An edited version of the article below appeared in the New Indian Express today. They cut a few lines, and I prefer my own paragraph breaks, but I have to give them credit for coming up with an awesome headline. Anyhow, here’s the article in its unedited form:
The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics will be held this week. The Olympics are a great institution, and this year they are being hosted by China, and will get much attention. In the interests of balance, it would be appropriate to talk about a great Chinese institution hosted by India. So this article will be about India’s National Newspaper.
The Hindu was not always a great Chinese institution, but then neither were the Olympics. Things change. China is once again a great power. It controls oil and natural gas in Sudan, mines in Tanzania, ports around the Indian Ocean, and governments in Zimbabwe and Myanmar. It controls the weather near Beijing by shooting silver iodide shells at the clouds from anti-aircraft artillery pieces. It controls the American economy through its ownership of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac securities. But even this vast portfolio is incomplete without controlling an Indian newspaper. And for a nation of China’s stature, controlling any old newspaper will not do. China deserves, nay, is entitled to controlling India’s National Newspaper.
And what remarkable control it is! It is exercised with the restraint that characterizes superpowers, and achieves the results that befits them. An invitation to the Editor in Chief to visit Tibet in 2007 resulted in an editorial and magazine cover story on the benefits of Chinese rule to the primitive and underdeveloped Tibetans. Every other media outlet outside China supports the spurious cause of the Dalai Lama, but only the Hindu has the journalistic integrity to expose him as a puppet of so-called Western democracy, and the wealthy beneficiary of a superstitious and feudal system.
So pronounced is the Hindu’s courage and integrity that it maintained its criticism of the vicious and savage Tibetans when they went on a violent rampage earlier this year. It did this despite criticism from readers (those imbeciles!), its own readers editor, and a number of reactionary, pro-imperialist “human rights” organizations who were determined to malign China’s peaceful rise. India should be proud that it has a newspaper which is able to stand up for the viewpoint of a great and powerful nation.
There was a sort of historical inevitability to the coming together of the great power and the great newspaper. India’s national newspaper has long adopted a cliche-laden, word-heavy style of writing that leaves its reports and editorials as incomprehensible and ambiguous as the Chinese themselves. The fact that IAS aspirants are recommended to read the Hindu’s editorials while preparing for the competitive exam – itself a Chinese invention – may go a long way in explaining why the language of officialdom is so incomprehensible.
Another historical parallel lies in the many years in which the Hindu was isolated in Madras, facing no competition from any other English daily. This mirrors the Middle Kingdom’s isolation from and even disdain for the rest of the world, exemplified by the Hongwu emperor’s ban on all maritime trade in 1371 CE. Finally, the most striking similarity is the frequent change of ruling dynasties. China has been ruled by the Qins, the Hans, the Tangs, the Songs, the Yuans, the Mings, and the Qings. Similarly, the ownership of the Hindu has seen dramatic changes – passing from G Subramania Aiyer to M. Veeraraghavachariar to Kasturi Ranga Iyengar. The convergence between China and the Hindu has come in the present day, when both are governed by a benevolent socialist regime. With this remarkable parallel evolution, it was inevitable that China would stand by the Hindu, and the Hindu by China.
By and large, the Indian media is commercial and small minded. Here, a newspaper places its shareholders’ wealth above all else. Elsewhere, another newspaper is beholden to the corporates which advertise in its pages. All around, we see news channels who are concerned only with TRPs. There are a few newspapers who go so far as to put their readers at the centre of things. In the middle of all this, one newspaper stands alone, and focuses single mindedly on the national greatness of Asia’s pre-eminent power. It is Chennai’s – and India’s – privilege to play host to this institution of journalistic ethics and integrity.