Let's get real: A voyeuristic media is here to stay, so is readers' choice

Let's get real: A voyeuristic media is here to stay, so is readers' choice
Let's get real: A voyeuristic media is here to stay, so is readers' choice

Rodion Raskolnikov, the main character in the famous Russian novel Crime and Punishment kills a pawnbroker and steals her money. He wants to put it to “good” use and he justifies his actions based on his own theory that there are two types of people - ordinary and extraordinary - and common moral and ethical standards codes does not apply to the former as they are rabble. He scouts the area of his crime offering leads to the authorities, expressing dismay and surprise while enjoying his murderous vanity. This pattern of behavior has been called the Roskolnikov complex.

Cut to the Indrani Mukherjea-Sheena Bora murder case and ask two questions. Who is the Roskolnikov here and as a corollary to that have we in the media taken a decision to think for our viewers and readers? Do we in believe that we are extraordinary so we can do as we please, abuse and accuse without a shred of evidence and harass people till they can take it no more?

For the past 72 hours, media houses have outdone themselves bringing gossip and innuendo, unconfirmed information and kite flying packed as news throwing all caution to the winds. The fact that many journalists have worked with Indrani Mukherjea’s husband Peter Mukherjea, a former media tycoon, has not helped.

Calling the stories lurid is an understatement. Experts have been offering leads and guidance on television, a cast of characters has turned into drain inspectors, and past friends-turned-foes are breathlessly feigning shock across television screens and in column centimetres in newspapers. Twitter, a free for all on a good day is belting away on its own. Battle lines have been drawn between those gunning for Indrani and those calling her husband Peter Mukherjea’s role into question in a story where money, sex and power are now face to face with the burnt remains of a dead body.  The vernacular media has kept pace with Tamil and Hindi, Malayalam and Kannada channels going full throttle. Click baits and TRPs provide the background score.

For several years now media watchers and critics have called for rigour and caution. Should Indian journalism and journalists cross the line? 

Some have heeded the advice, others not, although insisting that they are neither voyeuristic nor paparazzi and scoffed at critique.

But the debate about voyeurism and paparazzi-like pursuit of people and whether Indian journalists and their stories should intrude into people’s personal spaces has become redundant.

The Aarushi murder case, Sunanda Pushkar death and now Sheena Bora saga are examples where most media houses in India crossed the point of no return. Reporting extensively on intricate personal details and doling out salacious gossip as news has become the norm in such cases.

Let’s not be squeamish and pretend anymore that we are a cut above others and do not indulge in voyeurism. We do.

The strongest message emerging from this sordid saga is that tabloid journalism and salacious gossip masquerading as serious reportage has come of age in India. The worst is there for people to discern and decide. If you want to watch gossip and read it, you are spoilt for choice. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. Let us just accept it and move on.

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