Have the liberal media ever lost a debate?
Last year in Bangalore lit fest, I happened to see a fascinating debate “Culture wars: Narrative of left, right and twitter”. The moderator started the discussion with asking a question to Aakar Patel (the TOI columnist who never hides his hatred for things he dislikes)- “Do you think 2016 has been a bad year for liberals, especially Brexit and the Trump victory in US?” I thought it was a very difficult question for Aakar but I was impressed with the ease he handled it. “No, not at all”, he said, adding, “Liberals had decades of success with various movements, Brexit and Trump events were just a minor blip”. “Media have to be left liberal- it is their moral responsibility, left media will get back to the winning ways soon”, he finished his take on the matter. I know it is very difficult to win a debate with a liberal, but writing-off Brexit and Trump win as minor blip in liberal movement requires another level of refusal to see the writing on the wall.
And if one analyses it further, Aakar was right in his own way, take US election itself as an example. We all thought that the American media (CNN, NYT etc.) would get humbled realizing how far off from the reality they were before the election. Post election we thought, they would critically evaluate where they went wrong (from 90% chance of Hillary winning) and initiate course correction for future. Mistakes make people wiser as one learns from it. But we all see what has happened in reality. The media attacks have become even more vicious. Everyday there is a standoff between the Trump administration and what they call ‘fake media’. CNN or NYT have not become any kind to the new president, they have become even more critical and at times subversive. In fact, they have come up with an explanation “post- truth” that the liberals are lapping up. So the conclusion is that the liberal media were always right even when they lost the election.
In Indian liberal circle also Aakar’s principles apply very well. Take demonetization for example. The move was lambasted by the liberals. The economists from Harvard and Cambridge roared that it would bring down the GDP by several points. The GDP figure somehow did not reflect that forewarning. “The GDP data is manipulated”, was the instant verdict. The liberal economist can’t be wrong. The most optimistic time frame by them (for return to normalcy) was 2 years for currency shortage. Some of them even expected and tried to incite people. Then they said it was despotic action, the people would reject it and the BJP government would lose. Incidentally, BJP kept winning election, one after the other post demonetization. With the recent UP election if one thought that the debate was sealed (at least the political impact) in favor of demonetization, do keep in mind “liberals have never lost a debate”. So now it is a problem with EVM and their arguments on demonetization was always correct.
There was another debate in the same lit fest on demonetization. It was moderated by Mihir Sharma, of no less repute that Aakar Patel when it comes to liberal outlook. The left liberal columnists in media are pretty straightforward in accepting their biases. They don’t give up in their argument ever. The discussion became heated. The moderator himself became the part of the argument. At this point Sanjeev Sanyal, who was probably the only panelist remotely defending demonetization concluded “the only time liberals don’t agree with the result is when they lose an argument”.
I think it was true with Brexit, US election and now demonetization – “liberals have never lost an argument ever”.