‘If not Mr X, then who’: How Indian media’s basic question is flawed

Ask why Mr X. What has he done to remain in power? The whos will sort themselves out

Representative Image
Representative Image

Ranjona Banerji

If not Mr X, then who? That’s the current “impossible” question. And for India’s media, it is the only question. The question is based upon a few assumptions.

1) That all Indians are intrinsically stupid and need at all times to be “led”.

2) That all Indians have binary vision. They cannot choose unless there are only two clear options. Otherwise, their silly little minds get confused.

3) Life is made up of a series of stark choices and this is one of them.

4) Mr X will therefore continue forever along his course of destruction because there is no Ms Y or Mr Z in any other political party who can compete with him at the same level of dominance.

5) We must therefore support Mr X no matter what and demonise all Ms Possible Ys and Mr Possible Zs from all political parties so that they remain marginal impossibilities.

6) Mr X is allowed all imperfections and misdemeanours because he has won elections but NO ONE ELSE, regardless of whether they have won elections or not, will be allowed even minor imperfections, mistakes or missteps.

7) Therefore all challengers to be accepted as challengers by the Indian media must be perfect.

8) Conversely, if any challenger was better at an infinite, unnamed number of variables, then he or she would be accepted as a possible challenger to be supported.

9) Mr X does not have to prove himself at all because some people love him.

10) The only true measure of any Prime Minister is his or her speech-giving ability and Mr X is a speech-maker by nature.

But maybe the better question is not Who. It’s Why. A Who cannot be an impossibility in a population of 1.3 billion. But there are innumerable answers to why, even if to many media manipulators, all Indians are immeasurably stupid.

You may argue, on behalf of our beloved media manipulators, that they are not wrong about mass stupidity. After all, in spite of the horrors that escalated across India after the demonetisation of 86 per cent of Indian currency in 2016, Mr X managed to remain a “hero”. He may have made impossible promises about how corruption and terrorism would immediately end, made passionate emotional pleas on how you could burn him alive if he was wrong and still, no one went against him when he was proved wrong.

You may argue that this only proves that the media manipulators are correct: if only there was someone else...

By making the argument so simplistic, everything else gets lost and that indeed is the intention.

There is no evidence that Indians only vote like sheep, that they automatically only look for binaries, that everyone gets simultaneously hoodwinked by one single speech.

But there is ample evidence that some Indians are being manipulated and lulled into a false sense of security which comes from expansive promises of no possible fulfilment. There is larger evidence that the secret formula that Mr X uses is not of infallible mastery but of majoritarian supremacy. In fact, it’s not even secret. Every single speech which is used during an election contains within it seeded messages of how religious minorities will be put in their place and the much-denied majority Hindus, now cowering with fear thanks to evil entities like “liberals” and “seculars” will find true utterance.

This is the game. Our media manipulators who look for “alternatives” may or may not be players, but they are certainly enablers. They have learnt that very clever conjurer’s trick: to flip the narrative. Therefore, the minute anyone points out a single catastrophic mistake that Mr X has made, the instant counter is: who else do we have.

I don’t have the answer to the Who question. My contention is that you don’t have to answer the question. Your primary job in the media is to inform the people about what is going on. What happened in Ladakh with China? What’s happening with the destruction of law and order in Uttar Pradesh? What happened to all that medical infrastructure innumerable lockdowns were supposed to give the people of India? What is the future of the Indian economy? How much public money has really reached the neediest? How are you tackling the virus? Why are so many activists and people who question the government being arrested on charges of sedition? Why isn’t a donation fund allowed to be scrutinised?

Ask the whys. The whos will sort themselves out.

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