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Breaking down News: Flavour of the Month

Buzzfeed has discovered Indian media and finds it better than Fox.

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Updated: April 25, 2015 12:00:18 am
arnab goswami, times now, newshour, arnab goswami times now, arnab goswami newshour, arnab goswami news, pratik kanjilal columns, breaking down news, bbc, buzzfeed, indian media, indian news tv channels, indian express US viewers were introduced to Arnab Goswami and his disregard for the Geneva Conventions.

#100sareepact, the retro comfort and general happiness movement which launched on March 1, now has a buzzing crowdsourced storysite and has drawn media attention at venues from Al Arabiya to the Wall Street Journal and the BBC, where it has been promoted to the “trending” category. It competes for attention with the distinctly unhappy viral video of a Kurdish girl, aged six or seven, firing a mounted machine gun twice her size at targets unknown, and telling a person off-camera that she had mowed down 400 IS fighters in this manner.

The video appeared on Facebook and on the YouTube channel “Kurdish YPG”, and could be pure propaganda, shot far from any battlefield. A reaction to the IS using videos of alleged child soldiers committing atrocities, it nestles among other videos of Australian and British provenance (one by the BBC itself) following women soldiers in the conflict. The BBC contacted the maintainer of the YouTube Channel, who lives in Gaza and appears to have no political affiliations, only a taste for conflict. A generation ago, he could have been a Terminator fan.

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Buzzfeed has discovered Indian media and finds it better than Fox. “I’ve never seen real Indian news, but I’m ready for it,” a human guinea pig on the site says. Predictably, the drug of choice is Times Now, “known for often aggressive and sensationalist panels.” US viewers were introduced to Arnab Goswami and his disregard for the Geneva Conventions last year, when John Oliver featured Times Now’s number-benumbing election coverage on his comic show Last Week Tonight. “I feel like I’m playing a slot machine in a Mumbai casino while high on peyote,” he had said as rapidly evolving raw data flooded the screen.

Buzzfeed’s show is a lab experiment in which the reactions of random American viewers are recorded as they are tortured with an old session of #IsSwamyRight, wherein Dr Subramanian Swamy shared his thoughts on Sri Lankan issues with unusual vehemence. Thoughts such as: “Don’t be stupid!” And, “You’re an ignorant man!” (Both directed at Goswami.) And viewer reactions like: “He just called him a liar.” “This is like we used to be in first grade.” “It looks they remixed it, this could be a viral song or something.” “I’m in love with Dr Suber. I wish he was my dad.” Dr Suber is Subramanian Americanised.

Viewers were torn between speculating whether the producer was asleep at the console or whether America needs Dr Suber asap. At some point, some instigator offscreen revealed to the participants that Subramanian Swamy had a Harvard connection. One response: “Swamy got a degree from Harvard? Shut the *%$&* up!” What would the response have been if Buzzfeed knew the whole truth — that Dr Suber held an Ivy League teaching position until he was rudely interrupted by obstreperous students? Interest flags as the related stories that follow Dr Suber’s explore cultural relativism via orality — “Indians try American snacks” and “Indians try American sweets”. The Punjabi guy was seduced by the Twinkies, but the other experiments delivered mixed results. To quote Mani Shankar Aiyar, so bloody what?

Will the public suicide of Gajendra Singh at Jantar Mantar develop into a turning point on the issue of farmer suicides and refocus political attention on the farm sector? It started as a pretty dirty story with politicians trying to turn the narrative to material advantage. And the media has not emerged unbesmirched, with Deepender Singh Hooda protesting that when Gajendra threw down his suicide note, there was an unseemly scramble to get it first. As India stares at a second low-rainfall year, the focus remains on politics and entertainment, not the main story.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

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