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Sagarika Ghose turns herself into a victim.

Sagarika Ghose turns herself into a victim.

Author: Ashok Chowgule

In a programme titled "Face the Nation" on November 9, 2011, IBN had a programme titled "Should spiritual leaders participate in anti-corruption campaign?" A pre-recorded interview of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the spiritual head of Art of Living, was passed on as a live one. The manner in which the various quotes of Sri Sri were used clearly showed that there was a malicious attempt to demonise Sri Sri. IBN and Sagarika Ghose first defended her positon, and then, finding out that she was defending the indefensible, she sort of apologized.

Here is what Mihir Sharma, in his article "Look-Live Lies"
(http://www.indianexpress.com/news/looklive-lies/874707/0) wrote:


Ghose and IBN responded with the Three Stages of Damage-Control. First: What Problem? . The second stage of damage control: Everyone Here Does It..And, finally, the "apology": "We carried a pre-recorded interview... Without explicitly mentioning that the interview had been recorded a couple of hours earlier in the day. There was absolutely no malafide intention on our part..."


The word apolgy was put in quotes by Sharma himself, because this is what he said about the 'apology': "Congratulations, India, news TV has progressed to the point at which deciding to actively mislead viewers does not count as a 'malafide intention'."

The heat on Ghose did not die with her insipid attempt to try and make amends. This seems to have upset Ghose, since she tweeted as follows: "I've repeatedly apologised, on web, TV, Sri Sriji has graciously forgiven us, now the endless abuse is verging on harassment pls." http://twitter.com/#!/sagarikaghose/status/134897986894438400
And "Abuse towards women in public eye is truly vicious. Age, class, anatomy, marital status nothing spared. Wonder if men get same treatment." http://news.oneindia.in/2011/11/11/controversy-cnn-ibn-with-sri-sri-video-sagarika-ghosh.html

A feature of internet is that use of abusive language cannot be prevented. The concerned posts can be deleted, but it happens after the abuse is read by at least some people. But internet is also replete with instances of people making their points in a professional manner, and in diplomatic language. Which of the two sets one responds to is an indication of the level of seriousness that one wants to conduct discussions.

But was not what Ghose and IBN did an abuse by itself? And was this not an abuse of a truly vicious type? Can such an abuse be brushed aside by an apology of an apology? My answers are: yes, yes, no.

This attempt at trying to present herself as a victim shows the same mindset that existed while making the attempt to demonise Sri Sri. And to use her own gender in this case is height of cunningness. Does this mean that just because she is a woman, men cannot criticize her on a professional transgression?

Using the gender to ward off criticism was also used by Barkha Dutt at the time the Radia tapes came out in the open. She too implied t hat she was being singled out because of her gender, and implied that her antagonists were misogynists (namely men who hate women).

For the record, men like Rajdeep Sardesai, Vir Sanghvi, Karan Thapar, etc., have received similar treatment as she has. And for the same reason - namely those criticizing felt that there was a serious professional transgression.

Ghose's twitter comments clearly indicate that she wants to trivalise the issue, and not engage in serious discussions about her actions. She has completely ignored the criticism made by Mihir Sharma in the article
referred to above. By giving specific examples from the show, Sharma said termed the attempt at deception as 'amateurish and egregious'. (In its current form, egregious means 'outstandingly bad'.)

There is an open letter to her by Rahul Nair, a Sri Sri devotee, available at the following url:

He pleads with Ghose not to 'under estimate the reasoning ability of the common man', and terms the attempt to demonise Sri Sri as 'moral corruption'.

Then there is an article by one Ravinar at:
http://www.mediacrooks.com/2011/11/sack-sagarika.html with a provocative title "Sack Sagarika"

He narrates the episode of Dan Rather who had resigned from American TV channel, CBS, in 2006, because he did not undertake sufficient due diligence of 'evidence' against George Bush's claim of his military record. The charge was not that he fabricated the 'evidence' but that he did not cross check it to the required journalistic stanadards.

Ravinar asks: "What does it say about journalists in India who continue to not only hold on to their jobs but continue to sermonise the nation as if their character were soaked in the purest of waters?" He contends that the behaviour of some of the journalists is not different from the 'brazenness with which politicians hang on to office despite being tainted with acts of corruption.' He agrees with Nair, when he says: "There is a strange streak in Sagarika Ghose that leads her to believe that people are idiots and can be fooled all the time." And he agrees with Sharma, when he says: "This was neither a mistake nor an error but wilful deception."

There are others who have made a detailed analysis of what Ghose has done. But it will be sufficient if she responds to these three articles.

In another tweet, prior to turning herself into a victim, Ghose said: "My many apologies to all.The 'recorded' bug was inadvertently dropped on Sri Sri's interview, but I assure you the questions were the same."

The questions were the same? Ghose does indeed think that the intelligence of the viewers is very, very low. As Sharma said, in the article mentioned above, the answers were so disjointed that it would appear that Sri Sri was on an evasion mode. Furthermore, in one of the questions, Ghose asked Sri Sri to respond to a point made by one of the panelist. It would seem that the person who interviewed Sri Sri had the vision to know what would be said by the other panelists!

Ghose introduces the programme with the question "Should spiritual gurus PARTICIPATE IN anti-corruption campaigns?" However, for the purpose of a poll by the viewers, the question posed was "Should spiritual gurus
STAY AWAY FROM anti-corruption campaign?" This can be seen at 2:56 minutes in the YouTube video at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ktaoMnAcIw&feature=youtu.be In the poll, 61% said NO. This NO answer was used by Ghose as an answer to the question she posed on the show. And the people of the country
are to believe that there was no malafide? Or that there was a 'bug'?

One issue that also irritates many people is the lack of media anger about this issue. Except for the Sharma article, there is none who has highlighted what Ghose has done. There is a conspiracy of silence. When the grave wrong that the News of the World (a London publication) was exposed, the other newspapers came out strongly against the practices at the publication. They gave due exposure to the wrong-doings, which ensured that the issue went to its logical end - namely the closure of News of the World.

In this case, the rest of the media is pretending that nothing has happened which has caused so much anguish to a lot of people. The rest of the media has shown least concern about the most unprofessional manner in which Ghose has conducted herself. Surely they have very little right to even mention that the Indian media is capable of fulfilling the role that an independent media has in a functioning democracy is expected to do.

In an interview in another publication, which appeard some three days before the IBN programme, Sri Sri had said that "a yogi does not mind criticism at all." Ghose found Sri Sri's act of forgiving herself and the channel as gracious. Will Ghose exhibit the same graciousness and deal with the issues in a professional manner and not treat herself as a victim?

(Ashok Chowgule is a Vice President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, India.)

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