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Spokie: Thou shalt not abuse

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The loud, heated arguments and acrimonious exchanges are old news. These days one would be lucky if a television debate gets over without one panelist abusing the other. When I say abuse here I do not mean it figuratively. It means actually hurling lowly abuses at a fellow panelist.

Spokie: Thou shalt not abuse

A big number of people have been claiming lately that they have given up on television news and switched to other media for updates after getting completely put off by the tone and tenor of the non-stop debates. Even if all these claims may not be hundred percent correct, there is no denying that a lot of people switch off or switch channels when a debate gets too loud and hence irritating.


In the past few days, there has been more than one occasion when a party spokesperson got so carried away or so worked up that she abused a rival party's panelist on air. Similar scenes were witnessed in other channels back to back. Doubts were naturally raised whether the outburst of a particular panelist was just a one-off reaction caused by the heat of the moment or was there a deliberate attempt to scale up the acrimony. One hopes the former was the case because if it is the latter then the obvious question would be why so? How does it help the spokesperson of any party to derail a serious current affairs debate by hurling abuses and suddenly changing the course of the conversation to a dog fight?


I spoke to quite a few spokespersons and even anchors to understand the problem and the common thread that emerged was that when a vile is thrown at a fellow panelist, it is natural to provoke a similar retort. According to some, this suits both parties quite well because in this age of social media amplification, each party and even each spokesperson has her own dedicated fan following. Needless to say, one set of fans are abound to pounce on the other set for the next few days and the slugfest expected to end within some minutes on the television screen actually gets repeatedly shared for a week or perhaps even more. It doesn't even end here. Every time, some issues arises, netizens would dig up the same video to prove their point. This could be months, even some years later.

A sensible person may ask how exactly does this help a spokesperson? Well, it helpd them grab eyeballs from both sides of the political spectrum. And believe me, in this age when visibility seems to matter more than anything else, even being called out, criticised and trivialized by your opponents is good enough as long as YOU are the centre of the controversy. This is taking 'every publicity is good publicity' to the next level but well, that's how it is.

Not everybody thinks similarly though. In course of my conversations over the last few days, a young and studious party panelist explained that while it was his endeavour never to give in to provocative abuses, it was becoming more and more difficult to remain calm with each passing day. Or evening to be precise.


A lot of what we are witnessing today is also a direct fall-out of the erosion of the Pravakta's institution in established political parties. Today's Pravakta is essentially a television panelist and that's it. This was necessitated with television debates taking away disproportionate time during the day and evening leaving very little time for relaxed, in depth and reasonable conversations with journalists on the beat.

The organic relationship between the media and the party spokespersons became lesser and lesser.

Whatever bit remained of it has been completely shattered by the pandemic we are facing since early 2020. As informal, friendly and really informative conversations become rare, the pressure to score over one's opponent in a live debate has gained precedence over the basic responsibility of being a good, reasonable and convincing voice of one's party.

Transformation of the media cannot be blamed on the party spokespersons. At best, spokespersons can only be expected to adapt to changing trends while fulfilling their duty to the best of their ability. But both spokespersons and their respective party media departments have to remember that nothing diminishes their stock faster than an abusive spokie. So it would be in the everyone's interest, particularly, the party concerned to project their spokespersons as images of the Argumentative Indian and certainly not the Abusive Indian.

(Smita Mishra, Advisor, Prasar Bharati)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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