Ten years ago, this would never have been possible. If I remember correctly, it was in 2010 that the Radia tapes spilt into the public domain. For weeks, the then-nascent social media was buzzing, comment threads on internet forums were overflowing with common folks demanding that the names of big liberals in these tapes be reported by mainstream media.
Radiagate was the official end of innocence for a generation in its relationship with the media. For at least two reasons. First, for at least ten years, we knew that the world of media was shady. But we didn’t know just how deep the rot was. Radiagate officially ended the image of the journalist as having any kind of moral authority or having anything at all to do with truth or justice. The journalist was reborn in public imagination as a fixer, a go-between who works in power circles of Delhi and Mumbai, helping strike corrupt deals involving politicians and big business.
In the language of the street, a ‘Dalal’.
The second thing we realized was how mainstream media stick together to protect its members, more like a cartel. Quite the opposite of the free market of ideas, where competitors spare no opportunity to belittle each other. No, mainstream media was different. In principle, we had many “brands” which were competitors in theory, but in reality, they were all controlled by the same hand.
And that’s why no mainstream media would cover the Radia tapes. They all cooperated in maintaining a deafening silence. The big liberal names in the Radia tapes never had to explain themselves. It became a symbol of the contempt with which the zamindars of Lutyens Delhi look down on common folk.
Fast forward one decade. To the case of Agusta Patrakars.
This might exactly be the opposite of Radiagate.
The internet is here and everyone is on social media. The big liberals whose names have been taken can no longer hide. The document is up on the internet and nothing… absolutely nothing in the world can ever make it go away.
And social media will not let them forget. Ever.
They know it. Silence is futile. The stony silence that big liberals used during Radiagate is totally useless now. And I see this morning that the ones who were named have scrambled with clarifications, denials and justifications. They know that the longer they remain silent, the more guilty they will look. Within 15 hours of the story hitting all platforms. Even some newspapers have published the story.
Silence is futile. The media must own up to its ‘Agusta patrakars’.
Who changed the game? Technology changed the game. Reinforces my belief that science and technology is always the greatest servant of humanity. Without the power of the internet and the democratization of narrative, do you think the Agusta Patrakars would have been scrambling to explain themselves? Do you think newspapers would have published the story? Of course not.
In this, I would be unfair if I did not mention Arnab Goswami. Listen to him go last night:
— Republic (@republic) April 4, 2019
“The truth will be printed because it must be in print. The truth must be imprinted into our nation’s memory and those in print must print the unprintable truth.”
Spare a thought for Arnab here. Think about the extent of the professional risk he is taking, by going up against the most powerful in the media establishment. Governments come and governments go, but the establishment stays. There is a reason nobody else in media is willing to go out so openly against the ones at the top of the profession. Even some journalists believed to be somewhat sympathetic to the right wing have taken a cautious line, sticking with the big guys in media on this, possibly not willing to risk it all and rock the boat.
Arnab broke with the rest of the media on anti-national chants at JNU. Think about how much it bothered them. He broke with them on issues of Award Wapsi and “intolerance”. He became the thorn in their side, the itch they couldn’t stop scratching. They say he is loud (and he is), they call him Commando Comic, they call him North Korean media and what not. But at least his name does not come up when talking about multi-million $$$ scams. Isn’t that better?
Again and again, the Agusta Patrakar situation reminds me of the days of Radiagate. Back in the day, they didn’t think that the internet or social media was such a big thing. Back in the day, social media was all about real people expressing their real opinions. No big money to drive narratives, no shady corporations getting paid to manipulate folks by stealing their data. Only real people. It was chaotic and sometimes unpleasant, but always real. Like life.
Now that *they* know how powerful social media can be, Big Business, Big Media and Big Liberalism have banded together to recreate on the internet the Orwellian world of mainstream media. Disagree with the global liberal ‘party line’? It’s all ‘hate speech’. Think that it is silly to see hijab as a symbol of empowerment? That’s ‘hate speech’ too.
They haven’t yet figured out a way to scrub the internet off everything they don’t want to hear. But they are working on it, in closed-door meetings with placard-carrying liberal activists who intend to smash all dissent. A shadowban, for instance, makes ideas disappear without creating a public spectacle that might attract sympathy. Very effective, one should say.
Remember that this democratization of the narrative is an invaluable gift that technology has given us. Don’t let them take it away.