By M J Akbar
The Third Eye: In India Today, December 9, 2010
Memo from G.K. Pillai, home secretary by special appointment to His Excellency P. Chidambaram:
To all hacks and their secondary lifestyle providers, with particular attention to peacocks and peahens: You ain't seen nothing yet, baby. You thought the icing was cool? Wait for the cake. If you believe the 150-odd conversations we floated your way was a bombshell, then the 6,000 in the storehouse will be an artillery barrage of World War I proportions. That was a tremor. This will be an earthquake. Trust me. I have read them.
I am not a journalist with half a head and three masters, or a greasy glad-hander with a coy accent strengthened by a bankroll. My decisions are permission-protected. When I gave the interview to Wall Street Journal promising that there was heavy, serious stuff in the still-secret transcripts, I knew what I was doing. And my boss knew what he was doing when he chose to publicly laugh - all right, make that sneer - at journalists who thought they were running the country. That wasn't an accident, or a slip. Grow up. He has read the file, examined those tapes and charted out his route map.
Can't blame him, or his fellow politicians. They have to take so much nonsense from this sanctimonious tribe of media balloons that the temptation to prick the swellheads must be irresistible. We will, of course, maximise the time taken in the process; must keep the lot trembling in the dread of anticipation for as long as possible. Moreover, nothing undermines a story so much as oversaturation of supply. The media could barely handle those 150 conversations. All these chaps who want to break news at the decibel levels of Babel never manage to find the silence for a bit of reading, even of essentials. Some of them have forgotten how to read, so we will forgive them. So many are simply too lazy. They would rather chatter than study detail.
My boss is a brilliant lawyer. We are going to be judicious. We will hand out stuff selectively, and spread it around. That's fair.
Dumping is not the home minister's style at all. He wants a few media ulcers to turn septic along the way, and that needs time. Remember, there is one lot of superstars which knows, or has a good idea of, what lies in the undisclosed transcripts: those who were phonemates of Niira Radia. You know some of the names from the teaser; they must be dreading the release of the full movie, wondering how much more indiscretion is hidden in the tapes. They escaped in the first round on the oily paths between silence, bluster, fudge and smarminess, but how far? They must be sleeping-pill addicts by now, wondering how much more of hug-and-help is frozen in our machines. Did even a casual line about satisfaction for services escape their lips? That's going to be the big one. Raja is passÃ©. The future of the news wheel belongs to courtiers and paymasters.
India was an apple republic as long as the tapes were unknown. See how quickly it became a banana republic when ants began to crawl up corporate pants.
May I, an anonymous, faceless, gossip-abused bureaucrat, make a confession? What bliss!
Look, this is history in the making. History is forgotten unless it is branded. Watergate will survive in memory long after Richard Nixon has become oblivion. Who will recall Julian Assange, and who can forget Wikileaks?
Why should posterity remember our fling with phones as the Radiatapes? She is desperate to destroy the tapes, not preserve them. It is my boss who wants to prosecute, and maybe even persecute, on the basis of those tapes. The tapes should be named after Chidambaram.
Nice ring to it. Roll that over. Good on the tongue. Almost savoury. Works pretty well in a headline too. We must be kind to sub-editors who have to think of headlines; after all, Radia never phones any of them!
PS: I just can't understand why Americans are persecuting Wikileaks' Assange; they should give him a hero's medal. Wikileaks prove what some of us suspected but no one could confirm - that American diplomats are clear, concise, cogent and informed. Only the stupid and the prejudiced accuse them of being dumb. They know precisely what is going on in the world even if their government's policy is built within a maze of spiderwebs hung across Chinese walls. Their analysis of Pakistan is perfect; it has an unintelligent government run by the intelligence service. Why on earth don't they do anything about a nation which is going to obliterate itself and us as well? One of these days I must leak our tapes of American diplomats in Delhi to the Wall Street Journal.