Indian polity has had many a malice but thankfully the peeping tom culture was not one of them. Unlike the West, Indian media has historically refrained from tabloid journalism, at least in so far as the milking of sex scandals was concerned.
But we live in uncertain times and the old dos and don’ts are rarely being respected by the media. And thus in the past few months itself the media has not missed any opportunity to juice two sex scandals- the first concerning Sandeep Kumar, an AAP government minister and the latest one related to the BJP MP Varun Gandhi.
In both the cases the political careers of the scandal hit leaders took a mortal blow, media laughed its way to the banks due to higher TRPs and the public got the sadistic satisfaction of these “politicians” being fixed and also an opportunity to indulge in the holier than thou moralistic outrage.
The media circus seemed such a simple case of the bad guy getting exposed. It also proved to be quite entertaining, so why should anyone be upset about the societal reaction to these two events? Right? Wrong!
The two controversies may have been a source of immediate relish for many but in many profound ways they indict the media for its hypocrisy and double standards and expose the regressive core of our society. Let me discuss how.
Personal life is nobody’s business
In both these cases, the politicians were subjected to a media trial for what was essentially actions of their private lives. Let’s be clear! The focus in both the controversies was about the sex lives of the netas, not if there was any misuse of public office.
Our society loves to make its business what others do in their bedrooms and what better opportunity can there be for this than to our obsession with sex scandals. In both of these cases, most of the media didn’t worry about whether the private actions of the persons were taped with their consent or was it done by violating their privacy? The dirty politics that ensued, especially in Sandeep Kumar incident, was laden with stench of moral policing.
When we took part in the shaming of Sandeep Kumar, somewhere we were acting along the lines of those who indulge in moral policing and create a ruckus every Valentine’s Day. After all, isn’t this what the right-wing brigade argues that it is they as society who should decide who somebody can love and in what form and where.
We must also ask how many of us would like our sex and love lives to be subject to public discussion without our consent? Do we really want to be judged by who we sleep with? If we don’t like it for ourselves, why judge the politicians for it? When we judge the politicians from the lens of their personal lives, we are not just being hypocritical and unjust, we are also discouraging many public-spirited persons who like their privacy to be respected from entering public lives.
Besides, when our political discussion gets reduced to who slept with whom, we miss the more important policy issues and public actions that should truly be fundamental.
If there was transgressions, why settle with just media trials?
But aware of the the above discussed pitfalls of making sex lives of politicians a media issue, many of these people cleverly tried to imply that the sex lives needed to be focused because they were responsible for abuse of public office (giving of ration card by the AAP minister and leaking of defence secrets by Varun Gandhi).
But then there focus should have been on these quid pro quos and not on the juicy sex scandals, but this wasn’t the case. They remained focused on the sex scandals because this guaranteed sky-rocketing TRPs for news channels. Also if there was transgressions why hasn’t there been a similar clamour for law enforcing agencies to act? Why has media forgotten Sandeep kumar? He is very much a free man, which he shouldn’t be if he did something so illegal to become the focus of the whole nation’s media for many days.
Similarly, if Varun Gandhi indeed sold military secrets what were RAW and IB doing? Didn’t they know about it? And even if it was not known earlier, why not lock him up now that serious allegations are being levelled against him?
Why avoid discussions on private lives of truly powerful?
The media’s hypocrisy in its dealing with the whole issue is also about how while it rushes to discuss the private lives of ordinary politicians, they are simply frightened to discuss similar private lives of the top politicians. Didn’t we all see how media chickened out on the snoopgate issue involving Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his time as Gujarat chief minister.
It is too much of a coincidence that both the leaders whose private actions were used against them were somewhat of thorns for the troika of Modi, Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley, who are said to wield immense influence on media these.
Sandeep Kumar belonged to BJP’s arch enemy AAP and Varun Gandhi’s growing popularity was not liked by Amit Shah and Modi who have no love lost for the popular Sultanpur MP due to his history of ‘speaking’ against Modi just was he was mounting an audacious challenge to become India’s prime minister. This raises suspicion in media’s intent prompting one to think if it consciously or otherwise acted as hitmen of the regime.
The suspicion is further strengthened primarily because of their silence on the allegations of Modi and Shah allegedly stalking a women, who Modi is said to have taken a liking for. The silence is specially more deafening because in the case of Modi allegedly snooping on the woman, state resources were used.
Also if personal lives are in such favour with media, why not also discuss the disgusting way in which Modi abandoned his wife. And it can’t be media’s case that lives of inconsequential state minister and an MP are of interest to public while that of the much more powerful PM is not. Clearly, this double standard is inexplicable.
For all these reasons one gets a feeling that media hounded Sandeep and Varun not for any crime they committed but because destroying their image suited the current ruling establishment.
It sends out a dangerous message that anyone who dares to oppose the powers-that-be or become a danger to their authority will be destroyed at any cost. The media by collaborating with the troika’s dirty trick has undermined its moral authority and did a great disservice to Indian democracy.
(The views expressed here are the author’s own and Janta Ka Reporter doesn’t necessarily agree with them)