In another article* on our blog, we called a flagrant foul on Joe Leahy of the Financial Times (FT) and on FT’s editors for Mr. Leahy’s article “Mumbai campaign highlights extremist views”.
As we were writing that article, we wondered what a Bill O’Reilly would have done, had Joe Leahy made similar statements about New York and about a great American hero. We believe that Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity would have raked Joe Leahy over the coals on their shows and taken the battle to the Editors of the Financial Times. In addition, they would have called for an immediate boycott of the Financial Times.
Joe Scarborough of MSNBC would have been just as livid but he probably would have expressed his views less stridently. Rush Limbaugh and his right wing radio colleagues would have gone to war against the Financial Times.
So we asked ourselves, “where are India’s Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough?”. The answer is there are no TV anchors like these in India.
Indian Media Networks – Birds of the same feather
Indian print media is almost entirely left wing liberal. You can see some minor differences between the Times of India, Hindustan Times and the Indian Express, the three largest newspapers in India, but there is no real difference. They all toe the liberal line and are petrified of being conservative or protective of Indian culture and values. The left wing media lobby in India is extremely articulate and highly organized. They are very quick to pounce on any media person that violates their prescribed boundaries.
The Indian TV networks are even more petrified of any association with conservative values. The competition between the networks is so fierce that you would imagine TV networks would want to take different viewpoints like Fox and MSNBC in America. Not at all. The competition is based entirely on stridency and on which anchor can be hyper-emotional about the same issue in the same way.
Why is this so? We explore some reasons below:
- Perhaps, this goes back to the enduring influence of Nehru and his love for English liberal thinking. Since his days, any one who deviates from his liberal path gets branded as anti-modern and reactionary. In fact, the worst insult in Indian media is being called anti-secular. Once a media person is branded as an anti-secular, he or she is doomed.
- Perhaps it goes back to Mahatma Gandhi’s selection of the anglicized, liberal Jawaharlal Nehru as his successor over the son of the soil, conservative Vallabhbhai Patel. It is reported that Gandhi wanted his India to present a western image to the world.
- This may be the historical reason why Indian media is desperate to curry intellectual favor with European liberal media. Any issue that is taboo in Europe’s liberal circles becomes taboo in Indian media. Take the case of President George Bush. He did more for India than any previous President in American history. He established a strategic partnership with India, shepherded the unique Indo-US nuclear deal through the global nuclear supply group. Every Indian diplomat, from India’s Prime Minister to India’s lowest Foreign policy official, feels grateful to George Bush for his unprecedented support and friendship. But, the European liberal media hated George Bush. So the Indian media followed their lead and lampooned George Bush.
- This may be because every Indian anchor wants to get recognized or be hired by an American or English media company. So they go out of their way to become more acceptable to American or European media giants. The simplest way to do this, they might feel, is to take globally acceptable viewpoints and not get branded as a reactionary Indian.
- It could also be due to the strict demands of the Indian Government, which wants to present a modern, liberal, secular image to America and Europe. They try their best to make sure that the Indian media continues to appease the extreme fringes of Indian minorities. For example, the editor of the Statesman, a newspaper in Kolkatta, was arrested because he re-printed a European article that was anti-Muslim.
The reality is that Indian Society is deeply conservative and religious. It’s core values are far closer to those of America than to those of Europe. The silent majority in India despises what it hears on TV, especially English language Indian TV. They feel that the coverage is anti-Indian and tramples on their core beliefs. We heard this from many people and many sources during our six-week stay in Mumbai last year.
This may explain why no Indian Anchor has gained a mass following in India. In America, people identify with either Fox, CNN or MSNBC depending on their views. Very few people in India identify with any one network because they all have the same content with the same viewpoints.
Consequences for Indian Society
Public commentators like O’Reilly, Hannity and Scarborough serve an important purpose in American society. They give voice to the anger of the silent majority and act as its public champions. This channels the rage of the silent majority towards public debate. This is much safer for American society.
In contrast, the anger of the silent Indian majority has no public voice. Their views and deeply held beliefs have no outlet in public debate. This results in a buildup of internal rage in the silent majority. Opportunistic politicians identify this rage and exploit it for their political purposes. This is why Indian society tends to erupt in deadly riots from time to time.
Just as lack of response to terror attacks and appeasement of terrorists by the Indian Government will lead to more physical attacks on Indian society, lack of response to journalistic attacks and appeasement of such reporters by Indian media will lead to more articles like the one written by Joe Leahy in the Financial Times.
We hope that some day an Indian public commentator will emerge who will be the champion of India’s silent but enraged majority and do battle with the global attackers of Indian values and culture.
* See “Flagrant Foul on FT’s Joe Leahy and on Editors of Financial Times for Journalistic Misconduct and Religious Prejudice” – May 2, 2009
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