing questions overseas. Out there, platitudes about “due process” will not wash. While many see this as an attack on free speech, the right-winged are saying that it’s no big deal. It’s the familiar argument: if the promoters are innocent, they can have nothing to fear because the law will take its course.

Typically, such optimistic opinions are aired by people who are certain that they will be spared the government’s attentions. In practice, while taking its desultory and demanding course, the law takes its toll. Organising the defence takes up the time and attention of the respondents, reducing their ability to contribute to the newsroom. Distressingly vulgar coercive measures and the denial of rights are completely unnecessary. Impartial and scrupulous due process itself distracts key people from their real job. By the time the process is through, the objective of shutting people up is generally secured.

Another raid in Kolkata has not made a splash nationally, but it should have. The CID has unearthed a clutch of fake doctors, fake medicines and even a fake degree-awarding agency, and is now inviting public complaints about doctors whose practice is disproportionate to their degrees. The biggest catch is Ajay Tewari, a homoeopath who has apparently been conducting endoscopies in one of the biggest hospitals. Another has only a Class X certificate to show, but has been presenting papers on bronchial disease in learned fora. The fake degrees in “paramedical” sciences have been traced to a guy in a T-shirt with a laptop and printer. It’s his weekend business, running from a small shop in Howrah, a Kolkata suburb. There’s no limit to what the Indian entrepreneurial spirit can achieve.

America has a new spelling bee champion, 12-year-old Ananya Vinay of Maryland. This is firm evidence of intelligent design: most spelling bee winners are of Indian origin. CNN had her on to spell ‘covfefe’. She was off by a consonant but got full marks anyway. One of the anchors explained kindly that it was a nonsense word, and Vinay may have been confused because she was looking for the root in Sanskrit, “which is probably what you use.” Not any more, lady. Now, we speak languages like C++, Java, Haskell and PHP, and that infuriates the hell out of your president, and fills him with what he termed “negative covfefe”.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

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