Just when people assumed the decline of the Lutyens’ media, its poster boy – Karan Thapar, hit back with a desperate attempt to make the nation relive its “golden age”. Having released a book titled ‘Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story’, Thapar made it a point to reveal numerous undocumented conversations with well-known individuals and anecdotes. But the approach he uses both, in his book and while promoting his book, makes a commoner question his knowledge of basic journalistic ethics, and the dignity with which he addresses the people of this country.
In a book launch event, Karan Thapar was asked questions by Rajdeep Sardesai in the presence of politicians including Rahul Gandhi, amongst a massive audience. The self-proclaimed ‘Anglophile’ began by making his love for Britain (and his contempt for ‘another place’) quite clear; when asked a personal question, on why he spends the New Year in London, Karan responds: “I’m a great believer…that you have to begin the year in a civilised country.”
However much of an implication Karan Thapar makes of India being an ‘uncivilised’ country, we might as well give him the benefit of the doubt, because he later says in an interview that it was a “tongue-in-cheek” comment. Such “tongue-in-cheek” comments, of course, do not bode well for a man attempting to deny his aristocratic placement in India, because he denounces the basic civility (which often translates to the perceived dignity), that India and its people have.
But of course, Thapar does not stop at that for a remark that must have been “tongue-in-cheek”. With a serious tone and mannerism, he goes on to defend his position on ‘civility’ (instead of passing it off as a joke) when he says:
“We’re pretty uncivilised at the moment, when we start killing people because they are Dalits, or because they eat beef, when we slaughter them because they’re taking cows down the street, or when we claim innocent people to be child molester, child lynchers or whatever. We’re pretty uncivilised in that. You don’t see that happening in most other countries in the world, be they rich, poor, western or eastern”
The very fact that Thapar wishes to dwell on that point and defend his position brings about a sense of seriousness and meaning to his initial remark. The handful of incidents he is referring to can be explored in good depth for his position on the occurrence of such incidents, to debunk. But even if we assumed that such crimes are taking place in India, that does not give him the right to stoop to pejorative terms that refer to his own country, as fundamentally uncivilised.
And it is not like the United Kingdom ha,s never seen incidents of that degree. Who can forget the time when an 80-year-old Sikh man was beaten up by a British woman, as people just watched on? Or the several incidents of hate crimes over eastern Europeans?
Going by his hollow logic, that (along with many more incidents) should make the United Kingdom an uncivilised nation too. But this romanticised colonial hangover is precisely what blinds Karan Thapar from noticing the fact that hate crimes, sadly, occur in nearly every country.
His colonial fanaticism, however, is not much of an issue, until it gets coupled with profound ignorance of basic morals. In his book, he reveals a conversation that was off the record, with Pavan Varma, where he quotes him on all sorts of things including the notion that Prashant Kishor ‘told him’ that Modi “will never forgive” Karan for the interview. Having seen this, Pavan Varma made it very clear on where he stood:
Surprised to see Karan Thapar quoting me, and citing Prashant Kishor, in his book ‘The Devil’s Advocate’. Such a conversation with me did not take place as Karan recalls it, nor has Prashant ever spoken to me about Karan. The record must be set straight.
— Pavan K. Varma (@PavanK_Varma) July 21, 2018
It is thus important for us to understand what follows because it speaks volumes on Karan Thapar’s story of convenience and sheer hypocrisy.
Thapar begins by defending his position with the idea that “Pavan, perhaps had a senior moment” when he ‘forgot’ the conversation. When questioned on why Karan revealed the conversation that took place off the record, his only response was: “Pavan never asked for the conversation to be confidential. If he did say so, I would not have (revealed it).”
First of all, one violates every ethic as a journalist, when one reveals their sources. To add icing on the incomprehensible cake, when one makes off the record conversations public, they make a spectacle out of non-issues where people who trusted the journalist are compelled to reiterate their public position.
It not only is a severe breach of trust but contradicts the fundamental ethics with which journalists are told to approach their duty in society. And the fact that an off the record conversation was not ‘specifically asked’ to be confidential does not change anything.
Besides, since when did Karan Thapar begin caring about upholding secrecy when specifically requested?
Last I checked, on the same page, when Sambit specifically asked if Karan “could keep a secret before he answered”, Karan Thapar breached Sambit Patra’s trust too. So, the idea that Karan would have upheld secrecy if Pavan Varma asked him is with due respect, humbug.
Interestingly, the only defence of his morally abhorrent position on Patra occurs in the interview with Madhu Trehan, where he claims “I revealed it (the breach of trust) myself! You didn’t dig it up… It’s in the book!”, as though that takes away from the downright disgusting levels he resorts to, while revealing information. Simply boasting about having “revealed that in the book” does not take away from the fact that he knowingly relied on a contravention in the underlying moral code, to achieve the publicity he wanted.
The truth would, hence, appear to be that Karan Thapar does not particularly care about whether or not a person asks for secrecy or confidentiality. He is a hypocrite who tosses morals aside, based on his whims and fancies, and what suits his demeanour at a given time.
Karan Thapar is the same man who believed Pallavi Joshi did not deserve a role because of her skin colour, the same man who placed the clothing of numerous prime ministers over their groundbreaking policies, the same man who argues in order to put down the civility of his country- all of which, is perfectly reflective of the Lutyens elite’s attitude.
To analyse the scenario at its heart, one must never forget the critical timing of this book. Just when there commenced, a nationwide discussion on the creaking future of the once celebrated Lutyens’ media, Karan Thapar struck with his articulation, as a means to revive the elephant in the room. He continues to downplay its purpose when he describes his book as a mere product of some newfound “free time”.
But when Thapar knowingly violates the basics of what his profession stands for, one must contemplate on how desperate he is, to find ways to insult a set of people suppressing his actively propagated ideas. Along with the timing, it must be remembered what a celebrated journalist this man was, for decades.
Karan Thapar is the epitome of the Lutyens’ elite, involving a select few journalists who belong to an ecosystem of power and privilege. And that position of entitlement is what makes these journalists open to little complexity, and what puts them, far from the critical awareness of this nation’s intricacies, while masquerading as the nation’s conscience keepers.
Make no mistake, this book needs to be recognised as a means for the Lutyens’ media to reclaim what they have lost in recent times.