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Saturday, April 26, 2014

On "neutrality" & "balance" - answering some frequently asked questions

I'm blogging after quite a while I guess and once again, it is because I have something REAL to say :)

I've been writing for The UnReal Times for more than 2 years now & very often, I've been asked questions on whether we are biased or whether we have a BJP tilt. I've been advised by a few readers to be more "balanced" and "neutral." I'm not talking about trolls / bots who keep commenting that we're RSS agents, Modi agents etc etc. There are genuine readers too, who've asked this question.



The UnReal Times recently came out with this sort of disclaimer on what we all do.
What you're about to read now, is my take :)

This is my personal explanation & should NOT be considered as an official explanation by URT.

This is my one-location answer for all questions related to bias / neutrality / balance etc etc.

1. Is URT a BJP-supporting / BJP-favouring site?

No. URT does not have any intrinsic bias.
It is an open platform that publishes good humour, irrespective of who it is on. 

It is possible that the writers / contributors may have individual political / ideological preferences / leanings, but as a website, as a platform, there is NO collective stand for or against any party / individual. 

2. Why doesn't URT mock BJP?

Wrong. There are loads of articles on URT that mock BJP leaders, including Narendra Modi. If that is the case, why is this question asked often?

The answer is this - Not all readers of URT read the site every single day. There are many who access the site on seeing posts being shared on Facebook, Twitter etc.

At the risk of sounding like Sanjay Jha, The fact of the matter is this - articles mocking the BJP generally don't do as well as the ones mocking Congress or AAP or SP.

This has been observed for quite some time now. With some exceptions here & there, the articles mocking BJP go unnoticed & hardly spread, whereas the ones mocking the other 2 parties get shared widely. So people who don't check URT everyday sort of end up noticing only the hit articles & get the impression that we're anti-Cong, pro-BJP, anti-AAP etc.

Daily readers of the site have rightly observed that there are articles on everyone :)

3. Why doesn't URT mock Modi?

It has. Many times.

As for me, do not expect me to follow the usual media narrative - 2002, Modi is a mass murderer, communal, fascist, dictatorial blah blah. I will not dwell on such things, especially after he has been exonerated by [UPDATED] the SIT set up by the highest court of the land. Even otherwise, I never make fun of riots & other tragedies. At best, I can only mock the politicization of such incidents or saturation coverage by the media.

I have mocked Modi on umpteen occasions otherwise - his speech-making style, the infamous "puppy" remark, his long-standing animosity with LK Advani, the "Snoopgate" scandal, his gaffes with respect to history, some bogus claims like Gujarat milk being available throughout the country, blocking of an RTI related to his travel expenses by the Gujarat govt, corruption in the Gujarat govt reported by the then CAG Vinod Rai and so on. There are many, many examples. Even recently, I wrote a piece mocking Modi's flood of newspaper ads (the article flopped miserably, no surprises) & URT mocked his interview with Rajat Sharma.

3. Why aren't there as many articles about the BJP as there are about Congress / AAP ?

As far as I've observed,
It so happens that URT receives more pieces on Congress / AAP from contributors than pieces on BJP.
But whenever URT has received good articles mocking the BJP, it has NEVER stopped itself from publishing them.

Also, as is the case with any unaffiliated satire website around the world, GENERALLY, the establishment is  slightly more susceptible to mockery & criticism than the opposition. The scenario might change post May 16th IF the NDA forms the government, we never know!

URT would only be glad to unflinchingly publish more articles mocking the BJP if and when it receives them, as long as they're in good humour.

As for me,
As far as I am concerned, I mostly write based on what mainstream media covers. You will agree that the mainstream media has given saturation coverage to AAP in recent times. Anything & everything AAP does becomes such a huge news. So when mainstream media covers something feverishly, I also generally tend to end up writing about that only. (It was the same case when Snoopgate / Tejpal scandal happened last year)

So when mainstream media itself is not equally proportionate, it is difficult for me too. In short, my tendency is to generally write about whatever the hot news at the moment is. And I can't help it if some parties make headlines more often than others.

The most important factor - I write based on what jokes strike my mind. Now, good jokes don't strike all the time. If they did, I'd be the world's funniest man! Also, jokes don't strike my mind in equal proportions.

So yeah, I can only say this - as far as my approach is concerned, I am 100% neutral - if I get good jokes in mind, they are SURELY converted to articles irrespective of who they are on ..Kejriwal, Modi, Rahul ..whoever! BUT, it is impossible to maintain neutrality & balance in terms of output, because of the factors I just listed out.

I have never claimed myself to be neutral and balanced, for this very reason - it is impossible. I can be and I AM 100% neutral & balanced only as far as my approach is concerned.

4. Whom does Ashwin support or who is Ashwin biased towards?

I have openly said this earlier, let me say it again - I am not a fan of any party, there is no good party, really. I'm neither a fan of any ideology. However, I AM a fan of certain individuals. That I am a fan, does not mean I am necessarily biased towards them - I have made fun of these people too!

a. Dr.Subramanian Swamy - I've openly said this earlier, I'm a big fan of Dr.Swamy, but only as far as his commitment towards fighting corruption is concerned. I'm also a big admirer of his economic and legal acumen & knowledge. He is someone who has really fought corruption by filing cases in the courts, as opposed to shoot & scoot activities done on the street.

At the same time, I've mentioned this also - that I do not endorse the way he tweets, I do not endorse some of his religious beliefs and lastly, I do not endorse his stand on homosexuality.

b. Dr.Shashi Tharoor - Like many people, I too, feel that he is a great politician in the wrong party. I'm a great fan of his sense of humour - India needs more tolerant politicians like him. I'm also a fan of his progressive mindset.

c. Arnab Goswami - Of course, he is no great journalist - he does many things wrong. But when he gets it right, he is simply unbeatable :) Think Abhijit Mukherjee, think Sanjay Jha, think Gaurav Bhatia, think Kamal Mitra Chenoy, think Pramod Muthalik. He gives some people a thrashing in a manner that no one else can. That's why I guess people eventually come around and love him once again, no matter what stupid thing he does in between.

Not just these guys, there is something admirable about every individual - Narendra Modi's energy in his speeches or his clarity while talking about his work in Gujarat, Arvind Kejriwal's determination to take on absolutely anything, Jairam Ramesh's skill...and so on.

It's just that I like Dr.Swamy, Dr.Tharoor & Mr.Goswami much more than most others :)

So yes, I hope this answers all your questions about neutrality and bias and tilts! Do leave a comment if you have any more questions!

Cheers & hope you continue to enjoy URT!
Ashwin.

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