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Apolitical Interviews: Is politics that bad?

  • The unexamined life is not worth living. – Socrates
  • “समर शेष है, नहीं पाप का भागी केवल व्याध,
    जो तटस्थ हैं, समय लिखेगा उनका भी अपराध” ― Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’

(The battle still remains and the hunter/killer alone is not the sinner, but the time will note the crimes of bystanders as well)

  • Sahbdon ke sang na behna, Hai chhal se bhari har bhasha- Ravindra Jain
    (Never get swayed by words, all the languages have deceptive goals)

Are talks and interviews apolitical?

Socrates believed that things in life need to be examined and scrutinized and not be taken on the face value of it. In an era of commercial media and fake news, nothing should be taken on face value. There is an increasing trend among all politicians and many intellectuals to claim that interviews and talks given in media are apolitical. This kind of claim and tendency require some examination because these interviews and talks are being conducted in increasingly large numbers by politicians across the board. The topics range from telling self stories, discussing issues like health, education, universal basic income, patriotism, naxalism etc. One of the pertinent points is to think why such kinds of “apolitical interviews and talks” are taking place during the time of general election in India with an increasing trend? Are they really apolitical? Or even if they are political, is politics that bad? Why even the most entrenched politicians claim to be apolitical; is it because they consciously resort to all kinds of gimmicks and unethical things to win the power game, and in spite of that they still long for stature of statesmen? There are many intellectuals who also indulge in this so called “apolitical talks and interviews”. On the face of it, apolitical interviews and talks may claim that they are apolitical and neutral, but the underlying goal in all such talks and interviews is influencing people by hidden propaganda and creation of unreal images. Why the politicians and intellectuals do not have the courage and conviction to stand by their professed principles, ideas and activities? Why are they afraid to take responsibilities of their principles, images, visions and activities? Is being apolitical or neutral is always the best policy or isn’t there times when we need to take sides? There are many questions. The vast millions of innocent Indians may or may not be able to understand this method of subtle propaganda, but those who are educated and accomplished must spare some time to understand this phenomenon and help people to save themselves from being “sentimental and emotional” and “overwhelmed or misled.”

What is politics?

Encyclopedia Britannica defines politics as follows:

  • :the art or science of government
  • : the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy
  • : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

None of the above mentioned definitions make politics a dirty game. Politics has good purposes behind it. Then, what’s the reason that politicians and intellectuals like to tell people that they are apolitical. The most apparent reason is that politicians do many unethical and immoral things for holding control over government and they are aware about that. Just think, if politicians take consistently a principled, ethical and utilitarian stance, where is any reason to be ashamed or afraid of anything or image crisis? But image management is needed when politicians are not sure about their thoughts and deeds.

Intent and motives are important for both politicians and intellectuals

The times, in which we are living, it is simply very difficult to find people with pure intent and motives- neither politicians nor intellectuals. The problem is multiplied and aggravated when media becomes a propaganda platform and news becomes fake news. Talks and interviews are stage managed. The slogan shouting crowds and the problem mongers in opponents meeting and talks are hired and rewarded. Images are created and demolished. Perceptions are blurred and polluted. That is the role a major part of media is playing and the main actors on these platforms are politicians and intellectuals of our times. There are turncoat politicians and sold out intellectuals and journalist who bring a bad name to the profession. Politics should be done with values and intellectuals should be honest and principled. But alas! We are living in a different time. Albert Camus defined intellectuals thus: An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself. I like this, because I am happy to be both halves, the watcher and the watched. “Can they be brought together? This is a practical question. We must get down to it.” He however sounded against intellectual bias and rigidity by adding, “I despise intelligence” which really means: “I cannot bear my doubts.” ( it means I have set my conclusions beyond any doubt and I will not tolerate any further enquiry) But when intellectuals become palpable and malleable to the interest of ruling elites, the situation does immense damage to truth, humanity and development. Intellectuals have the capacity to prove “wrong as right” and “myth as reality” by arguments and counter arguments. If they are saleable like products for a price, then the decline of the society is sure and imminent. See the modern day television anchoring; you do not need any evidence further about decline of intellectualism. While expressing his harsh criticism against modern day conservatism and Keynesian economics, Naom Chomsky, in his Culture of Terrorism, has given an extreme view which rightly brings the state of modern day intellectuals, “There are few genuine conservatives within the U.S. political system, and it is a sign of the intellectual corruption of the age that the honorable term ‘conservatism’ can be appropriated to disguise the advocacy of a powerful, lawless, aggressive and violent state, a welfare state for the rich dedicated to a lunatic form of Keynesian economic intervention that enhances state and private power while mortgaging the country’s future.”

The Real and the Portrayal

There is difference between the real and the portrayal in the so called apolitical talks and interviews. A leader may require Chanakya Niti or Machiavellian traits to come to power and rule, may be a conservative, revolutionary or evolutionary, but there is no place for being dishonest unethical and misleading. The problems arise when people fail to use their power and authority for public welfare and national good in true sense and also when there are gaps in promises and performance and precepts and practices. In such a situation, they need to give several clarifications through stage managed talks and interviews. It is quite understandable why biopics are made, why television channels are hired and why so called apolitical talks and interviews are conducted and telecasted and published. These talks and interviews not only portray selected realities and romanticize them to create favourable perceptions about a leader and dwarf and destroy images of others- and this is claimed as apolitical interviews. George Orwell rightly points out about intellectual dishonesty: “When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgment have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone’s thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a “case” with deliberate suppression of his opponent’s point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends.”

It is not easy to be honest intellectually. Marvyn King has tried to define intellectual honesty thus: To set aside one’s prejudices, one’s present needs, and one’s own self interest in making a decision as a director for a company (or leader of a country emphasis added) is an intellectual exercise that takes constant practice. In short, intellectual honesty is a journey and not a destination.” However, those who have decided to portray them as “Buddha” or “Jana”, the journey comes to a dead end. Then there is possibility of only false claims, propaganda or even tyranny against people having different perceptions and ideas. It is not difficult to understand that these apolitical interviews tend to prove that somebody is “demi god” and all others are “dwarfs”, that somebody is sensitive, sensible and visionary, an efficient task master and what not, while others are stupid and dullard! The motives behind such kinds of interviews are easy to understand whether they are done by hand-picked journalists or artists.

How to judge Politicians/Leaders

Can politicians be judged alone by their mono-dialogues on Radio, television or election speeches, or on the basis of what they have actually done for the people and nation, how much they have delivered on their commitments and promises and whether they are unprejudiced, just, fair and democratic? The answer is self explanatory. The problem is not about being “philosopher king” of Plato or being “Machiavellian” or about being “Gandhian” or “RSS” follower or “Marxist”. Problem lies in the honesty of purpose and purity of motive; and being principled or not. Problem is about gap between slogans and real performance on ground. Will Gandhi ever be forgotten by human civilization even if all the pages of history books bearing any reference to him are tore down? Will any amount of re-writing history ever be able to justify Hitler or Stalin and succeed to portray them as ideal alternatives of Gandhi or Nelson Mandela? Propaganda is based on Machiavellian understanding that truth is “what appears” and not “what is underlying”. Nevertheless, in the information age if there is possibility of telling a lie hundred times to make it appear as true, there is also chance of counterbalancing by diversity and ease of getting information, enhanced possibilities of research and enquiry etc. Abraham Lincoln was eternally right when he said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”More so in the information age! In other words in the information age the Machiavellians have limited scope for frequently sending across untruth by propaganda or fake news. It is only a matter of time that untruth is detected. History has its own way of judging people and it hardly matters how many stage managed interviews and talks you did and how many artificial images you created. Media honchos may make lot of money, but history will not judge them on the basis of their ill begotten wealth and closeness with the seat of power, but on their courage, conviction, service to knowledge and truth, and finally how much they contributed to change and development. Deeds speak better than words and people in the end know the difference between Gandhi and Hitler! Just think, had there been social media during Hitler and Gandhi’s times, could Hitler use it to manage more respect and following than Gandhi?

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