A Different Kind of Reality TV   

The drama over National Register of Citizens in Assam takes centre stage on television while M Karunanidhi’s illness throws open questions about privacy

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published: August 4, 2018 12:57:18 am
Women wait to check if their names have been included in the draft of the National Register of Citizens in Mayoung, about 55 km from Guwahati, on Monday. (AP Photo/File)

Parliament is in session, and those of us tired of AXN have an alternative as the drama over the National Register of Citizens in Assam plays out on TV. There are other options, too, like the drama at Silchar airport, where emissaries of the Trinamool Congress were turned away rather forcefully. And there was the resignation of the TMC chief in Assam, for fear of being blamed for any violence that might follow.

Here in Delhi, Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju, revealed all to Times Now, except the main question: what happens to the 4 crore people left out of the NRC? Precis of answer: they will have a window until September 28 to submit proof of citizenship and plead their case before several bodies. Which did not answer the question at all, which is: what happens after September 28? Also, how will these people, most of whom are of modest means, plead their case? Will the government pay for their defence, since it has put the onus of proof on them?

On the other side of the world, some disturbing footage has emerged from a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida, where the predominantly white and baseball-capped crowd whipped themselves into a rage against the media covering the event, complete with obscenities shouted and gestured. Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director, whom Donald Trump had hired and fired at whirlwind speed in 2017, warned that someone could get hurt due to the “hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media … We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy.”

Last week,The New York Times, the Washington Examiner and Business Insider had reported that Trump created a ruckus on Air Force One during the US couple’s first trip overseas. Trump found that Melania Trump’s TV was tuned to CNN, even though he had made it clear that the White House staff were to begin each flight with a dose of Fox News. In retaliation, the first lady’s office clarified that she watches whatever she bloody well wants to. In normal times, this bizarre story would not even have made the news. But it is thought-provoking stuff now when, after the fallout of Trump’s meeting with Putin, he has graduated from “don’t believe fake news” to something like, “don’t believe the facts; believe me”.

Ages ago, before social media was even born, when convergence was a mad gleam in the eyes of a few media entrepreneurs, the US academic Cass Sunstein had warned about the craze of the time: user-customised news feeds. Focusing on your own interests excludes the rest of the world, and eventually cuts you off from reality. The US president is now testing out this theory in action.

M Karunanidhi’s illness continues to bring out the most bizarre in us. Circulating on social media is the most embarrassing picture of the DMK patriarch in hospital, being visited by MK Stalin and Rahul Gandhi. It is extremely invasive and someone could have protected the 94-year-old from this ignominy. And meanwhile, Times Now took the news as the peg for a story with this headline: ‘Karunanidhi being treated for fever and UTI: Seven factors that put men at risk of UTIs’. Quite right. Never pass up an opportunity for some health advocacy.

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