Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wikileaks, Barkha Dutt and our ability to feign outrage

Recently, we have seen two revelations that have outraged people enormously, and I use that term lightly. The US cables leak and the leak that Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi stretched the ethical boundaries of journalism.

What I have been most surprised by is how, we the public are outraged by this. US cables suggest that Pakistan ISI might have been helping terrorists. They also discuss the possibility of Iran going nuke. No shit Sherlock. What did you expect them to be doing? Discuss diapers and pregnancies?

The second issue is even more of a joke. PR person massages her journo contact to get something published. TV presenter crosses line in a bid to be on the news-creating side instead of merely on the news-disseminating side. Again, what did you expect these people to do?

Nobody needs to tell journos about regular boring news. So, PR people essentially give them some scoops in exchange for favourable press. This practice has been alive and kicking for years. If PR people had job descriptions, it would read something like "Keep scratching back, one day hope for return back-scratch". The media-PR-bureaucrat nonsense is nothing new. Just because it happened to people who are famous does not mean we should all act surprised and outraged.

Barkha Dutt has time and again shown that she has a weakness for being at the center of it all. Even her 26/11 coverage was filled with equal amounts of Oh-my-god-this-is-bad-for-India with Still-I-am-glad-I-am-the-one-talking-about-this. She has even tried to milk the accusations against her for TRP ratings. The lack of irony is stunning.

I am not condoning either the actions of the US foreign ministry guys or Barkha Dutt and co, am just amazed at the ability of the public to express outrage at this. The Open had a decent post on this issue as well sometime ago.

What are we going to be surprised by next - Military men kill, Santa Claus does not exist, Traders will punt on any rumour, Hedge funds spread rumours to make money. Should we not have become immune by now?

For those feigning outrage, don't bother. Your outrage will have an impact for about 6 seconds and then the parties will find better ways to do what they were doing all along. Barkha will probably do all her dealings in person rather than on the phone.

For those, who are really outraged, get over it. Get a reality check.

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