Hafta letters: Ideological tilts of media platforms, India-China conflict, dispatches from Vadodara
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Hafta letters: Ideological tilts of media platforms, India-China conflict, dispatches from Vadodara

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Hi,

I hope to keep engaging with NL in good faith.

I must start with congratulating you guys for the latest Hafta. From your guests to some of Anand's and Mehraj's interesting insights, this episode was a spectacular one. I would also take this opportunity to thank Vijay Krishnan for his well-articulated and well-meaning intervention.

I have three not-so-brief points; I didn’t keep them brief as I wanted to avoid misunderstanding.

1. Firstly I was constrained by my attempt at brevity.

Clearly there was a misunderstanding of some of my views. As Vijay rightly put it, my concern wasn't just the volume but also some of the quality. Examples being: Central Vista and Meghnad's Covid Cheatsheet. I will get into depth in these issues if you want me to in my next email.

Clearly, I may be uninformed about the funds required for running media, which some other platforms like the Print and Lallantop have in plenty, due to many reasons which Abhinandan went into. But some of my disappointment comes from the fact that I have not been able to market Newslaundry to many of my friends/relatives, who find most coverage too ideological.

Another disappointment I have with NL is (apparent) the lack of focus on science and environmental issues, especially the depth a person like me hopes for in this issue. I even found Newslaundry's coverage of the Aryan migration/invasion coverage very wanting. Even with Covid, my disappointment with the media in India as well as NL was the distinct lack of focus on the emerging science of Covid, drugs/vaccines, etc.

But I agree that it's better to not cover a topic than to cover a topic badly, as many outlets in the country have done. I see why it may be difficult to cover science and the environment in depth. Understanding the resource constraints on NL, it wouldn't be fair to expect the width of coverage, but we can expect you to keep a watch on platforms like the Print and others, which you guys are already doing, and that's something that I believe is NL's USP.

2. Secondly, if my email made you think that I am a fan/follower of Anand R or Iyer-Mitra then that was a serious miscommunication. I cringe every time I see those kinds of pompous, dishonest, and silver-back aping crowds on Twitter who, in my eyes, do this primarily for the Twitter RW gallery. But that doesn't take away from the manner of their communication, which is effective, forceful, and polemical (that being my point).

Below is my assessment/rant which is self-critical as well (as I firmly identify as of the Left) of the shifting overtone windows both of the Left and Right (I know these are very loose and somewhat meaningless terms).

It’s possible that my assessment is myopic or uninformed, but I just wanted to put it out there.

I don't at all expect individuals to be unbiased, but I can and should be able to expect platforms to have as wide a range of opinions and points of view as possible within their overtone window. It's the media polarisation and talking at each other I am worried about. I personally think that there should be active engagement with all ideological voices as long as the engagement is CIVIL, in GOOD FAITH, and within boundaries of free speech. (Good question what they can be).

I find this approach of not engaging with voices that are seen as parochial or bigoted to be detrimental. The tragedy of deplatforming such voices is that in any moderation/editorial compromise, they have to face in a small "l". Liberal media platforms are thrown out of the window once they venture into the right-wing media space — which they always do. These voices then tend to become more ideological as only a few of there views are challenged.

Ignoring these voices (parochial, bigoted) may limit legitimacy for these voices in the EYES OF A FEW, but ignoring these in the long term often leads to the creation of an atmosphere where liberal voices are delegitimised in the eyes of the masses. In the age of easy social media access, these voices cannot ever be ignored; they should be debated in good faith.

I would even say that explains the transformation of Anand R from somewhat moderate contrarian views to borderline insane posturing. This is an even more urgent issue, in my opinion, because we live in such polarising times, with Twitter galleries who amplify all echo chambers. I also find it inconsistent that you as panel take a position that the Taliban deserves space in NYT but dismiss conservatives like Bret Stephens as racist (I believe that's based on a poor article on the pseudoscientific claims of Jewish intelligence that he authored).

If NL wishes to grow and have more subscribers and a wider readership, ideological diversity might be a good alternative for growth. What I am suggesting is not the monkey balancing that Rahul Kanwal and Rajdeep do, but platforming and engagement in good faith.

3. Another unrelated point I have is the American liberal media's support for the BLM protests in the midst of the Covid pandemic just shows us that Black/liberal feelings and virtue signalling matters more than Black lives for them (who are disproportionately endangered by the protests than their elite — I am provocatively using this word — masters). This makes me proud that even in these polarised times, none of the citizenship law protesters continued risking the masses for political/social aims.

Gaurav Lele

***

Genuine question: You believe that the subscriber-based model is important because it breaks the media channel's dependency on advertisers and leads to a free and independent media.

While I agree with the first part of the logic, it's the second — "the independent media" bit — that I have doubts about. Nothing with human intervention can ever be truly free or unbiased, right? At the end of the day, there's still a small group of people who drive the vision of a media platform and one can only trust that editors and other stakeholders take the "right" call when it comes to reporting.

Second, doesn't then this become a numbers game? If tomorrow a right-wing website goes the subscriber route, what we'll have is two camps with their own funding and readers. There will be limited or no cross-pollination of ideas. Finally, the platform with more readers and, therefore, more funding will become louder and more powerful. The RW website readers will never read NL, and the free and independent stories will never be seen by a majority of people.

I'm sure you guys have thought this through and if my rambling above makes any sense, would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks,

Nidhi Raichand

***

Hi Hafta team,

Have been an NL subscriber since January and since I'm hooked on Hafta, I decided to extend my subscription. My favourites are Manisha and Anand Sir. With Mehraj, I agree on most topics, especially his reasoning that most issues in India can be traced to the caste problem. Loved your coverage on most topics and considering how wonderfully wrong many "defence analysts" have been in the past few days, glad that NL doesn't have one.

However, today I want to share some points to honour the memory of Col. B Santosh Babu, CO 16 Bihar and 19 of his Veer Biharis, who fought hand to hand, blow to blow, to their last breaths, at a height of 15,000 ft.

1. That Col. Babu had an extremely difficult task to execute, without any set SOPs, is a given.

2. I'm sure the decision to not carry weapons wasn't his, but came from Div/Corps/Northern Army.

3. In which case, our generals have the blood of 20 officers and men on their hands, only because they trusted the Chinese.

4. The Chinese took initiative, now we can only twiddle our thumbs, unless LAC SOPs are revisited.

5. Hope someone, either from the army or from the government, explains to Mrs Babu what exactly happened. At least she and the 19 other families need to know the truth.

6. I'm sure 16 Bihar gave back as good as it got and exceeded expectations at that altitude and weather.

7. You train an officer or a soldier for years on how to use a weapon effectively, then send them to do a border police's job. Either train and equip the ITBP to do this, or let the army patrol with their weapons.

I couldn't sleep well last night and I'm sure neither could a lot of us, who know how quickly the situation can turn grim from here.

Best regards and lots of love from Munich,

Sai Kireet Patri

PS: When I sent this mail, I wrongly presumed all our fallen heroes were from 16 Bihar. I would like to correct myself and pay my respects to the families and units of the officer, JCOs and other ranks of Bihar Regiment, Punjab Regiment, Regiment of Artillery and Army Medical Corps.

***

Hi NL Team,

My last email was full of rants and was way too long. Therefore, as Abhinandan, suggested I'm going to keep it short and raise a few questions that I'm hoping you guys can answer and provide some clarity.

There is a lot of news about the whole incident at the border and how our soldiers were martyred during the clashes with the Chinese PLA. Though there are many issues being raised surrounding the incident, one thing that stood out was the report by the Hindu that some of our soldiers are being held captive by the Chinese troops and they have been let off only after Major-General level talks were over. But NDTV has clarified that the army has confirmed that there no soldiers "missing in action".

So, as you can imagine, there is certainly some confusion regarding such reportage.

Also, other questions that arise from this whole event at the border are quite frightening, such as whether it is really that easy to not only occupy our land, but also beat up and kill our soldiers, and then accuse us of disturbing the status quo while our establishment and the army simply just watched? When your soldiers were being attacked — that too with the intention to kill — you couldn't use firearms on the enemy soldiers just because there is a treaty and/or agreement that says otherwise? Can we really say that the civilian and the military leadership did everything they could to protect the sovereignty of our country? Especially in a time when our governing party and its supporters tend to boast about and contest elections on the subject of nationalism.

Kingshuk Dasgupta

***

Hi NL,

A very good Hafta 281. Very informative discussion with your guest on China development, not able to find such information anywhere else. You should make it public as a Chhota Hafta (I did not check the Chhota Hafta, you might have already done that).

Keep up the good work.

Suneet Balwada

***

Hello Team NL,

My name is Kuntal, and I have been a regular subscriber since 2020 because I am spending more time consuming news this year.

I'll keep my letter short and on point.

I need the NL platform's help to amplify a series of tragic incidents happening in my home town of Vadodara, and if you feel the name rings a bell, it was one of two constituencies Mr Modi fought from in 2014.

1. Like any old Bollywood movie, each town has its own bhai or dada who is protected by the system to do their dirty work. For Vadodara, it is Kahar (last name). He has been a don-like figure ever since I was few years old; I would hear about his actions every now and again.

Recently, his son Suraj Kahar (nepotism is criminals as well) got into a verbal spat on the road with an HR guy going to work. His only crime: he overtook the don's vehicle, he was thrashed to death (literally)...It does not end here. Even though there were multiple eyewitnesses, nothing happened, and he got bail earlier this month.

Again, it doesn't end here. On getting bail, his thugs arranged a rally from police station till the victim's neighbourhood with loud music and dance.

100 points for guessing where Suraj Kahar is right now :) - FARAR

2. Atul Bedade, the former Indian cricketer, is the coach of a women's team in my town. He was suspended last month as multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct. They suspended him for the press and quietly reinstated him last week. He is currently back on the ground, coaching the same women who had accused him.

I am not at liberty to give away the names of the women but I can say this with confidence: that both of them are going through severe depression due to the incident. Can you amplify this so that there is at least a fair trial?

Sending love and virtual hugs to all team members. Manisha, you are my primary reason for subscribing to NL. Keep doing what you do. Will try to write more often and get more people to subscribe.

Kuntal Shah

***

Email 1:

Hello team,

Really enjoyed Abhinandan’s interview with Digvijaya Singh and also the webinars.

Question for Antonio Manisho Banderas. When asked about the Congress’s fate, Digvijaya said that people are tilting towards socialism worldwide since they are tired of right-wing governments. Because of that, the Congress will fare better.

I am not sure if that is even true. Is there a rise in socialism worldwide or does it seem like there’s going to be?

The Congress is hoping to ride a wave of socialism back to Parliament, and not because it would make a dent by being a decent Opposition. I would personally not prefer that. What do you think are the chances of that happening?

Also, I heard the webinar with Rasmus Nielsen from Oxford. The executive from the ABP network actually honestly accepted that the central government doesn’t need to advertise on their channel since ABP News basically does that all day in its reporting. I was shocked how brazen and unapologetic he was about his comments.

Abhinandan, please promise me that you will never recruit an MBA in Newslaundry.

Regards,

Rohan

Email 2:

Hello,

I’m hoping that you would be discussing Sushant’s demise on the podcast.

It’s sad to see that people online are trying to diagnose him with something to make sense of what happened.

Sushant’s death feels really personal to me because in 2015, I moved to Bombay from a small town, and in 2017, I left the city for good. I was diagnosed with a mental illness while I was there. I knew many people of my age there who were either seeking help for a mental illness, had a history of it, or had substance abuse issues.

Everyone’s been talking about how unfair Bollywood is but they are ignoring that Bombay is an extremely toxic place.

It forces you to conform like no other place. You see the stark inequalities of the city everyday and change yourself to not land up on the wrong side.

Sure, Bombay gives opportunity, but there is something seriously wrong with how it treats its people. It’s disturbing that in India, you have to move to a choked city and live in inhuman conditions to make or break your life.

It’s cruel to say it now but Sushant seemed like an extremely bright and honest guy. He absolutely did not deserve Bombay.

Thanks for reading my email and take extra care of yourselves.

Rohan Wadhwa

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