Peggy Noonan & Her Article – What Does It Say about the Wall Street Journal & Its India Edition?

A young man was asked his name in a Louis L’Amour book. He said “they call me Handy”. When asked why, he drawled, “I was handy in a gunfight and so folks began calling me Handy”. In the Wild West, names did not matter much. Where you came from mattered even less. What mattered is what you did. In that spirit, we will not spend even a sentence on Peggy Noonan’s background.

It does not matter. What matters to us is Ms. Noonan’s intellectual clarity, her emotional balance and the inherent respect she has for core America.  All of this is so evident in her recent opinion America Is at Risk of Boiling Over in the Wall Street Journal. This is a terrific article and it should be read 2-3 times. The first reading usually appeals to the emotional quotient, the second or third reading to the intellectual.

Last week, we wrote about the Wall Street Journal India Edition and described it as an MSNBC inside Fox News . When we read Peggy Noonan’s opinion, we wonder whether such an article would ever be published in the WSJ India Edition. Then we wonder why the WSJ India edition can never seem to find a writer who cares about core India the way Peggy Noonan cares for core America.

After all, the Peggy Noonan opinion is almost as appropriate for today’s India. For example, Ms. Noonan writes:

  • I started noticing in the 1980s the growing gulf between the country’s thought leaders, as they’re called—the political and media class, the universities—and those living what for lack of a better word we’ll call normal lives on the ground in America. The two groups were agitated by different things, concerned about different things, had different focuses, different world views.

This is the story of today’s Indian media class. India has seen a large influx of US media money and influence. CNN, NBC have poured capital in Indian Television networks. Wall Street Journal has opened an India Edition with the British Financial Times to follow. Rather than appealing to core India, these US media entities have chosen to cater to their favored demographic – the “educated” Indian who tries to think and talk pseudo-European. You see this every week in the Wall Street Journal India Edition, on CNN-IBN and on NDTV-NBC.

We find the core Indian personality to be very similar to the core American personality – generous, tolerant, patriotic at heart and spiritual in soul. The reason America has welcomed immigrants from literally every country in the world is the core generosity, tolerance and intelligence of the American majority. The reason India has succeeded and thrived over past 4-5 millennia is the core generosity, tolerance and intelligence of the Indian majority. The assimilative powers of the Indian majority are legendary. Its ability to integrate foreign cultures into the Indian mainstream is unique. India created Urdu, a marvelously romantic language by merging the romance of Pharsi into Indian Hindi. Urdu poetry has been the mainstay of the legendary Bollywood romantic films. Core India is now in the process of integrating English ( it has already made Cricket all-Indian).

But you never see any Noonan-type accolades to the Indian majority in the pages of Wall Street Journal India Edition. Instead, the opinions published in WSJ India tend to aggravate the deepening chasm between the “educated” pseudo-European Indians and the core Indians who are, as Peggy Noonan writes, living what for lack of a better word we’ll call normal lives on the ground in India. The Universities in India, especially the awfully low quality Journalism or Liberal Arts programs, produce young writers steeped in Pseudo-European. Regardless of what they think in their hearts, they have been taught to recite the “modern European” viewpoints and to shun the “backward core Indian” viewpoints.

We use the word Pseudo-European with deliberation. These “educated” Indians are taught to deride American conservatism even more than Indian conservatism. The “educated” Indians consider American conservatives as America’s socially backward class, the “uneducated” Americans if you will. And the Wall Street Journal India Edition represents this Indian group.

Peggy Noonan writes “But do our political leaders have any sense of what people are feeling deep down? They don’t act as if they do. I think their detachment from how normal people think is more dangerous and disturbing than it has been in the past.

This is even more applicable to India. The Indian establishment is getting totally detached from how normal Indians think. This is more dangerous in India than in America. After all, America has many conservative writers and TV hosts. India does not. We cannot find a Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity or even a Joe Scarborough in Indian TV or Print media. Perhaps the Government does not permit such thoughts or perhaps the environment is like the 1970s in America when America-bashing by Pseudo-European Americans was in vogue.

The result is that thoughts, opinions that should be expressed by writers in print, by opinionators on TV are being relegated to more physically oriented strata of society. This is why riots take place and violence becomes the only social outlet.

What bothers us is the stark difference between the Wall Street Journal India Edition and the American Wall Street Journal. It reminds us of the 1960s book “The Ugly American”. This Vietnam-era book made the point that America is a very different society within America than it is outside America. Inside America, Americans are a tolerant people who provide rights to all regardless of their color, race or background. But outside America’s borders, the book argued that Americans tend to be just the opposite – rude, dismissive, biased and see nothing wrong in treading on the rights of other people.

This to us seems to be the story of the Wall Street Journal and the WSJ India edition. Within America, the WSJ shows a high standard of journalistic integrity and respect for core America while the Indian Edition of the WSJ behaves totally differently. The Wall Street Journal is not alone of course. CNN, NBC are all guilty of the same ugly practice.

Fortunately, this is not true of American companies in general. IBM, Microsoft, Cisco are wonderful companies both in America and in India. Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch have built very successful Indian entities by bringing their American way into India.

Will the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board ever reform the WSJ India Edition? Perhaps, they should ask Peggy Noonan to move to India to run the India Edition and bring the real American spirit, the Ronald Reagan spirit, to Indian Pseudo-European Journalism. 

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