Eloquence most flourished at Rome when the public affairs were in the worst condition — Michel de Montaigne.
What the French essayist wrote in the mid-16th century about Rome of the 2nd and 1st centuries BC is true for India of today, if one is to go by the absurd spectacle called channel discussion on prime time TV. Our public affairs are certainly in the worst condition but should we be subjected to such uncouth debates also?
What strikes most about these debates is the bankruptcy of thoughts and absurdity of ideas. To give one example, the coming elections in five states prompted the channels to conduct opinion polls. The findings were presented very recently, followed by long debates, naturally, on predictable lines. Yet the day the EC announced the polling dates, the topic was again taken up, enabling the participants to regurgitate the same points, leaving the audience none the wiser.
When the Obama-Romney debates took place in the US, we could see the time taken by each person live on screen. By the time the debates were over, the time taken by each was roughly the same. The anchor spoke the minimum.
Here, the anchors make long statements, at times taking more time than the participants, so much so that one is left wondering if they are putting a question or making a “pithy” point. Instead of being unbiased, the anchors covertly and overtly side with one view and deliberately slant the debates to blatantly debunk the other side. Instead of apportioning the time equally, the favourite side is allowed to blabber as much as they want. The moment the other side gets a chance, the anchors and sometimes participants from the other side, prevent them from speaking. Many other subterfuges are deployed to put one side down. To the favourite side the questions are polite; to the other side it is like interrogation. The smirk on the face of the anchors, as they dexterously deploy these tricks from their quivers, one after the other, speaks all!
The participants from the favourite side play along. They keep yapping, verbiage proliferating, inanities abounding, revealing nothing, using fully expanded forms of names, acronyms etc., even when the short forms are better understood, so that they can gobble up as much time as possible. On the whole, the debate proceeds like a choreographed put-on, leaving nothing but disgust in the minds of audiences.
The acquiescence of the victimised side is also appalling. Why do they not have the courage to firmly stop the interruptions and also to insist on fair allotment of time? Are they afraid their chances for future appearance would be jeopardised if they firmly put down these unfair tactics? If so, they richly deserve their lot.
After watching a few such episodes, I’ve concluded it is better to skip the charade and use the time in a worthwhile manner. Reading even a paragraph of a good book is worth more than listening to the fiddle-faddle so dished out.