Ever since Narendra Modi took oath as the Prime Minister of India, the journalism landscape has gone through a massive change in the country. Somehow, the fine line between journalists and propagandists seem to have disappeared.
News, became a thing of the past, and opinions became the prime business of five-star journalists. Feedback got redefined as trolling and fact checking became a cumbersome task that just stood in the way of a good narrative.
Let me share an experience of mine, which has helped me conclude the above.
Back in March 2015, I was having a discussion with the Deputy National Editor of The Hindu on how the false narrative of “church attacks” was being peddled. In the course of the discussion, he had this to tell me:
Mr. Srinivas Ramani saying he was involved in the ‘business of serious journalism’ inspired many giggles, and like his journalism, couldn’t be substantiated with facts.
It was a simple discussion where I was pointing out to him an article by Ms. Rupa Subramanya that called out the fake noise about the church attacks. Failing to provide counter facts, Mr. Ramani, just as any other journalist caught on the wrong foot, defended his lies by saying I have blinkers on and accusing me of being a troll.
In his now deleted tweet from August 2015, Srinivasan Ramani claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to bring back black money in 100 days. I asked him to provide proof for the same and he, just like any other journalist caught on the wrong foot, changed tracks completely –
His response to me was drastically different from his initial assertion of PM Modi promising to bring back black money in 100 days! With his narrative disproved, he went on to accuse me of nitpicking; asked me to be objective; called me a bhakt; told me he is a busy man – basically, tried every trick in the book to avoid answering the queries I was posing!
He has since blocked me on twitter thus depriving me of the opportunity to read his many pearls of wisdom. However, on the evening of October 4th, he revealed his abusive self yet again, snapshots of which appeared on my Twitter timeline. In response to Prime Minister Modi’s comment that the RBI has projected a GDP growth on 7.7% in the coming quarters, he had this to say:
“They lowered projections to 6.7% in FY18, Mr PM. Follow the right people instead of buffoons & bigots on your TL & you will get right info.”
The flavor of the season is to raise fingers at the followers of PM Modi and the ones he follows, irrespective of the context. Nothing else can explain the abusive tweet above. But that is not the only thing that we need to talk about in that tweet.
Upon a cursory reading of his tweet, one would be shocked that the Prime Minister could get such basic details wrong. I mean, how can the PM be off by a whopping 1%? Thanks to Social Media ‘trolls’, we come to know that the RBI had released this data on the same day:
Upon closer inspection, one realizes that by Q4, RBI projected the growth to be 7.7%. The Prime Minister in his speech had clearly mentioned that RBI projected a 7.7% growth in the “coming quarters”. When this anomaly was pointed out, Srinivasan Ramani had an awesome response, as below:
- Q4 is 3 Qs away and not coming quarter.
- RBI overall projection for coming quarter is 6.7%.
The PM mentioned coming quarters (plural). Srinivasan Ramani heard it in singular form – as coming quarter, and therefore thought he could call those commoners whom PM Modi follows, as abusive. He reiterates that the PM spoke about “coming quarter” while the PM clearly mentioned “coming quarters”.
He then proceeded to tell us that RBI overall projection for “coming quarter” is 6.7%. Let’s look back at the table. Coming quarter is “Q2”. The projection for that is 6.4%. One would wonder why Mr. Srinivasan Ramani was having such difficulty in understanding basic numbers.
Users were continuing to point out his error, but he didn’t want to give up. So he came up with another gem:
Sorry. I disagree. Downward revision is the key for next FY..And you can’t cherry pick q4. EOD
“You can’t cherry pick” – I think Mr. Ramani wants The Prime Minister has to take permission from ‘intellectuals’ like Srinivasan Ramani before talking about data, which he failed to comprehend.
There is another key point in Srinivasan Ramani’s arguments. He keeps saying there is a downward revision for “FY18”, & “Next FY”.
Let’s take a look at RBI’s table again:
All projections are for the financial year 2017-2018. That is “this FY” and not the “next FY” that Srinivasan is talking about. He also says there is a “downward revision” for “next FY”. “Next FY” would mean 2018-2019! Clearly, for someone who is obsessed with data, this is not some minor confusion! The GDP in 2016-2017 says 6.6%. The projected growth for the entire 2017-2018 is 6.7%. How exactly is this a “downward revision”?
Or is it because RBI projected another number at the beginning of the current Financial Year, and has revised it downwards? RBI has projected a 7.3% growth at the beginning of this year, and has now revised it to 6.7% . The downward revision is because of the poor growth in Q1, that has already passed us! So why the new concern about “downward revision” now?
Also, Srinivasan Ramani tells us that we should not be concerned with Quarterly growth, and only about the yearly growth. If so, as Deputy National Editor of his newspaper, can he ensure that not too much of space is given to quarterly growth figures? Can he ensure they don’t write any more editorials regarding the Quarterly growth?
The next pearl of wisdom is as follows:
Guess what? The Prime Minister has acknowledged the situation and said they are working towards reversing this trend, in the very same speech. He also mentioned his request to the GST council to solve all issues people have faced while filing GST. But looks like Mr. Srinivasan Ramani is not interested facts at all.
It is indeed astounding that a person with such scant regard for facts is the Deputy National Editor of The Hindu. A journalist who resorts to name calling at the slightest hint of a debate is a highly placed employee of a newspaper that has nearly 10 lakh circulation.
Don’t the readers who pay up for The Hindu deserve to be told the full truth, rather than these half baked ones? One wonders what the readers outside of the social media space are being fed.