Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Radialogue Wound

The Radialogue Wound
By M.J. Akbar
Third Eye in India Today
3rd January 2011

New words are an annual media byproduct without a balance sheet. The profit is not immediately visible, and loss not worth the count. The New York Times has produced a thirty-plus list that seems more obligatory than essential. Most words show the strains of artifice. Fortunately, terms like “sofalize” [socializing from home, through the net] will die a natural death after their fifteen seconds of fame. The hideous “mansplainer” just might get fifteen minutes of life, since it denotes a compulsive male opinion-giver and is therefore perfectly suited for TV pundits, but it is really too weak to survive.

Some deserve the immediate sentence of capital punishment. Put “Porno scanner” [synonym for the full-body security search at American airports] down for quick execution. Others are so tortured they seem to have spent time at Guantanamo. “Poutrage” [false anger] has clearly been put through a sadistic lexicographer’s tweezer. The accidental genius of Sarah Palin, which gave us “refudiate”, will survive as a joke as long as Sarah Palin survives as a joke.

But I do hope two words acquire momentum. “Coffice” comes from South Korea, a busy little country where the diligent can turn an internet café into an office for the price of a cup of coffee. In India, of course, we would need to rearrange the word a bit, since our specialty is turning an office into a café. Ficecof, anyone? Perhaps not. Any word that sounds like an interrupted gurgle can’t be good for conversation.

“Halfalogue” also has the feel of a strangled academic’s last wish, so all optimism about its future must be guarded. It means half an overheard conversation; and that makes it interesting. It first appeared in a semi-obscure research paper, published in the journal Psychological Science, titled “Overheard Cell-Phone Conversations: When Less Speech is More Distracting”, which multiplies its interest level. What a natural for Delhi’s chatterati: “The Niira halfalogue was just too much, wasn’t it? Do you think Manmohan carries a mobile phone?”

In fact, the Prime Minister doesn’t. Niira Radia, apparently, had at least eight mobile phones, only one of which was tapped. If one phone could inflict so much havoc, we can only wonder, enrapt in awe, at the destruction that a tap on all eight mobiles would have caused. Once upon a time, not very long ago, a mobile phone was at best an instrument of need and at worst a symbol of self-importance. Niira Radia has turned it into an instrument of caution for the large majority whose imagination is restrained by limits, and a weapon of duplicity for the few blessed with Machiavellian wile. If you are confident that your phone is tapped, you can always plant any story you want about anyone you dislike.

Even the most extravagant astrologer could never have predicted that Dr Manmohan Singh would be fatally wounded by a mobile phone. He has withstood, with great calm and fortitude, six years of Opposition artillery without a scratch on his reputation. Suddenly, he has become victim of friendly fire. A remarkable aspect of a scandal that has weakened the government to the point of fragility is that conversations which revealed part of the truth were between politicians, lobbyists, businessmen and journalists on the same side. This is collusive detail, not accusatory condemnation, from lobbyists and journalists who were friends of those in power. An investigative arm of government exposed a Cabinet minister. The lethal icing came from the anonymous sources who leaked the Radia tapes. Their names may not be public knowledge, although they are privately known, but this much is certain: officers of this government were intent on the destruction of its credibility.

“An old Chinese saying” is a tautology, for all Chinese sayings are old. The new ones are trapped in artificial ideology; the old ones were nurtured in the crucible of observation. Do not judge a man, goes one, until the coffin is closed, for he still has time to make a mistake. The Prime Minister made one mistake. He did not stop the DMK loot when he should have and could have. He permitted daylight loot from the nation’s treasury in order to survive. The true tenor of the Congress-DMK equation is revealed in a letter written by former telecom minister A. Raja, in which he virtually orders the Prime Minister not to interfere on telecom pricing. The moment Dr Singh meekly conceded, his credibility cracked. The Radia tapes reveal the hemorrhage of a self-inflicted wound.

Dr Singh came to office in 2004, but took a while to come to power. He may remain in office, but his power has begun to ebb.

1 comment:

B.V. said...

Dear Shri Akbar,
Please forgive me for going off on a tangent. But the matter is still related. So please bear with me.

Now that you are Executive Editor of headlines Today, you must own moral responsibility for whatever wrong happens on your channel.

Last week, your channel went to town with the "Breaking News" about how Ananth Kumar has a joint account with Nira Radia and how he allotted one site to her NGO in Vasanth Kunj and how Advani laid the foundation stone for her building, how the BJP was in fact Nira radia's best friend long before the congress came on the scene, etc., etc., etc......

Now, Nira Radia herself, Advani, Ananth Kumar, Pejawar Math Swamiji, the BJP, Arun Jaitley etc. have categorically called the "breaking News" item a figment of the imagination of one Ajith Singh, a child-lifter, who was in jail for two years for the crime of kidnapping Nira Radia's child, whose cock-and-bull story was believed by your channel hook, line and sinker.

Do you feel sorry that your channel resorted to character assassination? Was the so called "self censorship" given the go by, just to get evenb with the BJP/sangha parivar? Would you mind retracting your "exclusive report? (I would like to see it when it goes on air.

Please reply if you feel my letter need to be replied.

Please note that hetherto, I had nothing but admiration for your level headedness, balance in your views and moderation in whatever you said in your writings and TV appearances. Though I still hold the same views, this particular thing has terribly upset me. I didn't care much for Headlines Today, because it has always sought to sensationalise news. The recent attack by the RSS workers on the offices of the channel is proof that the channel doesn't have any credible self-censorship. But, under your baton, I had hoped it woulf veer towards moderation and responsibility. I am sorry the channel and indirectly you have failed your friends and viewers, who had always thought high of you.

Yours sincerely,