Insignificant Us

35 Comments

Yesterday. The ultimate heist. 4 of India’s most dangerous criminals meet in a shadowy bar in Delhi (Bar-ista)—-the sinister Vulture , the recurring 2.499999 and 2 other people whose name we cannot divulge. And there was another man—a mysterious figure calling himself James. For those who have seen the legendary “Chamiya” , this name inspires terror. Those who have not seen it, you are better off not knowing.

Today. The Times of India comes out with an expose. Yes they may have missed the match fixing scandal, the shadowy defense deal. Hell they may have even missed Shakti Kapoor’s “Aooo sharmao mat” come-on line. But never too late to start—-so here it is. MSM goes under cover to bust a Blogger’s Meet.

Confused? Don’t be. Delhi Times reporter James aka Ranjan Gumnam sorry Yumnam pretended to be a newbie blogger and attended a Delhi blog meet. Deep undercover, he asked some questions and came back and wrote a less-than-complimentary piece in TOI. I shall link to his blog first where you can check out his justification and his piece. [ Note: A single post blog reminiscent of a few “we love ponytails” blogs that sprung up with one post in October.]

There are a lot of things I could do. I could take Ranjan’s justification for his post and point out that for someone who goes to great length to demonstrate what a pedigreed blogger he is (having been associated with a portal no less) its a bit hypocritical to accuse the 4 bloggers who showed up as “self-important”. I could also point out the hokum he uses to justify his technology post but his “technical” arguments (re: splogs) have been taken apart here. I am not going to point out the ridiculousness of his so-called sting operation because it’s so self-evident. I am not going to point out his lack of objectivity (an MSM term, I am not sure how many journos would know that–paraphrasing James) and the lack of balance.

So why this post? Because James you need to be told something my friend.

Firstly, dont blur the issue. We, bloggers, know how insignificant we are in comparison to MSM people like you. Our traffic ranks nowhere close to what TOI gets and face it , management institutes with crores of advertising money wont give us a dime. So yes, we know we are of no concern to the MSM….of use only when one of you needs to write something fast and are looking for some insignificant net floatsam from which things may be lifted (or inspired using Anu Malik-speak) without due credit. Hence we are not fools to not realize that TOI has no deep agenda against us. If they really did, they would not have sent you to do the expose.

So what this actually is is payback on your part. I understand that it’s not a nice feeling when someone googles your name and what comes back associated with it are words like “clueless” and “dolt”. And reading the relevant posts, it’s not rocket science (especially for a bunch of people of whom half are IT professionals) to realize the absurdity of what you pass of as “technology reporting”. But then again, my blog may also be considered absurd by you so that’s not really the point.

The point is how you have misused your position in the media to carry on your personal battle of vendetta. How many people attend a blogger’s meet, whether one person calls himself an “elite blogger” (let’s assume he did) is not news. It’s not an expose. It’s just plain stupidity. I hope that being a big porter (blog–>blogger, portal–>porter) , you can understand that.

The second point. You make the point that the Indian blogosphere is nothing compared to the US blog-world which has much more influence. There can be strong points made for and against this conjecture but before we do that, there is a wider issue at stake. Let’s assume the desi blogosphere is junk.

Now ask the question: How do Indian newspapers (MSM) compare to US newspapers? When was the last time the New York Times had Robert De Niro’s birthday on its front page? When was the last time Washington Post debated whether Paris Hilton’s videofootage is fake or not? When was the last time you opened LA Times and found at the right hand side of your screen a picture of a busty blonde in a push up with the caption “July Babes”?

Besides Tehelka, which newspaper in recent memory has shown balls to go after the real bad guys? So before you point fingers at others, do some self-introspection. I am not just targeting one particular newspaper….most mainstream news outlets (with some notable exceptions) are glorified scandal rags that report on lifestyle and spicy politics and what Bipasa Basu’s future acting assignments are.

Which brings me to what ties together bloggers in this incestuous bond of mutual backslapping. It’s the fact that we have not sold out. We may be small, we may be insignificant but we are not for sale. We do not peddle editorial space, we do not use advertisements inside news items (unless its promotion for a new Mithun movie) and we do not kowtow to advertisers with big purse strings. We do not bring out paid surveys declaring certain management institutes as No 1 on very shady criteria. We may be quirky and opinionated and offensive but we are honest. The reason for that is maybe because , as you derisively pointed out, half of us are IT professionals (question 1: which ass did these figures come out of? question 2: are IT professionals not qualified to write ?)—-hence what we write does not earn our bread. Thus we can afford to be “independent”.

And its precisely because we are small and insignificant, that we remain temptation-free. Maybe if I start getting 1 million hits a day and Rajanikant calls me up with a role in his forthcoming movie as a backup dancer, I may say “Mithunda sucks”. Maybe if Rajsingh Dungarpur sent me a year’s supply of Hyderbadi biriyani, I would say “Sourav Ganguly needs to go”. The fact that not many people read my musings enables me to say what I want—I have no constituencies to pander to, no advertising revenue to maintain. This is why I like other bloggers and other bloggers (I hope) like me—because we shoot from the hip and political correctness be damned. All of us know what we are worth (next to nothing) and guess what, we like it that way. And that’s also what keeps us likeable.

When we see that one of these independent voices are being stifled either by men with ponytails or being lampooned by a guy called James, then we leap to his/her defense. It’s tough for people like you to understand—-people for whom the world is measured by “Can we afford to piss off these people?” It’s called camaraderie, it’s called mutual admiration and respect–unsullied by commercial considerations.

In conclusion, the day we really become self-important, we run the risk of morphing into you.

A really scary thought.

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35 thoughts on “Insignificant Us

  1. Oohh lovely lovely, and more lovely. You are truly The Great Bong sir! Saurav-da has nothing on you! (yes, I sometimes regret not having cooled down enough to write a post which was more worthy of me. Ah well, jo hua so hua.

  2. Sublime.
    You remind me of the jesters in Shakespeare’s works. Making people laugh most of the time, but displaying amazing insight and depth when it matters.

  3. Excellent post. I admire the way in which you have explained what bloggers stand for and why they what they do. This is probably the best post I have read regarding this matter.

    Thanks. Have a nice day.

  4. Excellent!!!
    When I first read the article in the Delhi Times I was irritated but didnt know how to comment. But your post made me think … and write.
    It is the freedom and anonymity that the internet provides that is the basic reason for blogs being popular. MSM does very rarely provide a platform for normal people to speak out. You can see all the surveys that come out and the kind of opinion leaders they quote. Let me take a few names “Pooja Bedi !!!”, “J J Valaya”, “Malini Ramani (of the tricolour fame)”, ” Vijay Mallya”…The list is endless.
    What segment of the population do they represent?
    Who cares about their opinion anyway?

    An obituary of the late President warrants just one quarter of a page, whereas for a “hip and happening” P3 party nothing less than half a page will do.

    Is TV better, no way…
    Split Screen visuals of Govinda, Rajat Sharma and a one time associate of Govinda mouthing obscenities is not news, by any standards.
    Neither is reporting on a calamity (Tsunami, Earthquake Floods, Bomb Blasts…)and claiming every two and a half minutes – Remember we showed you these pictures first !!

    We see endless talk shows on the responsibility of the media and what does the media do ….well it just becomes more irresponsible.

    Just take a break. Learn from Sachin Tendulkar. Opt out when you know you are down and come back later when you think you are better.
    After all everyne is entitled to his/her opinion. Isn’t that a fundamental right. Or maybe the Left .

  5. Whole of India (probably the world) is trying to emulate America. At times it is seems so servile that I feel bad to be one of us. Every time America says anything good about us, we simply cannot stop bragging about it, be it Lagaan or Kalpana Chawla. The MSM is the most culpable in this matter. Remember that boy from UP took the whole of Indian MSM for a ride about his story about being selected by NASA! In this general atmosphere servility, bloggers are the only ones who have some identity of their own. It’s truly unfair to say that bloggers are trying to emulate America. No I don’t think so.

  6. Brilliant! For a long time now, I have wondered why corporate India does not blacklist TOI en masse, why people still continue to read it, why people do not see through the bloody sham that the paper is.(as of now the Tata Group is the only corporate to blacklist the rag, and their popularity keeps growing).

    Bloggers are the only people who have managed to actively criticise MSM and TOI in particular..I guess the Indian blogosphere should be prepared to face “sting operations” no matter how ridiculous, and similar scintillating exposes by disgruntled journalists.

    Its good fun really, when a small and so called insignificant group of people can make a big media conglomerate stoop to such lows.

    PS: Actually these new editorial lows that TOI is stooping to is not that surprising.Thanks to Medianet, TOI has no real content to put on their pages. I mean, how long can they hope to interest people into reading about
    “al eading liquor company” that launched their “latest products” at a “five star hotel in the city”…I mean really!!!!

  7. Even though I am an avid reader of the TOI, I agree to most of what has been posted and commented upon.
    Off late there are pages and pages being written about the Mafatlal property debate but the highlight of the story is the sex change episode. No wonder it is the only way to grab attention. Otherwise who cares what happens to THE apartment, when all of us who live in this Mumbai are too busy either looking for a decent place to live in or are barely hanging by the handrail of a local train.
    The problem rather lies in the relatively poor standards of journalism. Somehow except for the Hindu, I have not come across any newspaper editorial which rustles you up and makes one think.

    And in such a scenario if the bloggers have the guts to speak their mind, it is definitely worthy of appreciation

    Good work!! both for getting the right perspective and for inviting opinions of the readers.

  8. @TTG: Ideally one should not lose one’s temper but then you cant be blamed for losing it a little. Its tough to keep your temper in check when a personal attack is launched on the pages of a daily.

    @Ambar: I am honored.

    @Varun: Thanks.

    @Vulturo: A few more times would be nice. :-)….Thanks

    @Pappu: Oh yes I have seen it…the second best movie of the year (the best is Black Friday)

    @Docs Scope: Precisely the problem with our Bongo Sonskriti…note a steep falling off at the end ! :-)….

    @Abhishek: Very true. Page 3 was fine. Now its seeped to Page 1, 2 , 4, 5…..

    @Subhendu: Point. James seems to think that excellence is measured by how close we are to US. His piece can be taken apart sentence by sentence but, hey whats the use.

    @BD: Have you seen the movie ?:-)

    @R: Medianet sounds so much like Synet, the AI program that destroys the world in Terminator.

    @HutumPacha: Yes Hindu is a honorable exception. Accepted.

    @Patrix: Thanks…

    @Lalit: Hail back to all my readers.

    @John Roberts: Welcome back oh Supreme Court judge :-)…..

  9. Nice post Arnab.

    I am not supporting the incredibly stupid stunt that the guy pulled off, but’self importance’ has already crept into atleast a part of the blogsphere and what is more scary is not morphing into ‘James’ but that ‘independent voices’ sound spookily similar.

  10. Hi,

    I’m not sure if any of your other readers realised this, but your blog is best enjoyed when “I am Disco Dancer” is playing in the background.

  11. I randomly dropped by your site and was made aware of the current raging controversy. But before I comment on that would like to compliment you for the very interesting pieces you have written. I particularly enjoyed the one on Mithun da and the Puja (I am a Bengali hence could relate.)
    To get back to the point I would just like to say aren’t we all taking this a bit too seriously? A blog is a forum for a personal account of issues that interest the blogger. It may be insightful, deep, and meaningful and also the best piece of journalistic writing or it may all be crap. The expose seems to be ridiculous but what would be even more ridiculous is to take ourselves seriously and strut around brimming with self importance. Let’s keep things into perspective and just have FUN!

  12. The post is brilliant and all,as always is.But the point that interested me the most,made me curious,is the mention of ‘Chamiya’ 🙂

    SPOLILER-PLOT DETAILS OR OUTLINE BELOW

    Is this the movie which is the story of James the homecoming pilot who stops over for some fuelling purpose?

    SPOILED.

    If it is then yes,everybit is true.Is it that big a legend,never knew.If not then I need to see that other Chamiya too.

  13. The Delhi Times reporter(James) went to the meet as a blogger so he should have published his view in his blog but he chose the newspaper. Thus he misused his position. If he published his opinion in his blog then even if I don’t agree with his opinion I wouldn’t think him to be an opportunist.

    I have another point. He complained about the naming of the meet. One has to start from somewhere. Couple of my friends started an alumni association of “——-”(for obvious reason I am not writing the name) with only a very few people (5 to be precise). After good 6 years now it has a membership base of 700!! Nobody complained that why is it called an association when they can only talk about 5 members. Doesn’t this reporter know that it takes time and effort to build up anything? What is wrong with this reporter?

    I really like the name of your article and all the logical explanations given in this article.

  14. Arnab,
    I wanted to send my comment to the reporter (Ranjan) – so I did go to his blog. After sending, a note comes out “Your comment has been saved and will be visible after blog owner approval.” I could not believe that he being a journalist needs a shield!!!! It is ludicrous indeed!!

  15. Just great dear friend, simply great. “camaraderie, mutual admiration and respect–unsullied by commercial considerations”, the very words I was looking for. When I read, TTG’s post, I had a sudden anger and immediate reflex to side by TTG despite his tone of the blog, and I was wondering, why did I feel so. I have never even read TTG’s blog before. U answered me so well.
    And well, as always extremely well written post, the best I say after the Mithunda junior’s post. U deserve a Treat at Bhojo hari manna, owe u one

  16. @Nirav: Thanks…

    @Dreamweaver: Self-importance has crept into a section of bloggers? Would you please kindly elaborate with examples ?

    @Nitin: Actually any Prabhu-ji bhajan goes fine–try “Swarg Me Milegi Mujhe Apsara”.

    @Richtofen: Thanks

    @Cribbycrab: I dont think anyone of us are taking ourselves seriously. But we do have the right to defend ourselves—mind you I would have totally been in favour of ignoring James if he had written this article in only his blog. But he has not. Once accusations are made in a national newspaper..I suppose a rebuttal is in order.

    @Nikhil: Oh yes its that movie with the chiller dialogues and the amazing production quality. This movie was a rage in the Hindi heartland and could be one of the most popular digital artifact passed from hand-to-hand in India. Ever. Chamiya has spun a number of sequels.

    @yourfan: Yes what you say is logical. But as we both know the sting operation was not based on logic. It was based on a desire to get back— his justifications are pure BS and nothing but a poor attempt to obfuscate his real reason…

    And yes he has comments moderated….obviously he shall pick and choose the comments that make it.. not exactly the bravest of persons …it’s what I would expect from the man.

    @Anthony: Yes you felt exactly the samw way I felt. We shall discuss more about this at Bhojohori Manna…:-)

    @Mridula and Aishwarya: Thanks

    @DeccanHeffalump: Mmmmmmmmmm

    @Devdutt: Exactly. A sad wannabe.

    @BD: Yes the dialogues….I challenge Salim Javed to come close to it.

  17. Basically, James was doing Page 3 Reporting for TOI/DT. It is typical for TOI to cover the all happening parties in the town and they were covering this meet too … and celebreties do take a lot of flak and brush it aside …

    TOI – the best tabloid in INDIA …

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