Big Story Fatigue

After months of exposure to searing, sweeping single-story coverage which has shaken our beliefs about ourselves, I have big story fatigue. The most visible symptom of this condition is a yearning for comic relief. The patient is so steeped in the darker humours that anything cheerful will serve for an upper, even common or garden TV dyslexia. I got three good hits this week. But to be fair, in all three cases, the channels inadvertently purveyed humour made up elsewhere.

When Nitin Gadkari was not assured of a second term but no one knew how it would pan out, CNN-IBN offered the best coverage of the story, with Sumit Pande explaining the rules under which a contest would play out. It was instructive, since the BJP president has always been selected by consensus. Of course, Rajnath Singh has secured a consensus, so the contest route remains untested. But the channel's next story produced a howler. The news anchor declared that Om Prakash Chautala, who was adjusting to life in Tihar Jail, was former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh. Perhaps a dim echo of Virbhadra Singh's election, which CNN-IBN had celebrated quite a bit?

Meanwhile, the BBC led its coverage of the world's biggest chat show at Davos with an interview of Boris Johnson. What could have been a plug for the mayor of London, set against a dramatic alpine backdrop, became a rather interesting exercise, with Johnson being allowed to hardsell his city and demonstrate his support to his prime minister's threat to pull out of Europe, but in a raffishly sceptical atmosphere.

Good show, but the guest who appeared after Johnson, was Imran Khan. The man that Salman Rushdie who is doing the rounds in Delhi with the film version of Midnight's Children disparages as Im the Dim. Though, I think, that wonderful name first appeared in Jugnu Mohsin's column in the Friday Times. Im is expected to stand for election on an anti-corruption platform, an unlikely cross-border version of Anna Hazare. But in the course of this interview, which wandered a bit, perhaps on account of the legendary wine list at Davos, he went and referred to the National Accountability Bureau of Pakistan, the apex anti-corruption office, as the "anti-investigation bureau". Maybe it was a Freudian slip. In our region, the political community secretly but strongly believes that if corruption were contained, politics would die for lack of oxygen. An anti-investigation agency would be handy indeed.

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