Hafta letters: Diversifying Hafta, ideological divides, healthcare and bed occupancy
NL Dhulai

Hafta letters: Diversifying Hafta, ideological divides, healthcare and bed occupancy

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Hi all,

I would prefer if you keep this anonymous.

I am a long-term follower and not-so-long-term subscriber. I started following you because of the association with Madhu and soon became a fan of Hafta, as you always mentioned it was an exercise in letting the listeners know of your biases.

My father is a librarian and I had the privilege of reading 6-7 Hindi newspapers everyday during my childhood. We always used to discuss how Navbharat Times had a slightly different take on the same headline as compared to Dainik Bhaskar due to their ideological bends. How editorials of different papers choose different stances or ignore certain topics. Following Newslaundry has educated me about "journalistic rigour" and how editorial biases or journalists' own views often colour the views of its readers/viewers, which I often used to ignore earlier. So, thank you for that.

At the same time, after six years, I now feel that Hafta has become somewhat repetitive because on each issue, I can pretty much anticipate what your positions are. Unless you get credible alternate views on subjects, the views on Hafta range from left of centre (Manisha) to Left (Mehraj) to rants (Abhinandan), without any deep insight. It's still informative but there's no invigorating discussion or counterpoints thrown on the subjects by anyone. Anand, as your sole source of right of centre, is too polite to counter your group. Moreover, his views are too nuanced for even right-wingers to understand.

Since you mentioned in this Hafta that it's your media critique vehicle and not a news source for the week, I would recommend you pick media reports in the last two or three weeks, or interviews (maybe one good and one bad), and discuss what went right/wrong and how it could have been improved, rather than discussing all headlines. If you can invite those journalists for reports, it's even better.

As a subscriber, I would like to know more about the work journalists do and how they do it. I don't just want to keep listening to all the wrong the media is doing, as even Peeing Human now has two channels to do it and you have Newsance. Moreover, pretty much everyone knows which channels are pro-government and which ones are still trying to balance their views.

Lastly, I'm not on your Europe subscribers' group so can you please add me?

***

Dear NL team,

My wife and I are long-time subscribers and occasional contributors to the science desk, which says it all about what we think of NL. Coming to a substantive point of discussion related to the question of NL catering to a wider audience and being more Left in Hafta 282, we make the following brief points:

1. We have tried to introduce NL content to our friends and family who are educated and relatively well-off but mostly failed, not because of their Left and Right leanings. In fact, they have no clue what Left or Right means, but rather think in terms of pro- or anti-government stances, and refuse to see any facts presented that oppose the government’s line. This is simply due to them NOT having “skin in the game”, in the words of Nassim Taleb. In other words, they don’t have any costs or harm associated with their belief in these falsehoods. I would love to unpack this but for the word limit.

2. Manish's concern on NL being classified as more leftist is misconceived as you are falling for the propaganda trap of Left-Right dichotomy. NL should instead be educating about the fallacy of applying over-simplistic Left-Right categories, especially to Indian politics.

3. Another reason you should not be bothered about pandering to a wider audience is the fact of history that a truth-seeking person or organisation has always been marginalised in society ,and never became mainstream until people realised and accepted it much later.

The above point implies that the number of subscribers NL will have will always be inversely proportional to the inconvenient truth-content of NL, as it is improbable to get a majority to subscribe because most refuse to see facts. Rather, they turn into sheeple due to a combination of our evolutionary past and the psychology of groupthink (this also needs more explanation but can't due to word limit).

NL should instead stick to fact-based critiquing and reporting as it has been, and there will always be a critical minority of people who would support this endeavour.

Here are a couple of useful links to think about the Left, Right, communism, socialism:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4Tq4VE8eHQ - Chomsky's take on socialism

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Uc4DI-BF28 - Nassim Taleb on skin in the game

Best,

Shobha and Niranjan

***

Hello Team NL,

This is Sagar. I’ve been following you people for four months as of now as a subscriber. I'm very happy to be a part of this organisation; I can truly say that it represents my aspirations as a news consumer.

I want to thank you so much for giving me the student subscription. Being a student truly sucks in this corona lockdown period as all the money sources are dried up, and being locked up in home along with family isn’t the best thing.

NL has become my saviour: Every day I wake up and visit NL. I wait for the weekend to come up so that I can get Newsance and Hafta. Tippani is also a great initiative. All of you are my favourites, though I would want to point out that Raman Sir should be given more time as he is the most experienced one. Manisha, Meharaj, Abhinandan, Anand, you all rock.

Coming to one of the suggestions: I want my father to be involved with NL as much as I am but at the end of the day, he is the same average person who watches TV news because of the range of topics covered. Though I get that there is a resource constraint, I think a daily podcast in Hindi on the lines of Daily Dose should be encouraged.

This being my first mail, I want to keep it short. Wishing you all the very best, stay safe, and stay mad, that’s the only way.

Sagar

***

Hello NL. Due to the extensive word limit, I am not going to dwell on a detailed appreciation of NL. I have been a subscriber for about four years and a listener of the Hafta podcast for about five years now. Please dont unread this feedback.

I have been meaning to write this for a long time and gave up, thinking it's of no substance. This is regarding how the reporting and podcast stance of NL is slowly shifting. Also recently, there was a discussion about so-called monkey balancing. But since the last few Haftas, Manisha has been wondering about the reasons why people think so.

Here is my input.

While I am okay with personal ideology and individual bias, I do feel that some sort of balance in the reporting, the discussion you pick up for Hafta, or the people you choose to criticise, is necessary. You are not perceived as Left-leaning just because you criticise the Right. It is also because you choose not to criticise the prominent local Left.

For example:

- You criticise Swarajya for their stories that have been written with a predetermined government-friendly stance and sometimes, selected aspects of the stories are highlighted to give it right-wing flavour. Which is okay and should be done. But what you don’t do is criticise their mirror image, the Wire, whose few reports have been in the past with added flavour to give it certain colour.

I can understand that NL has some sort of ties, where their people appear on our podcast and things like that, but then it comes at a price. We listeners and readers notice that. We can do better in that area.

- You criticise Jaggi and a few journalists for their right-wing outbursts on Twitter. But I am sure you follow people like Sid Varadarajan, Arfa Khanum, Rana Ayyub, Sagarika Ghose (pity she blocked Nikku 😊), and many more. Often on Twitter, they have been caught sharing unverified, half-baked and sometimes fake posts as they might have believed them to be true because of their prejudices. We subscribers see that these people are never questioned openly by platforms like NL. And that’s where you are perceived as Left-leaning. They are always questioned by right-wing loonies and that only gives these personalities a sense of being right (pun unintended).

- Another reason is the strong personal bias of NL contributors which hardly gets checked when used unnecessarily. While Mehraj is the one of the finest in the lot, he often gets away by his biased remarks, often without interventions.

For example, recently while discussing the authorities’ brutalities on reporters in Kashmir, he loosely said “see what happened to Shujaat Bhukhari, he was killed”. I mean, he was killed by terrorists, not by the authorities. It was a totally wrong example in the discussion and no one corrected him. On the other side, Anand Vardhan often has to clarify his ground observations as not being his own opinions, just because other panelists would not let those politically incorrect ideas go unchecked. Nothing critical, but these things add up in how listeners perceive.

- Now my last point is regarding Abhinandan ridiculing this idea of giving equal weightage as monkey balancing. No, it may be not the case all the time. Only, you said that because Hafta is the conglomeration of individual opinions and that brings the balance discussion. But you never table the issues up for discussion that will involve people or platforms that I have mentioned earlier. And if there is already a pattern of what you put up for discussion, how are you going to bring that balance flavour?

I am conscious of word count so will stop here. Few quick notes:

- Prateek Goyal and Manisha are assets. Please make sure you retain them.

- Please add me to the Australia/New Zealand WhatsApp group. I am already part of the NL general subscribers' group.

Bhavesh Bhatt

***

Hi Team Newslaundry!

As always, cant resist writing in when I hear discussions about healthcare.

To Raman Sir’s point that bed occupancy has remained relatively stable over three months, while that may appear reassuring, the details are more troubling.

Hospitals make most of their money from surgeries and procedures, and not as much money from treating medical problems. For the same reason, surgeons are paid much more than physicians.

During this pandemic, most patients as well as doctors are postponing elective, non-urgent surgeries such as knee replacement. That is why the bed occupancy may be stable: same number of patients, but now mostly Covid and very few non-Covid.

However, the healthcare system (in most countries with a capitalist healthcare system, including the US where I practise) is so flawed, that not having many surgical patients cannot be sustained by the hospital for more than a few months without incurring severe losses, which will result in them shutting down. So, while the numbers are being made to look good, the overall situation remains grave. This pandemic has exposed all kinds of problems in the healthcare system that people in power have chosen to ignore for the last several years, but this road through hell is paved with hope and good intentions.

On a side note, would like to sponsor Newslaundry subscriptions for 10 students. Please let me know how to go about it.

Also, Abhinandan, let Manisha get her time off. :)

Cheers and stay safe,

Shaunak Kulkarni

***

Mail 1:

Hi NL team,

Long-time subscriber.

I was quite disappointed at the China border issue discussion, specifically towards the end when the entire panel agreed that India should not do anything, or words to the same effect.

China is stronger, but we aren't a pushover either. The gap is not like US-Afghanistan or US-Iraq. China will beat India in a full-scale war, but it will be long and costly for them too. Right now, it's a case of a stronger bully flexing. That's not the time to take flight, we should at least be willing to take a few bruises on our nose before we do that. We are weaker, but if we don't fight now, we are timid as well, and they will keep taking whatever belongs to India without much of a fight.

Yes, 20 lives killed in action is tragic but scale matters. And a country with 1.2 billion people should be willing to fight more. Make them lick their wounds at least before trying to take us on. Especially shocking to hear phrases like "we should be friendly with our neighbours" from Mehraj; are you guys that delusional? Neither Pakistan nor China is interested in friendship with us. They have shown repeatedly that no matter how poor Pakistan is, or how prosperous the Chinese are, it's only India who is wooing them with dates in Mahabalipuram and Lahore bus hookup and similar bullshit.

High walls and wide moats is the only way, apart from of course working to become a richer state as well. Grow some spine.

Mail 2:

I am writing a second mail in the same week because of this tweet from a former NL journalist.

In case the tweet gets deleted, here's what he said about Shahrukh, the guy who pointed a gun at the police in Delhi during the CAA protests: "I am proud of Shahrukh bhai. He fought for the community when the entire state machinery and Hindutva army was involved in killing and looting our community. He is our hero!"

This tweet was brought to my notice by one of my friends who considers NL a loony Left. I have disagreed with him every time. But I was wondering what would NL do in such a case, if it was by a currently employed journalist? Put out a statement or fire or just ignore, because the tweet itself is not inciting violence nor bigoted, but really in bad taste by supporting a violent protester. Would like to know thoughts by the Hafta panel.

Prakash Iyer

Newslaundry
www.newslaundry.com