In her programme titled “Face the Nation” on November 9, 2011, CNN-IBN ran an episode titled “Should spiritual leaders participate in anti-corruption campaign?” anchored by Sagarika Ghose.
A prerecorded interview of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the spiritual head of Art of Living, was passed on as a live one. The manner in which the various quotes of Sri Sri were used clearly showed that there was a malicious attempt to demonise him. Sagarika Ghose first defended her position, and then, finding out that she was defending the indefensible, she sort of apologized.
Next, here is what Mihir Sharma, in his article “Look-Live Lies” (http://www.indianexpress.com/
Ghose and IBN responded with the Three Stages of Damage-Control. First: What Problem? …
The second stage of damage control: Everyone Here Does It….And, finally, the “apology”: “We carried a pre-recorded interview… Without explicitly mentioning that the interview had been recorded a couple of hours earlier in the day. There was absolutely no malafide intention on our part…”
The word apology was put in quotes by Sharma himself, because this is what he said about the ‘apology’: “Congratulations, India, news TV has progressed to the point at which deciding to actively mislead viewers does not count as a ‘malafide intention’.”
The heat on Ghose did not die with her insipid attempt to try and make amends. This seems to have upset Ghose, since she tweeted as follows:
“I’ve repeatedly apologised, on web, TV, Sri Sriji has graciously forgiven us, now the endless abuse is verging on harassment pls.”
“Abuse towards women in public eye is truly vicious. Age, class, anatomy, marital status nothing spared. Wonder if men get same treatment.”
An innate feature of the internet is that use of abusive language cannot be prevented. The concerned posts can be deleted, but it happens after the abuse is read by at least some people. But the internet is also replete with instances of people making their points in a professional manner, and in diplomatic language. Which of the two sets one responds to is an indication of the level of seriousness that one wants to conduct discussions.
But wasn’t what Ghose and IBN did an abuse by itself? And was this not an abuse of a truly vicious type? Can such an abuse be brushed aside by an apology of an apology? My answers are: yes, yes, no.
This attempt by Sagarika Ghose at trying to present herself as a victim shows the same mindset that existed while making the attempt to demonise Sri Sri. And to use her own gender in this case is the height of cunningness. Does this mean that just because she is a woman, men cannot criticize her on a professional transgression?
Using gender to ward off criticism is a common tactic, employed also by Barkha Dutt at the time the Radia tapes came out in the open. She too implied that she was being singled out because of her gender, and implied that her antagonists were misogynists.
For the record, men like Rajdeep Sardesai, Vir Sanghvi, Karan Thapar, etc., have received similar treatment as she has. And for the same reason – namely those criticizing felt that there was a serious professional transgression.
Sagarika Ghose’s Twitter comments clearly indicate that she wants to trivalise the issue, and not engage in serious discussions about her actions. She has completely ignored the criticism made by Mihir Sharma in the article referred to above. By giving specific examples from the show, Sharma termed Sagarika Ghose’s attempt at deception as ‘amateurish and egregious’.
Several people on the Internet and elsewhere have made a detailed analysis of what Sagarika Ghose has done in this instance.
In yet another tweet, prior to turning herself into a victim, Sagarik Ghose said: “My many apologies to all. The ‘recorded’ bug was inadvertently dropped on Sri Sri’s interview, but I assure you the questions were the same.”
But were the questions really the same? Sagarika Ghose does indeed think that the intelligence of the viewers is very, very low. As Mihir Sharma said, the answers were so disjointed that it would appear that Sri Sri was on an evasion mode. Furthermore, in one of the questions, Sagarika Ghose asked Sri Sri to respond to a point made by one of the panelists. It would seem that the person who interviewed Sri Sri had the vision to know what would be said by the other panelists!
Ghose introduces the programme with the question “Should spiritual gurus PARTICIPATE IN anti-corruption campaigns?” However, for the purpose of a poll by the viewers, the question posed was “Should spiritual gurus STAY AWAY FROM anti-corruption campaign?” This can be seen at 2:56minutes in the YouTube video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
In the poll, 61% said NO. This NO answer was used by Sagarika Ghose as an answer to the question she posed on the show. And the people of the country are to believe that there was no malafide? Or that there was a ‘bug’?
One issue that also irritates many people is the lack of media anger about this issue. Except for the Sharma article, nobody has highlighted what Sagarika Ghose has done. There is a conspiracy of silence. When the grave wrong that the News of the World (a London publication) was exposed, the other newspapers came out strongly against the practices at the publication. They gave due exposure to the wrongdoings, which ensured that the issue went to its logical end – namely the closure of News of the World.
In this case, the rest of the Indian media pretended as if nothing happened which has caused so much anguish to a lot of people. The rest of the media showed least concern about the most unprofessional manner in which Sagarika Ghose has conducted herself. Surely they have very little right to even mention that the Indian media is capable of fulfilling the role that an independent media has in a functioning democracy.
In an interview in another publication, which appeared some three days before the IBN programme, Sri Sri had said that “a yogi does not mind criticism at all.” Sagarika Ghose found Sri Sri’s act of forgiving herself and the channel as gracious. Will Sagarika Ghose exhibit the same graciousness and deal with the issues in a professional manner and not treat herself as a victim?
Ashok Chowgule is a Vice President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, India.