BJP or Narendra Modi, have no stake, officially or unofficially in any Satire website in India. But if you read some comments on Twitter, you might be fooled into thinking otherwise. Two of India’s most popular satire sites, FakingNews and TheUnrealTimes, are often accused of being soft on BJP, or pro-BJP.
It’s a different issue that these accusations are often from “liberals” who have publicly shown their leaning to other political parties, hence their criticisms are generally a case of severe butthurt. What makes this even more evident is that such voices have increased after BJP secured a massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections. But let’s play along and see if these accusations are actually true?
I checked the front page of FakingNews at 1pm on 15/01/2015. I found:
1. 5 stories related to AAP, out of which 3 were old stories which were shown as related to a recent AAP story. So net recent AAP stories were 2
2. 6 stories related to BJP. One of them was the lead story. 3 such stories were in what I assume is the “featured” section. 1 was in the recently popular section, and another far below. Importantly all were recent stories, no old related posts.
So on a random check, FakingNews seems to have passed the neutrality test. I also checked their archives for the month of January 2015 and it supported the above result where I could find 6 stories directly mocking BJP, and 2 stories on AAP.
At the same time, I checked the homepage of TheUnrealTimes. I found:
1. 1 story on AAP. Another story which can be related to AAP is on Shazia Ilmi joining BJP, Although I feel it mocks BJP more. But for argument’s sake lets say 2 stories about AAP.
2. 7 stories related to BJP or the Central Government (including right-wing groups like VHP and Hindu Mahasabha, because “Liberals” believe all these are the same). The most recent story was the Shazia Ilmi joining BJP piece, where Kejriwal is seen trolling her. Another post on the blocking of websites by the Government was in the featured section.
So again, a similar random check of TheUnrealTimes also shows that they too pass the neutrality test with flying colours.
I have uploaded screenshots of both these sites at around 1pm here. Keep in mind here, both sites host content created by multiple authors, so in-order to substantiate a claim that a site is biased, a majority of authors on that site will have to be biased.
But I also want to touch on a larger point. Why do they have to be neutral? Can we not have a satire website which has a clear slant towards a political party, and is open about it? At least it will be better than MSM members who claim to be neutral but are rarely so. Also, how do they remain “neutral”? Are the writers not affected by the political scenario in the country? When a huge majority of the people in India have shown that they are “biased” towards a party (via Lok Sabha elections), can writers on satire websites be insulated from such “waves”?
And satire sites, need not be biased only because their writers or owners have a particular bent. They can choose to be biased for purely commercial reasons. Both the satire sites I talked about are fully for-profit ventures, so its natural they will promote stories which generate more eyeballs.
The fact is, as on date, jokes on Modi do not generate much positive traffic. There can some negative traffic if “Bhakts” choose to target you, but that’s only if the piece is offensive. As a fellow satirist, I have had this discussion very often that we are still not ready for jokes on Modi because the country is still enjoying the Modi honeymoon period. In fact, TheUnrealTimes, felt this upcoming drought of jokes way back in July 2014 and sportingly put up this satire piece. In a conversation with Ajayendar, a regular contributor at TheUnrealTimes, he mentions “Even if you force fit satire on the likes of Modi, Jaitley etc, the pieces tend to tank big time. At the end of the day, we are neither an NGO nor MSM to makes millions even with poor readership/TRPs”
I might have convinced some, but there will still be some folks who will continue having grudges against these sites, for them, I have the same reply most Right-Wingers get when they question the leanings of MSM: GO START YOUR OWN SITE!