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Why there is no such thing as ‘godi media’

They eliminated every potential right-winger from the media at age 21 or less. Just like every potential Olympic gold medalist swimmer from India is probably working some dead-end job today. Their village never had a swimming pool, they didn’t know where to train and how.

Which way does the Indian media lean? If only there was a way to find out for sure. Indeed there is. Have you ever heard of an association called the Press Club of India? The organization represents literally thousands of journalists all across India. All the big names in media, as well as all the names you never heard of, are part of it.

Every year, the Press Club holds an election to choose its office bearers, as they did a few weeks ago. And the dynamics are just as with any other election. There is a campaign, there is intrigue, there is lobbying, as well as suspense about the outcome. So who won?

Ultimately, it wasn’t much of a contest. Those seen as left-liberals swept the elections, winning all 21 seats on the panel. In fact, there are allegations that one side tried to “smear” the other as “BJP supporters.” In the world of media, “left-liberal” is a badge of honour. Calling someone a “BJP supporter” is a form of character assassination. In other words, if you have anything in common with 45% of the population of India, you are an outcast. And so, all 21 seats went to one side. Just think about that.

But wait. What about “godi media?” A bit like the yeti, this so-called “godi media” is supposed to prowl the airwaves and the newspapers, generating tons of positive press coverage for PM Modi. Do you remember how the government failed to run special aeroplanes to get all Indian students (and their exotic pets) airlifted in time from their backyards in Ukraine? Some of them even had to take a crowded train to get out as the bombs were falling. The godi media tried to fool us by saying it was enough for the ministers to greet them with folded hands and roses at Delhi airport. Who will shine their shoes, pack their bags, and carry their luggage?

I am being sarcastic, of course. Even so, can we dismiss the idea of “godi media” offhand? There is a section of media that cheerleads the BJP. We’ve all seen it. We live in a democracy. If the media is not doing its job, then that is a problem for all of us. So let us unravel this, bit by bit, by asking intelligent questions. Who has the power when it comes to the media?

Journalism is a “union of states

Feud burns and kills,” ran the headline in one Kolkata based newspaper, a day after 10 people were burned alive in Birbhum in West Bengal. Who is this Feud? Can we arrest him please and bring him to justice? Oh, I know. The accused were all liberal TMC cadres, all of them members of a certain peaceful religion. Having run out of BJP workers to murder and terrorize, they are reduced to killing each other in mafia wars. That is why “Feud” bears all the blame.

What kind of “godi media” is this? Whose lap are they sitting in?

When we talk of “godi media,” let us first establish which elements in Indian media are being accused of cheerleading the BJP. Please give me the name of one Tamil news channel or newspaper that can be accused of being “godi media.” How about Bengali? I know there is one Malayalam channel that may be seen as soft on BJP. But you would be crazy to say that Malayalam media is “godi media.” How about Maharashtra? Show me one Marathi language media house that can speak truth to the power of …

I know. The allegation is against “national media.” But what is “national”? Do you mean Hindi language media? Why do you call that “national”? Does that mean you think Hindi is our national language? In fact, I was told we don’t even have a nation, just a union of states. But whenever necessary, you conveniently paper over all of Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, etc and insist that “Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan” should be taken as the definition of India!

Yes, the BJP does have a clear advantage when it comes to Hindi language media. But that is just because they run most of the Hindi speaking states. In fact, you should check out the affiliates of Hindi language media houses in Chhattisgarh. One was talking about how the Congress CM of Chhattisgarh was making waves in Uttar Pradesh, and how the BJP campaign lacked energy. That’s how the media is, in every state. Whoever rules the state also rules the media.

So tell me what do you find special about the BJP getting positive coverage in Hindi language media? Is Hindi special?

In fact, if you want to see an example of a state where the ruling party does not control the media, it is probably Gujarat. ” “56 ni chhatini kaayarta:,” (roughly translated: “cowardice of 56 inch”) is how Gujarat Samachar mocked PM Modi the day after the terror attack in Pulwama. How is that “godi media“? Did you know Gujarat Samachar is the largest circulated newspaper in the state? Oh, and in case the liberals have forgotten, their most beloved “fact-checking” website is based out of Gujarat too. How much of “godi media” is based out of West Bengal?

What does the gold standard of liberal journalism look like?

Have you ever heard the accusation that so-called “godi media” distracts people from real issues? That’s why Indian liberals, like their counterparts around the world, worship the New York Times. The world’s most powerful newspaper uses a preening tagline for itself: “all the news that’s fit to print.” If it’s not in the New York Times, it is not worth knowing about.

This gold standard then, what does it look like? What is the useless, unprintable stuff that they leave out? For one, hungry babies. There is a baby formula crisis in America right now. New York City has declared an emergency about it. But don’t expect to read this on the front page of the New York Times. Roughly on the same day, the New York Times had a column about real issues. One of their columnists had been invited to lunch at the White House, and he wanted to let the world know that the chocolate milkshake was delicious. So what if the richest city in the world’s richest country has run out of food for babies?

That’s the global gold standard of journalism. Their guy Biden is in power, so you can’t blame him if America has run out of baby food. The columnist went on to say that he left with a feeling that Biden is actually getting less credit from the media than he deserves. This was after he had the chocolate milkshake, obviously. This is what the media would look like if Congress was in power right now. I leave you to imagine what the media was like when Congress had 400 seats.

Hungry babies are irritating. They just sit around in their mothers’ laps, crying and refusing to give credit to President Biden. Real godi media spotted, no?

Liberal media, on the other hand, asks the real questions. Just like when US GDP slipped into negative territory last month, and inflation rocketed to a 40 year high. The New York Times explained that data was “masking” the real recovery. This is the genuine public-interest journalism that liberals wish they could have in India. But we don’t. That is why the New York Times has to carry the burden of speaking the truth to the power of PM Modi, for now.

Who chooses the issues?

I always like to explain a situation like this. Consider a test match to be played between India and Australia. Who has the advantage? The first thing you would ask here is where the test match is being played. If we are playing in Mumbai, we have the advantage. If we are playing in Melbourne, they have the advantage. The players may give their best for their respective sides, but what really matters is who prepared the pitch.

So before you accuse any media of choosing to side with the BJP, you must ask who chose the issue at hand. Okay, so some BJP government arrested a 21-year-old. They walk out of custody after 24 hours and begin their new life as a global thought leader and celebrities. Do you think some pro-BJP media channels are harsh on her? Okay, but why are we even talking about this person? Why not about the dozens of BJP workers who have been murdered in Bengal?

Because while so-called “godi media” chose sides, the liberals chose the issue itself. The “godi media” is simply batting on their pitch. Why was Modi sarkar 5 days late in issuing this or that advisory to students in Ukraine? When the Ukraine thing fizzled out, they rapidly moved on to the next issue. What about hijab in Karnataka? Won’t this “atmosphere” deter foreign investment in the state? Why are petrol prices so high? Why is the BJP government crowing about high GDP growth when it is just due to “base effect”? What is the big deal if India’s GDP has returned to pre-pandemic levels: does it not mean near-zero growth in 2 years? Where is Modi’s $5 trillion GDP: IMF says we can’t reach there before 2029! Why is India’s per capita GDP below Bangladesh now?

No, but wait! Even America or China couldn’t get their people out of Ukraine. Karnataka came first this year among all states in foreign investment. India’s FDI is at record levels. Modi govt reduced petrol prices, the opposition ruled states did not reduce their VAT. All over the world, the focus is on somehow returning to pre-pandemic GDP levels: read the IMF reports. Experts said India would take much longer to reach pre-pandemic levels, but we raced ahead. As for $5 trillion, the IMF admitted that it made a mistake. We are actually expected to reach $5 trillion by 2026. This suggests that without the two years of the pandemic, the 2024 goal was very achievable when it was proposed in 2019. As for Bangladesh’s per capita GDP crossing India, it was fake news. The IMF has accepted its errors and corrected all its arithmetic.

Phew! Do you see what is happening? One side is running non-stop, chasing a moving target that is spewing lies and half-truths at breakneck speed. “Godi media” means nothing if it does not set the agenda.

For instance, what about the allegations of Jharkhand CM granting a mining lease to himself? Can we talk about that? Can we talk about how the model state of Kerala is bankrupt, and begging the centre for a 5000 crore loan? Why is Telangana struggling to pay its govt employees? Can we ask how Punjab became India’s most indebted state? Can we ask about political violence in Bengal? Did you even hear about the 6-month strike in MSRTC, on which the Maharashtra government cracked down by terminating literally thousands of daily wage workers? Or the Anganwadi workers on strike in Delhi?

The so-called “godi media” is not a distraction. In fact, it is “godi media” which is distracted, playing on someone else’s pitch all the time.

The incentives simply are not there for anyone to become “godi media”

With a talent pool of 1.4 billion people, why does India still win so few medals at the Olympic games? Ask anyone in India and they will give you the obvious answer. The incentives are not there. Other countries, especially rich Western ones, do a lot to support their athletes. We don’t.

But wait a second. Who says we don’t have incentives? Those who win Olympic gold medals from India become instant heroes. They are showered with money by governments, corporates, and everyone.

So the real answer is more subtle. Yes, the incentives are there, but it is only for those who make it to the top somehow, swimming against all odds. And therein lies the difference.

This is the real reason there is no such thing as “godi media.” There might be incentives for a handful at the top, but what is there for a young right-wing person who wants to get into journalism? At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the Press Club of India and how the leftists swept all 21 seats there. How do you think a young person would react when they see that kind of stranglehold? Journalism is not a highly paid profession. At the lower levels, they make almost nothing at all. Their entire career depends on who they meet and who recommends them. Like most Indians who had the potential to become athletes, those with right-wing sympathies won’t even try to get into media.

Do you know who is the President of the Mumbai Press Club? It’s someone who is associated with The Wire. Now put yourself in the shoes of some 21 year old who is sympathetic to the BJP. Would you even try to get into media?

So here is the incentive structure for a young left-winger getting into media. You will be walking into an environment where everyone loves and admires your ideology. There are plenty of avenues for advancement. You know this because you see your ideological heroes winning awards and honours each day. Both at the domestic level, and the highly sought after ones at the international level. The Pulitzers, the Magsaysay’s, full-length pieces in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Le Monde, Deutsche Welle, Guardian, you name it. You see the most vituperative, hateful anti-Modi rants routinely appearing in global media. There are no sanity checks at all. One guy said that anybody who uses the word “Bharat” might be a secret Nazi. And he had a front-page feature in TIME Magazine.

As for a right-winger, there might be some incentives. But you better make some assumptions first. Let’s hope that your first boss, a lifelong comrade, treats you well despite the fact that he considers you a fascist. You will have 99 colleagues in your entry-level position, who will cooperate with you despite calling you a Nazi. And when it is time for promotion, hope that your talent shines so bright that your comrade boss recommends your name instead of one of the 99 people that s/he likes. And who knows? Maybe the BJP will win the next 4 Lok Sabha elections as well, as you work your way through your 20s into your 40s. And then you might one day end up as a top-level anchor on a “godi media” channel. It is certainly possible.

Also, do you want the world to recognize your talent? If your talent is so extraordinary, maybe the New York Times, which hasn’t changed its ideology in 100 years, will decide to make an exception for you. The incentives are there, my friend. You just have to be the best journalist in the last century. And your bosses have to be the nicest people on earth. Go ahead, give it a try…

The lack of experience in “godi media” shows

In the early days of the American republic, the robber barons who built railroads across the vast country often met with a lot of local opposition. There was a standard way for them to get around this problem. In those days, most cities would have two competing newspapers, on opposite ends of the political spectrum. The trick was to buy up both newspapers, secretly. The newspapers would then be allowed to continue their apparent quarrel in public view. One newspaper would take a sharply pro-railroad position. The other would attack the railroad, but over trivial issues. The more trivial the matter, the sharper the rhetoric. Behind the scenes, the two newspapers were actually cooperating, guiding the public towards the pro-railroad position.

Corruption in the media is not new. But this example shows you that it is a sophisticated thing, not for dummies. Which is your favorite hardcore leftist newspaper or news channel? You can almost certainly find a couple of instances when they stood up for some little injustice that a BJP supporter suffered somewhere. Did Mamata Banerjee arrest someone for posting a cartoon? Oh no! The left-wing ecosystem is going to condemn it, sometimes in unison.

It’s engineered outrage. It is designed to create a smokescreen that will allow them to stay silent on much bigger stuff. When they complain about the guy who was arrested over a cartoon, they are building plausible deniability to stay silent when dozens of BJP workers are massacred. They are not biased, they just missed a few stories at most. The less important stuff was covered precisely so that the more important stuff could be covered up!

This is not the only trick. The liberal media hasn’t spent the last 100 years dominating the world while being clueless. The other day an article in the Wall Street Journal came out, detailing how India’s increased oil purchases were helping the Russian invasion. It began with a tiny bit about Europe’s failures, then went extensively into India’s conduct. It concluded with another tiny bit about China doing the same. The author knows which part will catch the reader’s eye, and where to use the most emotive language. The author knows at what point people are likely to stop paying interest. But on the whole, there is deniability. They mentioned everyone: China, Europe and India, so you can’t call it lobbying. It is a work of art.

Take the Gyanvapi case. Do you think liberals did not realize that videos would soon reveal the Shivling? Then why would they spread nonsensical talking points about it being a fountain? The aim was to create a heavy first round of media articles calling it a fountain. Now later on, no matter how much you try, those articles will remain. Anyone writing in future can claim that there was a controversy over whether it was a fountain or a Shivling! And it would be factually accurate as well. The later part, where everyone could see that it was a Shivling, can be conveniently left out.

This is what they did with the Godhra carnage. At the very beginning, they spread a bunch of lies about who set fire to the train. Now they just reference that controversy and omit the mention of the convictions and the court judgements that came much later.

As it stands today, such a sophisticated propaganda operation is simply beyond the capability of so-called “godi media.” And why? Because the talent pool they have to work with is extremely small. And whatever little comes through has no experience in propaganda. They haven’t trained with bosses who show them when to say “Delhi man killed” and when to say “man of XYZ religion killed.” They eliminated every potential right-winger from the media at age 21 or less. Just like every potential Olympic gold medalist swimmer from India is probably working some dead-end job today. Their village never had a swimming pool, they didn’t know where to train and how.

Conclusion

Godi media. The term has gone viral among anyone who does not like the BJP. Along with every other conspiracy theory. The infamous “IT cell” is out to get them, the Supreme Court is compromised, the EVMs are hacked, Covid spreads only in BJP rallies, and so on. Even the famously left-leaning big tech companies like Twitter are in the pocket of Modi.

As a matter of fact, the spectre of “godi media” is yet another phantom threat created by liberals to fool their ordinary supporters, and perhaps even themselves. Anything to divert from the fact that they are hopelessly out of touch with real people, and have a weak, incompetent, and fumbling leadership. That people have not completely forgotten how things used to work in the old days, when govt project completion dates were a joke. When govt schemes were a joke. It took India 60 years to surpass Pakistan in per capita GDP. The magic is that most people never even heard about it. They were taught instead about who went to Doon school and who went to Cambridge. About how criminal mafia bosses were simply “grassroots leaders,” corruption was labelled as “social justice,” and appeasing the most intolerant was called “secularism.”

In the greatest irony, “godi media” itself became another propaganda victory for the liberal crowd. Back in the days of liberal rule, they didn’t even have anyone to outrage against. They continued their war against phantom opponents. Who stopped India’s progress between 1947 and 1991? It was always the BJP, which never had a Prime Minister till 1996! Rahul Gandhi’s entire family has been fighting for the poor and the oppressed since 1947. Who were the oppressors? The RSS, obviously. Behind every corrupt officer who took bribes, behind every business that was shut down (or was never started at all) due to license-quota-permit raj, behind every person who committed atrocities in the name of caste or religion, there was the secret hand of the RSS. For some reason, from big business houses to zamindars in every village, all ruling class members have been loyal to the RSS for 60 years. The Nehru Gandhi dynasty was a lone voice fighting their collective power.

By 2014, these fantasy stories of RSS power had worn thin. But look at their achievement. The liberal media successfully convinced people for 60 years that Nehru, Indira, Rajiv and Sonia were rebels taking on the RSS establishment. This is how good they are at their job.

Post-2014, the same liberal media has actual bogeymen to work with. There are a couple of newspapers and television channels now that take the BJP’s side. Imagine how much moral panic the liberals can squeeze out now.

That’s why the outrage over “godi media.” Always spreading lies, taking cues from “IT cell” and “Whatsapp University.” You know, like “godi media” said last year that Khalistani elements were spreading their footprint in Punjab. And that they were using Canada as a base. That was all lies, right? Are you still sure about that?

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjeehttps://dynastycrooks.wordpress.com/
Abhishek Banerjee is a columnist and author.  

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