While the world media impressed itself with the media scrum over Oscar Pistorius, here at home, all of Kashmir was swarming with intrepid reporters, and they may have cost Omar Abdullah an election. There are just too many visuals of angry, neglected people in camps, offset by soundbytes from the chief minister in baseball cap and aviator shades, alternately talking about the larger picture of rehabilitation and of meddlers “fishing in troubled waters”(that was to Barkha Dutt).
Zee News interviewed mothers complaining that their children were sick from the day the floods began. On Times Now, a couple talked admiringly of the efficiency of the Army. They also said that the moment they stepped out of the military camp, they were on their own, and the civil administration could not even give them information. Various channels, including Headlines Today, showed people who had rescued themselves with the help of locals, not the government.
Cut to Anderson Cooper of CNN, who has scooped an interview with the mother of James Wright Foley, the journalist slain by ISIS. It was perfectly timed to let the air out of President Obama’s speech promising the devastation of ISIS. Calm, poised and politely dismissive, Diane Foley suggested that while the elimination of ISIS was doubtless a noble objective, the government would have to be “shrewder, smarter and willing to negotiate with people who hate us”.
Even more damagingly, she revealed that her family had been on their own in their efforts to free her son, and that rather than helping them, the FBI had been pumping them for information about ISIS — because the family “tended to know everything” long before the intelligence agencies. She spoke kindly of good, supportive people in government, “but there’s a bureaucracy, you know”. Somewhere over the western horizon, President Obama is squirming even harder than Chief Minister Abdullah.
Former CAG Vinod Rai’s new book was so over-hyped that it was bound to disappoint. Most of the blame must go to Times Now, which has been tantalising the innocent public all week with promises of “scam twists no one knew”. The corpses of the 2G, CWG and coal scams have been picked so sparklingly clean by the press that the chances of uncovering something wholly new is minimal, but Times Now offered news that would be “sensational, scandalous, explosive”.
The next slogan, “Congress completely stumped after #VinodSpeakstoArnab,” was an exaggeration. Two of the three worthies named by Rai — Sanjay Nirupam and Sandeep Dixit — riposted excitedly, eager for attention which is scanty these days. Dixit logically demonstrated that he could not have been at the scene of the crime, and that the report that he is supposed to have influenced was already tabled in Parliament.
The first tranche of the Vinod Rai interview had only two revelations, neither new. One, that scams could not have gone forward without the knowledge of Manmohan Singh. And two, that the trend towards fiscal imprudence may have begun in 2004, when Air India went for broke with a sudden order for 68 aircraft. The second, in which former aviation minister Praful Patel’s name is involved, was controversial earlier this year, when former Air India executive director Jitendra Bhargava’s book on the decline of the carrier was withdrawn by the publisher, Bloomsbury. The only person excited and outraged at these “revelations” is Arnab Goswami.
Network 18, which is yet to settle down after a series of big-ticket exits, reported this week that a “house-sized” asteroid had passed close to the earth on Sunday. Whose house? Your house? Obama’s house? Housing is a pretty elastic concept. Nasa, the source, is passionate about accuracy and metrics, so where did this come from?