December 03, 2010

Did you?

Shouldn't the Radia tapes open a wider debate not just on media ethics, but on ethics and values among all of us, journalists or otherwise? Or is it easier to rant and rave at Barkha Dutt et al than to face up to the bribes we pay, the taxes we evade, the crimes we wink at, the behaviour we both indulge in ourselves and condone?


Did you drive the wrong way on a one-way street today?

Did you buy something and not insist on a bill for it today?

Did you use the services today of the local store that puts together kids' school projects?

Did you let another day pass today without being even slightly bothered that men who killed several hundred of your fellow Indians in 2002 have not been punished?

Did you think to yourself today that somebody you disagree with profoundly on something must therefore be a publicity-seeker, or corrupt, or a traitor?

Did you beat up someone today?

Did a child come home today to clean your floors?

Did you continue to think today that you "worship" some political leader, or cricketer, or film star?

Did you let another day pass today without stopping to let people on foot cross the road in front of your car?

Did you slip a cop a currency note when he stopped you as you drove through a red light today?

There's plenty more where those questions came from, but I'll leave them for you to think about. But here's my point (just mine): if you answered "yes" to one or more of those, please don't be shocked by Ms Radia's now public conversations.


Patrix said...

I didn't do either of those today so now can I critisize Barkha or Vir? Or I should not hold our honorable journalists to a higher standard?

Dilip D'Souza said...

You can criticize them all you want.

You can try holding them to higher standards than the rest of us, but it's futile.

The point is not about criticizing them. It's about being shocked by the Radia tapes.

Anonymous said...

DD saheb, aapki problem hai ki aap bahut sentimental aur judgemental hain.. Going thru your father's Bio and the kind of work he did.. I am surprised that where you picked these traits? Based on whatever I can find about your father (on public domain), I am sure of 2 things.. if he were still around:

1) he would have disapproved of your thinking
2) he would have come up with a better (making real sense) op-ed on this issue

I know, it is your blog and you can write/post whatever you want to, still it hurts when one reads what is posted..

Dilip D'Souza said...

Based on whatever I can find about your father (on public domain), I am sure of 2 things.. if he were still around ... [etc]

And this from someone who won't use his name.

Anonymous said...

coz being annon is better than being forced to open a google account..

I would be more than willing to share my name/e-mail as long as you have the wordpress like annonymity promised.

Not that you would be interested in finding my identity..

Anonymous said...

Dcubed - Please, if you don't mind, can you tag these posts so that I can - at a later date - see your entire coverage/opinions on this topic of Radia tapes?


Dilip D'Souza said...

Anon above, done. Sorry, I should have done it like that to start with.

Jai_C said...


It looked like Patrix wants to hold ppl to the same standards he has for himself which is perhaps a *higher standard* relative to some others- (dishonorable journalists or party-line hacks?)

I certainly hold those ppl that I consider to be "my side" to higher standards. I have occasionally realized the futility of this :-( but it seems to be part of how I am. At least to me this seems to be widespread condition, possibly even a *normal* state of human behaviour.

Dilip has cast his net far and wide with his questionnaire. Let me try the following more restricted set:

- Did you lie to or mislead somebody for professional gain?

- Did you then defend such conduct as quite acceptable?

- Have you arranged or tried to arrange meetings for friends who trust you with others who desire to meet them for purposes of commerce or gain.

- Has your profession and profile contributed to or maybe even enabled your role as a mediator?

- Have you ever arranged meetings that are deemed confidential, the occurence and contents of which must be kept secret?

- If yes are you selective about who gets to meet your friends and would the criteria you use bear public exposure?

- Have you ever done so from a position that expects you to not hold or arrange such meetings, especially in secret and the charter of duties may make this a direct trangression?

- If yes, have you had the discomfort of any such lapse being widely debated in the public domain rather than an in-camera discussion in your organization.

- If yes, have you had the luxury of being able to sit in judgment of any such possible lapse on your own part?

PS: Many of these questions are wider in scope than they may appear at first glance. Do try answering this list.

Suresh said...


Most of us -- and not just in India -- are "schizophrenic" to some extent. We are willing to believe the worst in some cases but not in others. We are willing to believe that all our politicians are corrupt. We are willing to believe that all policemen (especially at the lower level) are brutes. But we also seem to believe that the army is completely above board: that it is not corrupt, not communal, and incapable of human rights violations. There is a clear inconsistency here because the police and the army personnel are drawn from the same underlying population. How can the army personnel be totally free of the prejudices that we believe affect the rest of society?

I guess the indignation about the Radia tapes is because we (the middle/upper classes) had a similar illusion about the press. None of the revelations are really surprising if we think about it. You are right in saying that this indignation is not really warranted because many of us are willing participants everyday in activities that are as scandalous as those revealed in the tapes.

Yet, in a way, it's good, this indignation. It shows that at least we aspire to a better society. If we lose the sense of indignation, then that would be disastrous -- at least in my opinion.

Jai_C said...


I think its not so much a matter of believing that "all police are brutes" and "all army are good" as believing that the system as we have it allows the army to function more independently of the politicians or others holding power while the police are much more likely to be "under their thumb".

And its not a matter of "all the press are angels" either.

btw the indignation is a transient thing it will be gone in a week or two max imo. any rants aimed at this indignation need to hurry up and be done within that window :-)


Jai_C said...

Just googled up a few links. the first time in a lonnng time, i'm reading Swapan Dasgupta:

"...Journalists often play courier between politicians. This isn't necessary but sometimes it helps to gather additional info. Equally, it may be a labour of love. It may suggest political bias/preference. But it doesn't necessarily imply corruption. ..."


Anonymous said...

Jai C, Dcubed -

I think this questionnaire made sense if say 500 low level police or corporation officials were indicted of corruption charges.

When seemingly nefarious activities are seen at the highest echelons of society, from places that have power to make/stifle significant changes in society - verily effecting our own routine behavior; in such a case, to put this questionnaire is, in my opinion, not only disingenuous but (unconscious) willful obfuscation and trivialization of the issue.

Let's say we were to investigate more in why these people behaved this way and it turns out the reason why we all, insignificant yet corrupted apathetic morons as we are, behave in our corrupted ways is because the highest levels of power have made the society unbearably obsequious to money and power to the extent that we have no option but to accept a virtual truism - money and power wins. Let's say a thorough evaluation of these tapes reveals that. How will you guys look and how silly is your questionnaire then?

I remember when the Gujarat riots happened, there were moral monsters in my friend circle who thought the slaughter of the innocents was justified. There were people who vehemently opposed it. But the most idiotic and silliest of them all was a group of mostly Hindu Uppercaste Religious people under some Swamiji - who 'satsanged' on "Violence in Indian Society, how we are all responsible for it" Although they were right, in this case every honest person would have and should have talked about Hindu Fascism.

Thats how disingenuous I think this post is. Sorry if it seems to indignant but I say it with due respect.

However, note -

1) if it turns out the Dcubed (and you) have an extensive written record of delving deeper in to the systemic problem, if any, of media lies/complicity/PR hijack of media, that this event exposes or a thorough contemplation of this event in addition to this post then I am really sorry and this post is justifiable.

2) If it is the case that most readers of Dcubed do in fact hail from the highest echelons of society or sections of society indistinguishable from the class of people involved in this event then too the post is justified.

If 1) and 2) are not true, then this post is at best worthy of dismissal for its silly timing and at worst a deliberate attempt at trivializing and diluting serious indictments.

Anonymous said...

I realized the above comment was unnecessarily verbose. Simply put -

I would like to see a discussion on why Barkha Dutt and Sanghvi and others behaved the way they did. Was it a case of bad apples or is there something larger picture endemic to our society?

Dcubed in his rhetorical post does seem to answer that question. He says, "Arre yaar, choro, we are all like that"

I don't accept that.

Dilip D'Souza said...

He says, "Arre yaar, choro, we are all like that".

Let me say this: that was not at all what I meant. My apologies if it came across like that and perhaps I should have made that clearer in the post.

I have no patience for arguments like that, because we are all emphatically NOT like that only. (And as an aside, I met plenty of those "violence in indian society" dissemblers too, in 1993 as well)

My hope is to stimulate outrage and abhorrence for things we seem to think are acceptable. In that sense, I'm trying to aim for a higher standard that some of us do live up to, instead of aiming for the lower standard that some of us are content with.

This is the basis of my frequent mention of, let's say, the 1984 killings in the same breath as 26/11. Not because I want to say "forget about 26/11, don't punish anyone for it because we didn't punish anyone for 1984", but because I want to say the opposite: "remember 1984, let's even now punish those responsible for it just as we seek to punish those responsible for 26/11".

(Because my feeling is, if we cannot find the will to punish terrorism like 1984, we will continue to suffer terrorism).

Anonymous said...

"I'm trying to aim for a higher standard that some of us do live up to, instead of aiming for the lower standard that some of us are content with." - Dcubed

thats a nice quote.

yes, in 93 as well..

Anonymous said...


"...And she went reckless on the offence with Joseph -- given how explosive the contents of the Radia tapes have proved to be, it was silly to question Joseph's judgment in outing the tapes...."

"...What was she trying to accomplish by accusing others, questioning their motives, and seeking to 'broaden the debate'? ..."

"...Worse, Dutt tried to enlist the help of the other panelists in condemning Joseph's actions..."

"...All in all, Dutt ended up with even less credibility than she started with..."

I now have to check out the video, since you saw great integrity and clarity etc. and another of my regular reads saw something quite different.


Anonymous said...

notes from a video session:

1. Barkha seems to convey lots of barely suppressed rage in the initial section, seemingly "angry at even having to do this" ( my subjective first cut reax ).

2. Makes it more difficult for her when she says there was an error in judgment. it maybe the overall atmospherics and the adversarial approach there but it rubs off on her statements more than on anybody else's since she is the one in the hot seat there.

3. "oh god" sounds a lot more benign than it reads...

4. Later on she pretty much admits she couriered info btwn DMK and Congress but this is "not message carrying"... in what sense?

As SD suggests on his blog post, its perhaps a labor of love.

5. she's butting into everybody's qs not just manu's. she's even interrupting the NDTV moderator a lot.

6. playing back the old news bcasts was very effective.

7. Manu J is too inquisitorial with trying to pin her down. he shd just have made his point, and her evasion clear... and moved on.

8. barkha rightly observes that he is trying to dictate her responses as well. But there's too much rage whenever she gets to the part abt Open/Olook publishing their exposes. she seethes, she even turns her back in a kindergarten "katti" gesture.

9. i disagree with her repeated complaint abt using raw material. the mags can and shd allow her to react and preferably run it along with their breaking story. if its defamatory she can sue.

10. There are places where she gets a little reflective and the integrity part that Dilip is impressed with gets thru. mostly around the part where she plays back their news records, and a couple of other points.

11. but she would have been well advised to have controlled her reax to Manu J, their clash and her repeated interruptions are the highlight for me, not the integrity part.

12. the last bit where she brings in misogyny was a MISTAKE*. hopefully its restricted to just one remark ("the only pretty one"). its unclear to me she intended it that way since she accepted it as a compliment.

13. body language:
she manages to look a little like a schoolgirl before her headmaster when Dilip Padgaonkar is speaking.

She switches to very combative with the rest of them. she went with this persona of her own choosing. time will tell how effective it was overall.

14. She was probably addressing the larger audience on twitter's barkhagates and firebarkhas etc. I can appreciate that she got tweaked
but she could have held onto her dignity.

15. and yes a simple and sincere sorry would have helped. I believe Vir went that route the next day on some other show and inspite of worse "errors of judgment" IMO he has come out better!

* Azza, Salman: they're after me bcos I'm M. Vanzara: they're after me bcos i'm a vanzara, the first IPS vanzara. Pratibha Patil is opposed bcos she's a woman.

Not Barkha dutt. Tell me she isnt joining this set.

Anonymous said...

One last link from Vinod Mehta:

"..the temptations of moving from spectator to player are extremely potent. Assuming the temptations do not include the handing over of brown envelopes, vanity is generally the biggest spur..."

"...Being a go-between, carrying messages, interlocuting gives some journalists a terrific kick. It also gives them a feeling that they are privy to secret information and performing some vital national service..."


Vinit said...

My, my, the lengths some people will go to, to obfuscate the issue when they (or their comrades-in-arms) are caught with their pants down!!!

Quite clever there, Mr D'Souza(I hope you'll excuse me for not addressing you by your first name; I'm on first-name basis with my friends only)! When eminent personalities of the same political leaning as you(read: high priests of secularism, ethics, ), are caught behaving unethically(Thats an euphemism, given ALL that has been revealed by the Nira Radia/Barkha Dutt/Vir Sanghvi tapes), you simply point to some other problem(anything will do as long as it diverts attention) and get people to argue on that & hope that they lose their focus & forget the original problem. This is a classic example of what can be described (Disclaimer: I did not coin this phrase) as the "Torn Shirt - Open Fly" argument. To elaborate, a man appears in public wearing a torn shirt. Some good-natured soul politely brings this to his notice. Mr Torn Shirt shoots back: "So what if my shirt is torn? Your fly is open." I know, you are not making exactly the same argument. In fact, thats what makes your crime even worse. You are being more sophisticated about it - Rather than attempt to openly justify the actions of thise journalists caught on tape(& invite quick criticism), you are pointing fingers at the general populace, bringing in tangential topics(1984 & 26/11) & in general attempting to throw the discussion off-track. Classic diversionary tactics.. I agree wid what one person said above: This is indeed a disingenuous post, intended to muddy the waters.

And as can be seen from the previous comments, you've been reasonably successful with this tactic! With this post, I hope to bring back the focus onto the original issue, which is that Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi & all those caught on those tapes were indeed heavily involved in wheeling-dealing for politicians, lobbyists & businessmen; they have their own political leanings, affiliations & sundry biases and their actions naturally rob them of their moral right to lecture the general population, on ethics, fairness, secularism or any topic for that matter. I am aiming to convey a sense of shock, of indignation, of being let-down & even perhaps cheated, by these journalists. I am trying to convey what a person feels when she sees that the people who shouted the loudest about ethics were themselves shown to have very few of them. And I'm aiming to convey the complete loss of trust in these personalities(they turned out to be crooks afterall) as experienced by most of the people.

Dilip D'Souza said...

I hope to bring back the focus onto the original issue. [etc]

Congratulations, but when was it ever taken away from that original issue? Who ever asked you to suppress your sense of shock and indignation at the lack of ethics?

I'm asking for exactly that sense of shock and indignation -- may I add "outrage" and "abhorrence" which I used earlier on this page -- towards what has happened with the Radia tapes, and so also with a lot else.

I'm glad you show no signs of losing it. I hope others are able to follow your example.

Dilip D'Souza said...

By the way I should confess I am intrigued to hear "ethics" described as a "political leaning".

Maybe that's part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Vinit - As the person "Anon" who wrote the above comment - perhaps slightly unfairly but, in my defense, substantively - calling the post disingenuous, which you claim to agree with it, I need to ask you the following:

What "political leanings" are you talking about?

I would go so far as to wonder if you really have understood anything about the current issue (that you wanted to get back to, while being on it). This issue if anything shows that these people have no political leanings.

I think what you are trying to do here is
Barkha Dutt/Vir Sanghvi - "Minority appeaser"
Dcubed - "Minority appeaser"
Hence Dcubed = Barkha Dutt/Vir Sanghvi
and hence Dcubed is "saving them"

I want to make it clear, you don't agree with me. You are exploiting my drift for your own purposes.

I have made no claims in knowing why Dcubed's post obfuscates the issue.

But here is why I think he writes this post:

I suspect it emanates from attitude of most fair and reasonable people - We are morally responsible for our actions not anyone else's.

I suspect that to be the reason why Dcubed focuses on what WE can do/contemplate in light of this event. Is there are anything WE can learn? I think its perfectly reasonable. But I think the timing obfuscates the debate.

Anonymous said...

Puppy M - In case you are reading and let's face are.

"(unconscious) willful obfuscation" @ Anon, Dec 5

awesome inni?

VijX said...

Interesting. How is this different from asking all Muslims to speak up whenever there is a terrorist attack?

VijY said...

because it dosnt ask only muslims the "Did you" questions?