THIS corpse is as dead as the silly dodo. ‘In cold print’ used to be a metaphor; now it is a frozen fact.
As cold as a corpse. It is entirely appropriate that the obituary of print media’s influence was delivered by a political doyen, Sharad Pawar, who has seen both the rise and fall.
Pawar became a Maharashtra MLA in 1967 when Sham Lal was Editor of The Times of India, Evan Charlton of The Statesman, Ajit Bhattacharya of the Hindustan Times, and Frank Simoes of the Indian Express while the legendary Kuldip Nayar was startling the country with scoop after scoop. Pawar has watched the temperate plateau of media slowly crumble into a temperamental cliff with a one-way slope.
Sharad Pawar presided over the INDIA alliance’s decision to boycott 14 television anchors. Here’s the sad part: not a single print journalist was considered worthy of outrage.
Was this an implied tribute, a judgment that print journalism is balanced, etc.? But in the pre-noise era, print editors and columnists used to be regulars on the enemies’ list of governments. Perhaps the unsubtle hint is that print is useless. TV anchors are the toughies. They shout. They shape the discourse.
They don’t necessarily have to make sense, although some try to do so. But the big thing is noise. Anchors are the high priests of Bedlam, worthy of being ostracised. The scribble has been vanquished by the scream. May the soul of print rest in disquiet!
The perpetuity edit
Democrats across the world, arise. You have nothing to lose but your faltering reputation. Learn censorship from the old masters. Be calm, not brazen. Use juicy carrots and carry a sleek, steeltipped stick. The true British ruling class, the landed aristocracy with royals atop the narrow pyramid, still has much to teach us.
Veteran journalists in London are now revealing details of the known unknown: everything written about the British monarch is sieved by censorship in one way or another.
This is how you preserve the credibility of kings, queens and direct heirs. You dictate the narrative. There are rewards for loyalty, while privileges disappear for the disloyal.
The king is the image. Well: in the bad old days, you could lose your head for lese-majesty. Losing your job is a distinct improvement. This art of British royal censorship is cloaked in exquisite English. It is called a “perpetuity edit”. Amen!
The parting shot
A nugget which you may find useful during conversation at your next party. Whenever any Mr Clever delivers a parting shot, tell him to thank the Parthians, who ruled Persia for five centuries until 224 CE. Their parting shot was literally lethal. Their cavalry had the devastating ability to fire arrows on horseback from an astonishing 180º angle while speeding away, racing out of enemy reach. The Parthian arrow became the parting shot.
Parthians can also claim credit for the verbal parting shot. In 54 BCE Crassus led the first Roman invasion of the Parthian empire. The Parthian emissary was blunt. He showed the palm of his hand to Crassus and said, “Hair will grow here before you see Seleucia.” The Parthian monarch Orodes II was watching theatre when Crassus’ head was brought to him. He said nothing. Perhaps his emissary had summed it all up in the parting shot.
The scent of winter
The last rains in Goa have become a murmur of regret. Another annual miracle of renewal, of life to land and calm to mind is over. The energy of youth which chased the skies few months ago has ebbed. The winds have mellowed. Ganesh Chathurthi has launched the celebration of festivals. A faint scent of winter has drifted into the early morning air. The end of another season signals the irretrievable passage of time. Change is the one thing that does not change.