For all their talk of ‘speaking truth to power’, Indian mainstream media is remarkable for its extravagant cowardice. We witnessed another demonstration of this cowardice when NDTV removed a representational image of a Muslim man getting tested for Covid-19 after a not-so-subtle threat by resident Islamist of the liberal establishment, Sharjeel Usmani.
Sharjeel Usmani, quite openly, enquired which NDTV employee had chosen the particular representation image for the report. He also implored other employees to snitch on the person and out his identity. As to what he intended to do with the identity of the employee, we could only guess.
But terrible things are known to happen to individuals who incur the wrath of Islamists. Kamlesh Tiwari and the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists can attest to that. As terrible as it was, Usmani’s conduct was not entirely shocking. It is what we have come to expect from his ilk.
What was surprising, however, was the despicable manner in which NDTV caved in to his demands. Within a very short period of time, the representational image featuring the Muslim man was removed and the tweet was deleted.
It would have been hilarious if it weren’t so chilling. But once again, it was demonstrated that the mainstream media’s will to ‘speak truth to power’ ends where Islamism begins. There was not even an effort to stand by their employees.
An Islamist, who has been to jail no less, before getting bail of course, made the slightest of whimpers and NDTV ran helter-skelter to assuage his hurt sentiments. Yes, Editorial Director Sonia Singh attempted to defend her teammate but no efforts were made to let the report stand as it is.
What has been evident thus far is that the mainstream media clearly has different standards for various religious groups. They are extremely scared of Islamic extremists as the consequences of offending them could be devastating, as Reuters photojournalist Danish Siddiqui discovered in extremely unfortunate circumstances.
But there are no such risks when it comes to offending Hindu sentiments. Hindus may get angry and outrage on social media and there might be some trolling involved but apart from that, there is not much else they would do. And it reflects in the media’s coverage of events.
For instance, take the manner in which the media made a mockery of Hindu sentiments during the coverage of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The internet was splashed with photographs of funeral pyres, ostensibly captured without the consent of the deceased’s family.
When Hindus objected to the misery porn, they were immediately shut down. Journalists waxed eloquence regarding freedom of the press, ‘speaking truth to power’ and the necessity of speaking the truth. It is an entirely different matter altogether that all of this could have been done without the grotesque imagery of funeral pyres flooding the internet.
But the media chose to demonstrate its ‘courage’ by hurting Hindu sentiments at will. It is very much the way how bullies in school tend to abuse the weakest members of a class but waste no moment in mending their ways when cautioned by the teacher or a bigger bully. Bullies absolutely wet their pants when confronted. So does the media when they receive backlash from Islamists.
The power imbalance in the Liberal-Islamist alliance
The incident also highlights the fact that there is a vast power-imbalance in the alliance between liberals and Islamists. Liberals often traverse vast distances to satisfy the worst tendencies of Islamists because they realise that they direly need their support for their ideological victory.
But they do not receive the same favour from Islamists at all. Indeed, while liberals are forced to make compromises at every step along the way, Islamists consistently refuse to do so. In light of such trends, it is pretty obvious which group holds the power in such an alliance.
It is not the first time that such a thing has happened. When some liberals, due to their ‘feminist inclination’, welcomed the law against Triple Talaq, Islamists were up in arms against them. When liberals suggested that the overt demonstration of Islamist imagery and Hindu-hatred during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were not conducive to their interests, Islamists did not take it kindly at all.
Islamists demand total subservience. Any deviation from it and it is haraam. And with the passage of more and more time, liberals are increasingly cowering to their demands. For instance, when Sharjeel Usmani celebrated the death of journalist Rohit Sardana because he was ‘fascist’, quite a few liberals could be spotted defending his atrocious rhetoric.
Now again, when Sharjeel Usmani issued a threat against NDTV, we can hardly see any liberals coming to their defense. Due to the alliance between the two, liberals are increasingly drawn towards the Islamist side, not the other way around.
And it is something they have to do, the media has to play to the Islamist gallery because should they fail to do so, the alliance will break and they will stand alone. And it is due to this alliance, apart from the lack of any credible threat from Hindus, that the liberal establishment continues to toe the Islamist line.
Sharjeel Usmani vs NDTV: How the mainstream media plays to the Islamist Gallery
The Islamist diktat for media is that the Muslim identity must only be associated with positive stories. Any deviation from that, even something as harmless as a representational image of a Muslim man in a report related to Covid-19, must be opposed by all means.
Thus, Islamist crimes must be whitewashed, Grooming Jihad must be denied and Islamic festivals must be given a free pass while Hindu festivals are painted as progenitors of misogyny, patriarchal, noise pollution, light pollution, pollution in general and more recently, violation of Covid restrictions.
Consequently, even crimes committed by Islamic clerics are whitewashed in the headlines of reports to paint a ‘Tantrik’ or a ‘priest’ as the accused. The Muslim identity must only be associated with positive influence, commands the Islamist, and the media obliges wholeheartedly.
It is not just the media, however. Even Bollywood twists the religious identity of crucial characters to further the narrative. Movies inspired by real life events alter the Hindu religious identity of heroes to Muslim and vice versa if the real life individual is a Muslim. It happens all the time and it all follows from the root cause, the alliance between the two groups and the penchant for liberals to play to the Islamist gallery.