Consider these points.
The Abhishek Manu Singhvi sex CD was made allegedly by his disgruntled chauffeur. It was sent to media houses again, allegedly, by his driver. Mr Singhvi “somehow” got wind of its possession by journalists, so he rushed to court and obtained an injunction against the broadcast of its contents. A broadcasters’ association pitched in with lightning speed to do its bit, by prohibiting media from telecasting the CD’s contents. And then Singhvi and his driver kissed and patched up — happy ending — though one wonders why Singhvi would want to let an alleged criminal who tried to blackmail him with a “fake” pornographic CD walk scotfree.
Who was in possession of the CD at this point and also had the motivation to leak it? The alleged rogue driver? Cannot be, for Singhvi in his touching large-heartedness had forgiven him. Social media? But the driver did not send the CD to “social media”. Only “mainstream” media journalists had copies of it with them. Obviously then, one or more of them was/were the conduit through which the CD eventually surfaced on the internets. Please note this Point number One, Your Honour.
Point number Two. Who broke the sex CD story? Social media? Not. The fun started with wire agencies reporting the court’s injunction against the telecasting of CD by certain media outfits. The “anonymous trolls” on Twitter or Facebook had no clue about it to begin with. Thus again, the sordid, entertaining and disgusting episode was brought to light by very “mainstream” journalists.
Third. The Congress’ media flunkeys suddenly developed an inordinate amount of respect for law and courts, soon after the story broke. That is after actually engaging in a bit of true-blue, bona fide pimping, when they procured and supplied prostitutes to army officers to trap them. That is after actually filming the said prostitutes and officers in the sexual act without their consent. That is after trashing a Supreme Court-conducted investigation’s report on Modi because the report dodn’t fix him. That is after continuing to peddle Lalu-appointed Banerjee committee’s lies long after a court struck down the committee itself as illegal. That is after continuing to froth at the mouth about “saffronization” even after the Supreme Court delivered a stinging blow to the purveyors of the canard that Murli Manohar Joshi was “Hinduizing” education. That is after running thousands of column inches in support of Comrade Binayak Sen, even after a court found him a criminal who sheltered extremists. That is after going livid with rage against Allahabad High Court for its judgement on Ayodhya…. Instances galore in which the celebrities of so-called mainstream media, who fancy themselves intellectuals though they are nothing but two-bit factotums of the Congress party, violated the law, or rallied against courts when the latter delivered judgements that went against their party’s interests. Yet, they were full of veneration of the court order on the Singhvi sex CD. The question they all asked in angry, whining chorus was: “don’t you have any respect for law? how can we show the CD?”
Not everybody wanted the CD to be shown, and the CD needed not to to be shown either. Plenty of news coverage related to it was possible within the bounds of law. (Legal experts pointed out that the court order banned only certain media outfits, not all, from airing the CD, but we are not even considering that aspect). Citizens wanted the CD story to be reported and discussed. They wanted questions related to the CD answered. Is it true that there was a promise of judgeship involved? Did the act take place on court premises? Why did Singhvi not pursue an FIR against the driver? Does the CD really look like it was morphed, as he claimed? Etc. Celebrity anchors who preface their Twitter sermons with “Just asking:”, who bullshit day in and out that their job is to ask questions; indeed, those who fetishize this whole business of question-asking, elevating it to the status of some sort of Divine Purpose, pretending to be God’s agents specially conferred the privilege to do nothing but bear the terrible burden of Asking Questions; chose not to ask these obvious questions. Worse, there was no reporting whatsoever of the story on some channels, notably the one whose head honcho had a CBI case on him in 1998 for reasons unknown. Point number Four.
Number Four is clear indication that there was a conspiracy of sorts in a large section of the “mainstream” media to kill all stories related the sex CD. Points One to Three are proof that this section was frustrated in its design by another section: one probably that did not hold allegiance to Congress, or, even more likely, one that belonged to a Congress faction that probably was targeting Singhvi.
Yet, who did “mainstream” media journalists vomit their bile on soon after Singhvi was forced to step down? “Social media”. Bizarre! Arre bhai, social media did not break the story, social media did not leak the CD. So why are you mad with social media?
The real reason they are angry with social media is that it defeated their design to bury the controversy. On networks like Twitter, the issue refused to die down. There was relentless clamour to know more. Singhvi trended for a record number of days. Celeb journos were continuously challenged and ridiculed for their silence and inaction. The BJP — a party that has perfected the art of kissing the feet of a hostile media that kicks it — would in normal course have felt intimidated to pursue the issue given “mainstream” media’s silence and stand on it, but felt encouraged instead, in all likelihood, by the barometer of public opinion reflected on social media.
In an earlier era before Indian “mainstream” media had gone completely perverse, there would have been alternatives. A compromised section of it would have tried to bury the issue, a dissenting section would have kept the pressure up. This is for example what had happened during the Bofors controversy. Social media has, as Sunanda Vashisht brilliantly argued, moved in to claim a space that the “mainstream” media has abdicated.
But I suspect there is also a deeper reason that the “mainstream” fellows hate “social media”. They believe that they made public opinion irrelevant. They believe they succeeded in making “public opinion” whatever they want it to be: the punditry they showcase in their oped pages, the clapping of the hand-picked Delhi audience they herd into their talk shows, even the rants of the skewed “panels” they assemble in their prime-time yaking. To take care of “public opinion” then, politicians just needed to humor the media. Thank-you calls were most likely received in the Singhvi CD case and assurances were probably given that everything will be taken care of, that in a few days nobody would even be able to recollect what the hungama was all about. That plan went kaput because of Twitter and Facebook. The journalist’s standing with the politician, earned because of his presumed ability to manufacture consent, is under threat.