Breaking Down News: Let’s Twist and Shout

Fake news can make human flesh out of rara gosht, and the rules for journalism have changed along with the decibel levels of news studios.

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published: May 20, 2017 12:20:03 am
Kulbhushan Jadhav, Kulbhushan Jadhav execution, Kulbhushan Jadhav hearing, international court of justice, ICJ, Fake news, journalism, fake journalism, yellow journalism, india, pakistan, indian express news, india news Kulbhushan Jadhav was awarded a death sentence by a military court in Pakistan on April 10.

Kulbhushan Jadhav’s execution has been stayed pending the final decision of the International Court of Justice. For us laypersons unschooled in deep questions of consular access and due process, it means a respite from interminably long telecasts of hearings at the Hague, which we endured unsupported by the bracing shots of jenever which give the Dutch courage. We came away with the impression that interim justice had been done, and that Pakistani advocates wear powdered wigs while French judges preside while bravely bald. Perhaps that constitutes an anthropologically coded message about the two countries.

And what may we conclude about the anthropology of London, where the restaurant Karri Twist, purveyors of culinary classics like tandoori king prawn (£9.95), rara gosht (£6.95) and chicken 65 (£3.50), has fallen victim to the most bizarre fake news attack ever? It was accused of serving human flesh on, a prank site to which people post anonymous stories about friends and enemies to embarrass them. The stories can be immediately reposted to social media to amplify impact. The restaurant’s patrons have apparently been threatening physical harm to the proprietors, who are inclined to close the place down. In fact, the prank story claimed that it had already downed shutters. It’s surprising how little traction this story about an Indian restaurant got in India – only India TV picked it up – while it ran riot in the UK tabloids. Maybe it’s because Indians know that all ‘Indian’ restaurants in the western hemisphere are run by Bangladeshis.

It’s amazing what people will believe these days, now that unbelievable things happen routinely. In Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, General ‘Buck’ Turgidson wrestled the Russian ambassador into the hors d’oeuvres in the War Room of the Pentagon for trying to take pictures with a camera rigged to look like a matchbox. Now, some Russian diplomats have been in the White House, taking pictures and absorbing sensitive information thrown around by the US president, which was of Israeli provenance and must have contravened a treaty. All this while, presumably, digging into the hors d’oeuvres. Following which, the president is hors de combat with a significant portion of the American people anticipating his impeachment.

On Thursday, Al Green, Democrat representative of Texas, carried through his promise of calling for an impeachment. There’s a clip of his speech on C-Span. Defying gravity, he says, “Mr Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart.” He speaks from a sense of duty to constituents, the constitution and the nation and calls for the impeachment of Donald Trump for “perspicuous” obstruction of justice: he fired the FBI director who was investigating him. He recalls that the US is a participatory democracy, in which people do not participate on election day only, but every day. “And this is your day to act… I stand, I will not be moved, the president must be impeached.” Great fire and brimstone stuff, even if it comes to nothing in the end.

Speaking of the flammables, the Republic TV studio turned into an inferno this week, the spark being lit by the National Herald case. “Bring the FBI, bring Mossad,” said Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa, when leaned on by Arnab Goswami’s crew in their sweet way, adding that the party “welcomed investigation mandated by the court because we have no faith in the income tax authorities or the CBI.” He also said that he did not expect much from a “BJP channel” and a “BJP journalist”, which touched a raw nerve somewhere rather like a cannonball touches a rampart. The anchor, Sheetal Rajput, immediately demanded an apology, but was denied satisfaction by Goswami, who sprang to her defence though she required none, and was holding her own quite well. He brushed her aside summarily (“Gimme the mike!”) and waded in with: “Just shut up now and listen to me, Brajesh Kalappa.”

Dr Goswami prescribed that Kalappa should check himself into a lunatic asylum, that he should do an “ashtanga pranam before the Gandhis to get a Rajya Sabha seat, and tell them I’m your lapdog.” A few snatches of the hissy fit were instructive. Such as this: “When you are asked a question by a channel, answer seriously, dammit, learn to speak with respect. You’re a novice in politics, you have no right to question us. Our funding is in the public domain, unlike channels that you have funded forever.”

Such as a channel that launched his career, presumably. It is perplexing, because he bested it long ago in the TRP game. And there’s this statement: “Find the nearest psychiatrist, because the rules of engagement between journalists and politicians have changed for ever.” Whatever could that mean? That one is engaged to the other? The time-honoured rule is that a journalist must never look up to a politician. Has that rule been reversed?

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