In the olden days there was news and there was trivia. The news was the headline and the trivia was the filler. Nowadays, the actual news is always pushed to the background and the trivia is the Lead. We truly live in the Trivial Age.
This came more to the fore in 2012.
Take the Robert Vadra-DLF case. An investigation could be done on how exactly DLF benefited and how Vadra used his political links. It was a great investigative story just waiting to happen.
The media didn’t care much. In fact, it was over Vadra’s famous status message “Mango men in a banana republic” that the newsprint coverage and airtime minutes shifted their attention to.
All the Tweeple (this writer included) simply went ballistic.
Then the issue died down along with one of the first scams that had hit the first family of India.
The very serious irrigation scam was pushed aside by the nice sounding chacha-bhatija (uncle-nephew) Sharad-Ajit Pawar spat. Ajit made a masterstroke by resigning and diverting attention from a scam worth thousands of crores.
The Thorium scam sank into oblivion for the simple reason that no-one could make anything out of it. There simply wasn’t enough trivia attached to it!
If an insignificant story can be fit wittily into 140 characters, then it has a long shelf life.
If an important story somehow doesn’t make headline or status message sense, then it’s consigned to the dustbin.
Whether we like it or not, social media is setting the agenda for the news leads of the day. While they by and large take up interesting issues, sometimes they go hysterical over the completely flippant.
It happened in another case. On her arrival in Thiruvananthapuram, Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Union Minister Shashi Tharoor, was seen shouting at a man and slapping him repeatedly in public view, in front of the camera.
What could have caused her to erupt in such a manner? What was the man saying or doing? This is a very sad plight on the state of women in India. If such a high profile individual in India can be treated such, what is the fate of the common woman in India?
However instead of highlighting this story and bringing women’s issues to the fore, it was totally side-lined by the media for something that happened at exactly the same time. That thing was much more trivial and juicier.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was on election campaign in Gujarat and said a whole lot of things. But the only thing that stuck out was his comment on a politician’s 50 crore girlfriend, a clear reference to Sunanda and the IPL controversy that cost Tharoor’s ministry last time round.
That set the Twitter and Facebook status updates alight and the news channels working overtime to stretch the story. Tharoor’s repartee that his wife was priceless and how some people (read Modi) couldn’t understand love seemed the perfect lead story of the day.
But if there are allegations of corruption against a minister and his girlfriend/wife, is a comment on the same really sexist in nature? Sunanda still has a lot of explaining to do on how she got hold of 4.5% sweat equity of an IPL team that her future husband was promoting. And that amount may have been much more than 50 crores.
It was only later in TV interviews that Sunanda confirmed that a 19-year-old youth was indeed misbehaving with her. But funnily that seemed quite a trivial matter to all the channels as they were much more interested in Modi.
A juicy Tweet and juicier counter-Tweet makes much more sense in today’s day and age! A leader’s corruption remark caused a thousand times more outrage than a youth groping the same woman in full public view.
That’s the same with Modi too. Thousands of words relating to development and vision will get zero coverage. A half phrase concerning Sonia or Sunanda will become the lead.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari is also an interesting character. He took office when hardly anyone had heard of him. He defied expectations to complete his term and found favour for a second term. It seems he has managed to satisfy most leaders within his party.
This factor has hardly been touched by most media houses and very few analytical pieces or programmes have come out. However when Gadkari compared the IQs of Swami Vivekananda and Dawood Ibrahim, it became the raging topic of the day.
The various governments of India also have a trivial and flippant attitude towards the Internet which could become a huge influential factor all across India in the decades to come. There are so many hate sites and disgusting rants against various religions. Nobody even looks at all that. But harmless Tweets and status messages get the high and mighty in the land fuming.
Welcome to the Trivial Age! While 24X7 news channels ushered it in, social media has taken it to a new level altogether.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/