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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