There is outrage, and there is fear. And there is that sickening, nauseating feeling that comes from knowing that despite being advanced enough to unearth the secrets of how the universe came into being, we still live in a world where a school girl can be mobbed, stripped and molested, just because.
And then, there is a lot of blaming people, mostly of the media. I’ll take a detour from my usual policy of not mixing work and blogging today, because a wise man once said desperate times call for desperate measures. And though this will not amount to an apocalypse for most, I am frustrated enough in my head to bend my own rules and write about it. I’m a little weird like that, the rules in my own head are the only ones I usually find worth sticking to.
My first memory of mass scale blaming of the media is that of a cricket match in India, presumably an international series, which had to be rescheduled because some miscreants dug up holes on the pitch. My memory fails me, but I think it was seen as an attempt to upset the always inflammable Indo-Pak relationship. The next day, a national daily ran a picture of what looked like two people in the act of digging up the pitch. I am rusty on details, but the point is, I still clearly remember the outrage it generated. “So the photographer just stood there and took shots?” “He could have stopped this game from being rescheduled!”
And I remember, even back then, thinking “well, the photographer was doing his job. It is not his duty to guard the venue of an important match, where was security?”
Of course, life is more easily categorized as black and white and it is far more easy to made judgment calls when you are a pre-teen, blissfully unaware of the jokes our father in heaven can play on us. Twenty seven years of dealing with his pranks have taught me better. Or, enough to have long moved away from that mental high pedestal that lets people judge others.
Today, my Facebook page is peppered with angry comments from people speaking out against the appalling and downright sick (fine, I just judged, but in this context do you blame me? If you do, I’m not sure you and I will ever be on the same page) molestation of the teenager in India’s far eastern city of Guwahati. And, along with those expressions of angst, I see the inevitable “so the reporter just stood there and shot?”
As a member of that larger community, despite all trainings in objectivity, it is difficult not to be affected.
Some professions in the world come with more moral responsibility than others. It is one of those things that have no end in cold logic, but that make the world an easier place to live in. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, politicians (yeah ok, I know my list is becoming a joke now) and the fourth estate more than, say engineers, bankers or marketing executives. I, of course, mean no disrespect towards the last three professions. If you want to be difficult and nitpick about that, save it for later please? I promise I'll entertain you then.
Right now, let’s deal with the issue of “so the reporter just stood and shot?”
Journalism, as far as I can tell, is not a career that happens to people by default. Unlike doctors, engineers lawyers and even actors, parents do not bring up kids with the aim of becoming journalists. They don’t study hard because they have to become a successful reporter. So, for most of us, it is a conscious decision, a choice we make because we feel some passion, love and respect for what we do. There will be good men and bad men in every turn, nook and cranny of life, and the profession is not an exception. It can’t be, I’m writing this blog under the presumption that my current reader set is beyond such naiveté.
So while the world gets ready to draw blood from the reporter that caused err what did he cause exactly? Brought out to the world a case of gross misconduct and violation of personal rights?
I can already hear all the questions you are mentally hurling at me (I’ll sift through the abuses) and will try and deal with some as best as I can. Of course, this is all from my very limited understanding of life, people and the profession. I have no claims of greatness in any of those departments, but I’ve known some fine people who’ve excelled in all, who’ve been inspirations and anchors in life.
So the reporter shot. I have said this before and I’ll say it again. A reporter is not a superman. He cannot tackle a mob of 50 odd rapacious men by himself, just like anybody else. If we could do it, we would stop wars with our presence, instead of reporting on them. Trust me, there is more blood, gore, and violations of all kinds that go on in a strife torn area. In fact, you’d be surprised how much of it goes on in rural India and other countries across the world in everyday life, and the only ones we know of is because some reporter, somewhere, took up his pen or camera and told us the story.
I do not know what exactly went on in front of that Guwahati bar, but I’m picturing this. A reporter finds himself at a mob site, and it is obvious to him he can’t stop it. Come on, even Salman Khan can’t take on so many frustrated men intent on preying on a girl by himself. Oh but wait, he can. This is exactly when I wish life was more of a movie with heroes a possibility. Anyway, so the reporter, unable to stop the mob, does the next best thing he knows to do. He picks up his pen (here, a camera) and reports on it. And despite running the risk of sounding extremely callous, I’ll still say this. Because the video is out there, we know who these miscreants are. In a society like India, I can guarantee you no one would have offered any help by way of witness if that bit of evidence was not available.
I’ll ask you a simple question. If the video wasn’t around and you were an onlooker and were asked to offer eyewitness evidence the next day, would you volunteer? Don’t answer me, but I think you would do yourself a favour in answering it honestly to yourself.
Some of my Assamese friends, who know the area, have said the reporter was sloppy in finding help. That his office was a mere two minutes walk from the scene of the mob and that reporters in that part of the world have enough clout to stop something like this with a shout out. Again, I can’t tell what exactly happened, and if it is true that he could have stopped it and didn’t, I’d be ashamed for him and the community. This might be a conflict, but I’m not objective to that extent. If I can stop a rape/murder/accident, I’d do that over reporting it. But if I can’t, that’s the next best thing I’d do. Write about it, oppose it, and make people sit up and realize what has gone wrong.
After all, isn’t that better than looking away, not stopping your car/bike to help the victim, going home, watch the video on youtube and then call the media the wolf?
But I must say I’ve my doubts on how much pull even a respected reporter has in a mob scene gone wild.
Most reporters, like most other people in other careers, are mediocre, lazy and like the good life. But I think our choice of profession makes that little voice at the back of our heads more vocal than in others. And then it depends on the individual to choose whether they’ll listen to it, or not. The voice, you see, makes no claim at physical subjugation.
We are not superheroes, but we do try when given a chance. Be it a Daniel Pearl, a Jyoti Dey, a Bob Woodward, or the young Tarun Sehrawat.