Let’s wrap our heads around this. India conducted the largest elections—814,500,000 people had a ballot. Voter turnout hit a stunning 66.38%—More than 500 million people voted! The new Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet “India has won! Acche din aanewale hain!” (Good days ahead!) was re-tweeted 70,556 times (as of May 27) setting a record as the nation’s most re-tweeted post. Narendra Modi is the sixth most followed world leader on Twitter.
These are electrifying numbers and reflect an evolving India standing at the crossroads of modernism and traditionalism, of aspiration and expectation, which the western media is still trying to understand.
This was ridiculously apparent on the evening of May 15, when India’s election results were rapidly streaming in; a thrilling and colorful kaleidoscope of contestants, voters, analysts, poll numbers, laddoos and Lok Sabha seats.
At about the same time, CNN was playing and replaying the video of Jay-Z being assaulted in an elevator by his sister-in-law Solange; ABC had the Wheel of Fortune contestant Sili Pese solving “Heavenly Body” on its bonus round, and PBS’s NewsHour pontificated on the unsure situation in Greece and France. No mention of India’s elections on any television channel, except on Comedy Central, where the Daily Show’s Jason Jones put out a hilarious spoof on what the minority looks like in India.
Eagerly, the morning after, I searched for commentaries in the leading United States newspapers, and found a handful that left me chafing at the lack of preparation and anticipation of a history-bending moment.
This should have been no surprise, since John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight and a Daily Show alumnus, lampooned Fox News for a risible segment, in April, on how this august media channel showcased their interest in India by featuring a leopard on the loose in some obscure corner of the country, at the same time that millions were pouring into polling booths. It seems that comedy shows are on the upper curve of trending news topics.
Television news arbiters have extrapolated that an “in-depth” discussion of a kick aimed at Jay-Z’s nether parts is so much more relevant than the coverage of the “world’s biggest” peaceful democratic exercise.
It’s time to change that channel, America!