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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Truth, Half-Truth,Post-Truth, Alternatiive-Truth and anything but Truth

Truth and accuracy are corner stones for any kind of  journalism.

Today journalism includes Web and Social Media besides Print and TV. While Print media can still stick to the orthodox way of News reporting (Truth and accuracy) the other three avtars of journalism shoot from the hip. TRP and sensationalism and being fast on the trigger takes priority over truth and accuracy.

The same incident gets reported by different channels so differently that they don't even look like the same incident; so much so that a good guy in one version becomes the villain in the other.

Here's an incident reported by 

The Right Wing says a police officer was kidnapped on suspicion of being a Muslim. 

The BBC, which can be absolutely non-partisan where no White-man was involved , says simply India Policeman lynched in Kashmir. 

NDTV says "Man opens fire outside Mosque; killed by mob". It is further elaborated; man was taking photographs, when confronted he opened fire. He was caught by people and beaten to death ;police called to restore peace. 

By time you read the third narrative, it appears that a criminal was trying to disturb peace in the area and was brought to justice by law-abiding citizens and the situation was handed over to police.

Having gone through different sources , the headlines and the full story , it is amply clear that it is not the just the style of the individual reporters , but a deliberate stand taken by the Editors, based on their political ideologies and Revenue sources. 

It is really the headlines, sub-headlines and Pictures that matter as not many people read the full story. Even if they do read, it is the headlines and pictures that stick to memory, not the fine print.

Is it possible that there occur genuine gaps in a story ? I doubt . Recently I came across a term "bending of facts, at times beyond breaking point". What a way to refer to  "A white lie"?

If there is something to be happy about, by and large, the bias and prejudices are consistent. Stories which favour the stand taken by a channel are amplified and ones that are against are suppressed.

Our panelists for debates are also so biased , spokesperson or not. A seasoned TV viewer can watch a debate on  TV with the audio switched off; he would still be able to make an accurate guess of who said what . 

As a database enthusiast, all I can think of is to create a database of channels and quantify their bias. Each channel can be given a deviation quotient for Left Wing and Right Wing stories, separately. Then one will be able to compute all and arrive at minimum truth, maximum truth and average truth!

In the battle of Kurukshetra, when Dronacharya was met with misinformation from all directions, he looked up to Yudishtra for the truth. Yudishtra told the truth, though his words were selectively suppressed by Krishna.

Do we have a Yudishtra to look to when we are bombarded with all kinds of truths, half-truths, post-truth,alternate-truth and anything but truth ? The issue is further complicated by fake photographs and videos even from reputed journalists.

Under the circumstances is there any point in reading newspapers or watching TV for news ? May be for advertisements which are more truthful!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Twitterati Times

Today most people live in the cyber world, be it on Twitter , Whatsapp Stock Market or Chess. This is just an attempt to understand the behaviour of Twitterati who spend at least 2-4 hours a day doing over 100 tweets per day . (This , in all probability would be more than the conversation they have had with their spouses over a whole week.)

A random bit of statistics as thrown up by google says, “A day's worth of Tweets would fill a 10 million page paper book

Twitter is different from other SM platforms like Whatsapp and Face-book for two reasons. Firstly, there is a 140 characters limit to the posts (though that does not deter some Miltons or Twiltons, from posting a thread a mile long) Tweeting is an art by itself. Secondly, you have only your followers reading your tweet. If you can post an abusive tweet, there is good chance that you would get re-tweeted and reach a larger audience. Another ploy used to reach out is to go piggy back on celebrities as done by people going for crowd funding or doing “missing persons “ posts.

Labeling anything can be so misleading . It gives an idea that we understand but then a label is just a label, not necessarily understanding. The world of medicine gives high sounding names like Idiopathic Polyneutritis to describe a malady, but a cursory look into  Wikipedia is enough to realize that “idiopathy” is just a way of way of saying in Latin that you know f*** all about the disease.

With that disclaimer , let me go about giving some labels to the Twitterati who populate the cyber world.

Firstly we have labels like Bhakts ,(nothing to do with the Bhakti movement of the medieval period) Aaptard, Libtard and so on. We don't know what all else would be suffixed with 'tard ' to coin a derogatory term.While it may be true that the term Bhakt may actually refer to a real devotee of our prime minister, the term is used on anybody who supports the govt on any issue or it may even apply to someone who is not critical of any policy spelt out by the Govt, at any point of time. You cannot be a Rahul Bhakt. In case you are devoted to the Feroz Gandhi (just to differentiate from Mahatma Gandhi) family, you would be called a Congi , not Bhakt. Bhakt can only apply to Modi and not even for Shiva , Vishnu or any other entity in the sacred space.

When you find a tweet with just one of these terms bhakt or libtard, with no reference to any issue being discussed, be aware that the tweeter has run out of arguments or has simply resigned to “You are this and I am that and never the twain shall meet “ in Rudyard Kipling style.

Other Categories


They are generally celebrities with a million odd followers. They being seasonal , appear very active only  to promote their movie or books and then they disappear as suddenly. Promoter of a movie may start early and reach a crescendo at the time of release while promoter of a book starts around the time of release and goes on for some time. After all a book takes months to consume and digest.


They come out with homilies and general advice on perseverance , charity and spiritual evolution. They avoid controversies , unless they are prepared to be labeled pseudo-intellectuals. These days even here, one has to tread carefully as a simple quote from Swami Vivekananda “Arise , Awake and Stop not till the goal is reached” can label you as Bhakt.

The Columnists and News Anchors.

They are the largest group of Twitter users. Some statistics quote , that their threads form about 25% of the Twitter. First they write that they are going to write, then they announce that they have indeed got the column published and then they take post to defend the brickbats or gloat over the bouquets . They may also resort to some stunts to increase the number of followers ,likes and comments. Fake photos can spike the “likership” or comments manifold as @tavleen learnt recently, or so she says. 

The Abuser

They prefer using abusive language to using any logical arguments. They are the ones who are blocked, unblocked and sometimes even get their account deleted. Like the mythical Rakshasa (or gods , in case you are on their side) they hurl abuses from the skies and when blocked or deleted they rise again like phoenix, in different forms to continue their Mayajaal warfare. They also create fake handles. Like the Rakshas Raktabhija each drop shed by the monster can give rise to a 100 more such monsters.

The Modern Ladies

These users move about with a chip on their shoulders, ready to take offense anytime. It is for that reason I wouldn't dare to think of a more appropriate label. They are the products of Mahakavi Bharathiyaar  (Puthumai Penn) and Rabindranath Tagore on one side and Germaine Greer and Simone de beauvoir on the other; a curious mix of East and West.

They are Independent , proud women highly opinionated and can be easily identified by their propensity to blame patriarchy or misogyny for every problem in the society. Of course , I must admit that on most occasions they are right. Acutely aware of female sexuality , they can hurl expletives that would make a sailor blush. It could be very embarrassing for any old fashioned person to be caught up in their discussions on graphic descriptions of sports bra, menstrual cup,  and TWISS , HAUN etc (please have an urban slang dictionary to decode their posts )


These are the guys who are still in whatsapp mode identified by their inclination for forwarding videos and long winding stories , without watching or reading. The South saw an invasion of Whatsappias into Twitter world when Suchithra karthik decided to choose Twitter for a 'tell all about Kollywood' campaign. Most of those accounts must have become inactive now. (Northies , google google , Suchithra who )

The bottom-line is that Social Media Platforms are here to stay , in some form or the other and we are going to spend more and more time fighting or hugging strangers. It can be fun, it can be pain , So let us adapt.