There is a world beyond headlines and tweets
Stage 1: A mainstream media outlet —usually a TV channel but sometimes the web site of a newspaper, never the newspaper itself — reports some kind of criminality/corruption/inhumanity that has taken place somewhere in the country. Somewhere, but not anywhere. Take a map of India. Now draw a series of straight lines in the following order: Chennai to Bangalore, Bangalore to Mumbai, Mumbai to Delhi, Delhi to Hyderabad and then finally from Hyderabad back to Chennai. Usually nation-wide outrage is limited to incidents within this vulgar pentagon. There is a lot of India outside this. But few journalists.
Stage 2:Some news junkie somewhere picks up on this headline and tweets the living daylights out of it. The first wave of outrage is limited to blogposts and Facebook postings and such things. It is around this time that somebody makes a tasteless joke about the incident. (Everyone secretly admits that the joke is very funny.)
Stage 3:As the outraged blogposts and Facebook posts pick up, a second layer of outrage explodes as people want to know “Why mainstream media is not reporting about this and instead focussing on stupid things like cricket or Kareena Kapoor.” Meanwhile, somebody makes an online Flash game to highlight awareness of this social evil.
Stage 4: The secondary outrage completely overshadows the first one. Some even suggest that media silence is a conspiracy. Perhaps the journalists have been bought out by evil nefarious powers. It is around this time that somebody will mention “Irom Sharmila”. You don’t know who Irom Sharmila is? You heartless brute. Rahul Bose has something to say at this point.
Stage 5: The media responds to these charges with the sensitivity of a passenger airplane full of schoolchildren crashing into a home for blind orphaned baby rabbits. The original outrageous incident is analysed to bits but from purely one angle: Who is responsible for this inhumanity? Thus begins the “Great Indian Outrage Trickle-down Cabaret”. Broadly this cabaret ends with fingers pointed at the following: government, police, inadequate parenting, British colonialism, deviation from the original Vedic path, cultural depravity, shameful media and, finally but most importantly, Sunny Leone.
The government immediately responds with two measures. The first is by raiding a nightclub or a farmhouse. Raiding a nightclub is the paracetamol of Indian politics. The second is by appointing the most emotionally tone-deaf public servant to convene a Press conference. This man will eventually say “These things happen yaar, chill out man.” By this stage the outrage is feeding upon itself like some sort of flesh-eating bacteria that can tweet.
Stage 6: The outrage bubbles over into the real world. And by ‘real world’, I mean Delhi. But just at that exact moment when the public uprising is gaining critical mass someone asks: “Why does nobody care about XYZ that is happening in ABC since EFG? Where was media then?” Meanwhile in Delhi the government sends envoys to speak to the protestors in order to give the water-cannon operators enough time to suit up. Simultaneously the Internet clogs up with extremely erudite 15,000 word editorials on the issue that nobody reads but everybody tweets.
Stage 7: Finally, just when true revolution seems around the corner, the cold, hard palm of democracy comes crashing down on the wet, perspiring cheeks of youthful rebellion. As they slink back to their homes and colleges, their ears ringing, the government announces a series of far-reaching reforms that will be tabled before the next session of parliament. The prime minister issues a mysterious Press release that refers to the government in the third person. There is broad national consensus that death sentence is the only answer to end this human brutality.
Bonus Stage 8:Parliament is adjourned for the forthcoming session due to unrest. “India is not a nation, but an egg-puff of karmic efflorescence that is heaving its bosoms,” Rahul Gandhi says at a CII conference. A new Starbucks opens in Chennai.
Sidin Vadukut is the foreign correspondent of Mint and editor of Mint Indulge