Assange and Anna: How two crusaders lost their sheen

Julian Assange loses the extradition bail hearing.

The famous whistleblower was back in news. Headlines were made, but they were placed differently. The prominence and vigour with which they were displayed almost a year back was missing. What accompanied were reports on how the Australian has become zero from hero.

This wasn’t something that I could have imagined in December 2010. Following Julain Asaange and reports related to him in media with great interest as a journalism student in London to me the man who came from nowhere looked all set for taking the world by storm.

He had information which no one else possessed; had five of world’s most distinguished newspapers working with him not to mention the innumerable followers and donors. Such was the craze that hackers ‘Anonymous’ took down MasterCard and Visa when they decided to block payments made for Wikileaks.

Few days back Assange announced that Wikileaks was forced to temporarily suspend publishing while it tried to secure economic survival. No big outcry, no further attacks. His bail plea was turned down, the print space shrunk and prominence diluted.

Prior to this his one time trusted lieutenants backed out, opened their own platform, the media partners broke their associations while the new ones didn’t have that impact.

Interestingly he even changed his legal team to no great results so far. Now he is trying to reach out to media more something that he completely ignored or did at will.

Still remember a mail from Sunshine press that came in my inbox on March 9 almost after a month of requests which read

Dear Avinash,

Many people are contacting Julian for interviews, so we are having to be selective as he is so busy. He would like to do one in India. Please can you put in a full bid so we have all the information and are able to make an informed decision.

Please let us know:

What your readership is

What the impact will be

What topic you wish to interview on

How long you need it to be

Would you need to take photos

Do you pay a fee for interviews – we are asking this question now as we are trying to raise revenue

Many thanks,

Sarah

The last bit was a shocker.

A freedom of information activist asking payment for interviews and that is when I started losing interest in the man I was following endlessly for four months.

Now I am abruptly jumping to a different track, but can’t help compare Assange with our home-grown hero Anna Hazare.

The Gandhian Social worker from Ralegaon Siddhhi who did his bit for the society in his own small yet meaningful ways far away from shutter bugs and hype– till he shot to national fame on April 4,2011.

He sat on an indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar and rest as many say is modern-day history.

The nation was caught in Anna frenzy, out of World cup euphoria and tired of reporting on endless scams sections of print media and some 24/7 news channels found a poster boy; that was the beginning of man taking over the mission he set out for.

In the seven months that followed Anna and his team dared to challenge the parliament, followers across the world were showing support. I witnessed a bunch of enthusiastic Indians camping outside Indian High Commission in London braving rains for the entire duration of Part II of Anna saga at Ramlila.

Such was the frenzy that former IPS and staunch Anna supporter Kiran Bedi said, “Anna is India, India is Anna.” Anna followed by his league of extraordinary gentlemen and women could do no wrong.

This is when he too started going down the Assange way in my opinion. After successfully surviving the allegations on Bushans, things started to go downhill.

Their pressing the cornered government to pass their proposed bill by August 30 was something that didn’t go well with many ardent supporters. Burning the copies of bill tabled by government in Parliament and terming it Jokepal followed. This was the beginning of ‘my way or the highway’ attitude doing the movement harm, from then onwards it was always Anna and Co. first with Jan Lokpal taking a backseat; at least in the public forums and memory.

Then spate of allegations against Team Anna disturbed the equilibrium and harmony of the public crusaders; with the team appealing people don’t vote for Congress in Hissar by elections, they grew bigger then their boots and not surprisingly some core team members walked away.

There were wide chinks in the armour. Followed were allegations(that can be read in Shekar Gupta’s comment Holier than Cow) on Team Anna’s integrity and they so far could not stand the heat.

Today even his next fast call or call it threat hasn’t created the fervour it created last time, its like one other news. The man and his brigade seem to be losing the Midas touch.

With both Assange and Anna losing out on the steam shows that when you rise to unparallel heights in public life the true test of your ability is not how you drive the cause but how you manage the situation.

A champion cause will not take you long, it’s the way you conduct yourself that will.

May be its time for both these crusaders to do some serious thinking and may be mend some of their ways, before they become chapters in history instead of creating one.

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Gaddafi gone, but his last moves still haunt

Muammar Gaddafi is dead.

But video clips, photographs of his capture followed by killing bring the disturbing images of his last moments alive. The debate looms large on whether it was required for broadcasters or publications to go over the board with their images and commentary?

This post though delayed by a day is no opinion but an attempt to understand if these images of a blood stained Gaddafi were required or not?

In a situation where the world was looking for whereabouts of the longest reigning dictator gone into hiding, proof was required.

But how much is too much is something that creates a difference of opinion.

A superb slide show in Huffington post ensured that the post isn’t irrelevant even as I write. Front pages of various newspapers worldwide are showcased to show how the news which indeed was the global lead story captured by newspapers.

Headlines varied, “No Mercy for Merciless Tyrant,” “With Gadafi gone, Libya Exhales,” “Don’t shoot,”…..straight ones to some like “That’s for Lockerbie, Yvonne Fletcher and IRA Semtex victims”, “Gadhafi’s Bloody End,” and variants.

To these the pictures add the sense of war or sensation or can’t say what. Some bloodstained face close-up, some with fighters gleefully being pictured with his dead corpse, some showing him being captured and later killed to other gruesome options.

There are others saner versions, soldiers jubilant, Libyans celebrating, archival picture of the colonel with words doing the talking.

The news itself was so powerful that words and pictures were mere add ons, so the question arises, was it required?

One can understand the websites and news channels arguing that apart from editorial lines it was also a case of competition and eyeballs.

In my limited understanding another reason would have been that if these guys wouldn’t have published, still these images and videos would have reached people within minutes via social media.

So was that also a consideration, that when something is already going to be out why not join the party.

Feel each one has its own reason, but for me the gruesome display of war took away sanctity of news and reporting, but may be I am still old-fashioned when it comes to news.

Replies most welcome and appreciated, for I would like to understand why such a reaction.

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Being social is not for media in Rajasthan

Newspapers and television inform us every day of what is happening around us, but are they well-informed?

With this line I might be treading a terrain full of landmines, for doing away with the unwritten rule “dog doesn’t bite dog.” Been in Jaipur for the past 36 hours, what is interesting to observe is that nothing much has changed and that most media outlets are doing a great job but well within their comfort zones.

The expulsion of Mahipal Maderna from state cabinet and the assumed or if I may say guessed implications are written endlessly, the possible cabinet restructuring is there, future of the government and image bashing and all are there, galore, but is there anything new?

Are those responsible of enlightening us themselves informed? Informed beyond the mundane ‘beats and departments’ they handle? The answer I would say is ‘no’ and if that is not the case then they aren’t informing us.

Let me come to the point. Last evening while on Twitter, I searched about Rajasthan and was amazed to see Bunker Roy talk at the TED.com being mentioned by people from Toronto, Bucharest and where not, but no mention in any of the media outlets. Why?

Is this not news that someone from the state is given a platform that the world looks up to? Most in state are ignorant. Is it not news worthy for the simple reason that those responsible for dishing out news are least aware of what is happening in the world and aren’t in sync with technologies, or simply that Bunker’s team did not send out the customary press note or gave a few courtesy calls?

I am sure those who are aware and want news would have browsed social media and enjoyed the talk that charmed over 46,300 viewers on http://www.TED.com, but this shows the apathy towards news and the lack of zeal to give people more.

Two things emerge out of this; first there is no chance that social media or global news stand in the not so tech savvy state or second, if harnessed the medium has the potential to inform people about many unknown stories and developments that they would be interested to know.

Planning a full-time online venture in this not so wired state, I am a believer in latter.

While Bunker a not so political person might have been given a miss by the media, its difficult to understand that when the chief minister of the state is on twitter and is getting responses from people across the border staying far away in Cambridge, even that is not reported.

Though @ashokgehlot51 has only tweeted on two days, that too obituaries, Pakistani human right activist @beenasawara sent a tweet thanking Gehlot for his appeal in getting Dr. Khaleel Chisty released.

While the CM messed on an opportunity to convert this potential tweet into a fan base, the media missed to inform people, who I feel have a right to know.

I feel that though both these aren’t Page one stories or require a big splash, but certainly a mention. May be this is where the niche of online journalism can chip in to fill the void.

Maybe for some it is wishful thinking, but for me this is certainly a great source of information, which anyways is consumed. So why not use it for better.

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May be this is why so many iSad for Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs in dead.

The news is a day old but Jobs is treading worldwide on twitter and I am sure on other social media.

The post comes as an afterthought of an article I read on firstpost. Steve Jobs and social media mourning: Why are we all so iSad?

A valid question, with no clear answer I presume.

From various quarters and on different mediums people are remembering Jobs and expressing. This is why the social grief.

Steve was among the greatest of American innovators says US president Barack Obama which everyone including firstpost publishes on front page whereas a non tech savvy Rajasthan chief minister @AshokGehlot51 also tweets Millions like me, will remember forever #SteveJobs as a legendary innovator who touched our lives. Long Live the ‘ i ‘ man.

While a David Dunkley Gyimah, an Apple Pro and senior lecturer at University of Westminster writes In Memory of Steve Jobs and Apple.

The three though not even representing the fraction of Jobs fans, followers and supporters of the iconic inventor get a medium via social medium to express their feelings for the man.

Even someone like me who has never used an apple product ever tweeted with #iSad for the news of Jobs demise did make me feel sad and #iSad merely for that you become a part of the community that mourns the man online.

The #iSad may well be a fad or following the herd but it also brings some amazing facts which aren’t published.

May be this is why a #iSad phenomenon.

Whatever be the reason, fact remains Jobs will always remain in the hearts of millions and Apple will be his legacy which would be difficult to replicate.

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Fast and Frivolous

Fast for sadbhavana(goodwill). Well that’s the latest cause to abstain and comes from the least expected person, Narendera Modi.

The Gujarat chief minister becomes the new entrant in the FAST growing list of the fast and frivolous, after Anna Hazare’s fast caught nation’s attention.

Flipping through the morning edition of The Times of India, a full page letter advertisement by Modi talking at length about his reasons for going on fast and what it means caught my attention, serving its sole the purpose.

It instantly set me thinking why on earth did Modi need to go on a fast? He’s having a dream run politically, there isn’t any major crisis in Gujarat, the state seems to be steadily developing, he’s done most things right and is being talked about in good words even by those who didn’t allow him to enter their country (USA).

So why a fast to mark his 62nd birthday, could he not have been better advised by his media managers and spin doctors.

The answer it seems is NO, they couldn’t advise him worse.

The fast manages to ensure that for the next three days it will be Modi all over the airwaves but it will also allow media, critics and everyone to dig the skeleton’s of past.

He talks about the 2002 riots, which is the biggest chink in his armour allowing detractors to take a dig at him and bring out reports that might not do much good to his image.

Also fast predominantly have been a resort that the underdogs rely on, with everything going for him why should he adopt such a measure is something only Modi can tell.

What it has also done is given the non-existent(as far as media is concerned) Shanker Singh Vaghela a lease of life for he too rightfully sat on a counter fast, gaining some mileage out of his rivals spectacle.

The master chief minister who has done few wrong goofed it up this time around, the move to project him as compassionate, secular and liberal doesn’t look like yielding the desired results.

He could have better had he stuck to his guns of doing what he does best, WORK. Instead of embarking on a three-day of fasting jamboree, he should have read the opening line of his website, “Only those who keep walking get sweet returns…look at the sun’s perseverance – dynamic & always on the move, never dormant… hence keep moving.”

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Democracy derailed as Anna yet to decide on Break fast

At last the Indian government agreed to table Janlokpal bill draft in the parliament on Friday, along with three other versions.

A huge moral victory for Team Anna, its scores of followers across the globe who have captured the media eye like nothing else. It looks all set that Anna will break his fast on Parliament menu, with prime minister and company acting as prudent waiters ensuring that the main course of JanLokpal is served well along with three similar sounding dishes oops bills.

The followers of this 74-year-old Gandhian rejoice in jubilation as the government of the day again lets the people down. By allowing these crusaders against corruption dictate the demands on an issue affecting 1.2 billion people and not the few million taking on the street or supporting via social media, it surely has let many down.

The overwhelming scenes unfolding on television screens proclaimed by some as massive victory by Anna, fail to state that this has yet been another failure on part of the government. Do those in the seat of power realise what precedent they are setting up with this; they show those riding on popular sentiment and media coverage a way by which they can sabotage the democratic set up and foster their force over the highest governing body — the parliament.

Imagine a scenario wherein those regular seekers of separate state, or reservation robin hoods, dosts of dams, friends of farmers and the likes manage to create similar scenes and citing precedence of Lokpal fiasco up the ante for their demands. Will the government of the day succumb? Is it right move to allow few men and women hold hostage everyone else who doesn’t sing in chorus their rants of anti corruption?

Is it justified that the parliament pays the price for the colossal disaster by the government of putting Hazare behind bars?

The move not only exposes the ineffective governance it shows that their isn’t any leader worth ones salt in the system who can take these people heads on. What the current crisis also show that the Team Anna though termed ‘Gandhian’ is acting as Dubya’s men, ‘my way or the highway’ has been their mantra.

This attitude also speaks a lot about their leadership which backed by apt management has given the government a run for its money or rather black money. Team Anna is behaving too high headed, despite not being representative of the entire population they are acting as guardians of the society.

With the PM reaching out to them and taking two steps forward they are still glued to their position. They should realise that this bill has been in the waiting for four decades, more than the average age of majority of their supporters. At least the current government is allowing them to participate and the bill can only be made better if debated and discussed with open minds.

After witnessing the mayhem, all one can say is may common sense prevail.

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Is there anything beyond Anna, Lokpal?

Anna Hazare, Civil society, now or never, Anna is India,India is Anna, pass it or go….. Lokpal, Jan Lokpal or a now a third shade to the Lokpal by another group of civil society.

Add a dash of the 24/7 media jamboree, peppered by splashes next day in morning papers and sms’s along with the social media flavour keep young India busy. Its been an over kill of an issue been pending for the last four decades.

Let me make it clear I am not against the drive to make an attempt to eradicate corruption from a country where in the C word forms a part of daily milieu of majority of us over 1.2 billion breathing in India.

But the this team Anna of few good men and women have made an attempt to sabotage the parliamentary democracy and trying to be high headed stating this way or no way, I feel it’s pushing the boundaries and trying to make the most of the meteoric rise that the stupid government error of taking Anna to Tihar presented to the Team Anna.

From getting a bed in the government maternity ward to the funeral grounds, Jugaad(a way around) is omnipresent and an alternate way of life, love it or hate it  but one can’t ignore Jugaad in India, it’s the way we are.

I hear in a television debate that one needs a sifarish(approach/favour) to sneak in easily and early into the Ramlila grounds, where the newly crowned people’s Gandhi is taking on the corrupt system. So the fact is that it isn’t merely system, but ‘we the people’ are very much party.

While all this is potentially a Treat of TRP’s for the news channels and an effort to create some extra ‘C’irculation in print and on web, the word is ANNA and nothing else.

In all this sections, barring a few journalists objectivity is reduced to something being a part of the Course book in journalism. News organisation that are virtually running a campaign to raise voice for strong Lokpal are ensuring that the my way or no way approach is gaining strength and if you are not supporting the demands of Team Anna you are outcast.

It’s about time Team Anna and media realises that how can this movement and government’s mismanagement has brought the issue to the center, why not make the most of the opportunity.

As of now it looks more like a clash of ego’s between the government who rightfully has earned the right to govern and the new breed of Public crusaders(achievers in their own fields) who till sometime back were almost non-existent in the big scheme of things.

Sensing this as a great opportunity  to earn some social points now another group of the in form Civil Society led by Aruna Roy &Co. have jumped in to make the picture even more chaotic.

The way out as I see is that given the opportunity at hand, both the teams along with a critical and objective role of media should try find some ways to reduce the corruption or at best make it transparent.

For I feel the cumulative corrupt practices that we all live with will take a few lifetimes to diminish.

So please enough of Anna praise, fasting and time lines,  can we puncture the inflated egos and talk sense on Lokpal .

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