Anti-incumbency or Non-performance?

The Acorn remarks (in the context of Narendra Modi’s electoral victory, no doubt) that voters have nothing against an incumbent government that is competent. He says, there is no such thing as anti-incumbency, only anti-incompetency. It is certainly a plausible explanation. But then, how do you explain the continuation of the communists in West Bengal, election after election? They are supremely incompetent and yet keep getting voted back.

I believe the answer is that it is not whether a government fails to deliver that matters — what matters is perception. Perhaps in West Bengal, they don’t even realize that the communists are failing miserably and should be shown the door. Perceptions and expectations matter. Chandrababu Naidu was thrown out by Andhra voters. In some objective sense he was very competent and was succeeding in improving that state. The voters did not perceive that. Their judgment was that he had failed them.

My conclusion: Bongs are trusting and stupid (hey, I am one, ok?) and Gults are impatient and stupid. 🙂

On Indian Journalism

I think it was way back in 1999 that Michael Kelly in an op-ed in the Washington Post had asked fellow journalists, “Why does everyone loathe us so? Because, my little preciouses, we are so loathable. … Reporters like to picture themselves as independent thinkers. In truth, with the exception of 13-year-old girls, there is no social subspecies more slavish to fashion, more terrified of originality and more devoted to group-think.”

It appears to me that the above quote could apply to India–except for that bit about the everyone loathing the Indian press. The 10% or so of the Indians who have access to the press don’t seem to mind the garbage that is fed to them. In any event, whether the larger public perceives them to be loathsome or not, the Indian press is loathsome indeed. And why is it loathsome? Because the ones who constitute the press somehow loathe themselves for being Indians and self-flagellation seems to be their forte. The self-flagellation takes the form of force-feeding the foreign press all that it (the foreign press) wants to believe about India–miserable ignorant uncivilized savages killing peaceful missionaries, wrecking holy mosques with sickening regularity, unchecked xenophobia in questioning a widow’s sacrifice, Hindu fundamentalism gone berserk, ad nauseum.

But there has to be a reason for the loathsome behavior of the press — especially the English language press. I think there is a domestic element and then there is a foreign element. First, the foreign bit. If a journalist writing in English wants to be quoted by foreign publications, then he or she has to appeal to the biases of the foreigners and reinforce their prejudices. Otherwise, the foreign press would not touch it. The more shrill a journalist is in denouncing anything that remotely hints at Indian ethos, culture, or pride, the more likely he or she is to get invited to give talks at US universities and other goodies. The term for this phenomenon is “being a house nigger.”
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