TV talk shows: Today’s violent idiom
Why do participants in political debates on TV shout so much? And why do they all talk at the same time?
Why do the participants of political debates on our TV channels shout so much? And why do they all talk at the same time? And keep talking? And why, while all of them are shouting at the top of their voices, does this creature called the anchor, jump into the fray?
I happened to believe that a recent debate on one of the channels, which featured a minister, a political analyst and a very decent lady on the panel, may be worth watching. To my surprise, however, the participants had all come armed and prepared for a violent exchange.
The opening speaker had yet to conclude his narrative when another participant on the panel, who happened to be from a rival political party, stepped in. The mercury then kept mounting for the poor dear. The former, too, then lost his temper and responded with even harsher words. The third person on the panel probably felt left out and made up for it by shouting louder than both. The lady who had sat still so far too rose to the occasion and started talking. But how loud could she shout? Her voice was lost in the din. She apparently did not realise this and went on.
The anchor too was quite angry by now and had joined the brawl. Everybody was now straining their throats and nobody listening to anybody else. It was impossible in any case to make out what any of them was saying.
Perhaps nobody even felt the need to hear. The participants were all highlighting the strength of their parties by talking as loud as they possibly could. Perhaps they thought a pause or a lowering of voice would be taken as a sign of weakness of the party’s position. The lady, too, clearly felt that even if she was not being heard she had to continue her chirping or muttering.
What should one make of it?
Should one conclude that the TV channels have yet to learn the ways of handling such programmes? Or is this is a reflection of the state of the nation?
Maybe speaking persuasively has just gone out of fashion. Maybe the times when people tried to argue rationally to persuade others are past. It used to be that the debates were seen as a means of winning people over. Rivals then listened carefully and countered with arguments with their own. Nobody sought to provoke the opposition. Today’s debaters probably believe there is no point to arguing - the might being right. The mighty find it odd that somebody should want to argue the matters they are prepared to settle with muscle.
This then is what it has come to: those at the receiving end cry themselves hoarse over dearness, load-shedding, scarcity of sugar etc. When people in high places show no sign of caring some crazy ones take to the streets, shouting slogans and beating their chests. When this too fails to elicit a reaction they burn tyres and throw rocks at cars that happen to pass by. Next they stop a bus and burn it. After several buses have been burnt and car windows smashed, some shops are set ablaze. That is when those in high places wake up and take notice.
So the protesters, it seems, have stumbled on the language that has an impact. Whatever your complaint, take it to the streets, burn some tyres, stone some passing cars and burn the buses. If this fails to restore electricity or gas supply, or bring down the fuel prices, it is good at least for some catharsis. You feel contented at having at least used the language the high and mighty understand.
This is where the violent idiom has its roots.
Its pinnacle, of course, is hurling a boulder at whoever throws a rock at you and answering an argument with a bullet. Some TV debates are said to have actually left some participant or the other determined to physically confront a particularly provocative rival as soon as the programme is over.
I have myself seen a city nazim, invited to defend his performance, blow the top. He was so outraged that he called his detractors misguided idiots. But then there was no pause. Instead, he repeated the appellation. Twice, being my own tolerance threshold, when he reached the point a third time, I switched the TV off.
*Translated from Urdu