Journalism on the front lines

A report in the latest issue of Time magazine about the official pressures being piled on Indian journalist Rana Ayyub drew attention from an unlikely quarter: “Rana is a hero!!!” said tennis superstar Martina Navratilova in a tweet.

The article in the prominent US newsweekly details the harsh attentions of the police and tax authorities to which the journalist has been subjected in recent months. She has been in the cross hairs ever since her reportage in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots alleged the complicity of the state’s leading chief minister – Narendra Modi.

In recent years, the erosion of India’s democratic ethos has been been accompanied by increasing attacks on the press, Time says. This is evident from the actions against Ayyub. “...for the past several months, she has endured an escalating campaign of intimidation from Indian authorities and supporters of the ruling party,” it says.

Read the article here.

Violence in Modi’s India

What explains India’s dizzying acceptance of everyday violence against members of minority groups? In The Telegraph, Asim Ali draws on the work of British historian Ian Kershaw to explain the process of “cumulative radicalisation” by which Germans in the 1930s came to participate in a genocide. “The radical and inhumane atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, according to Kershaw, were not dependent on the directions of Hitler, but grew out of the initiative of party bosses, bureaucrats and professionals who drew on his charismatic authority,” Ali writes.

Even as he emphasises that India is not Nazi Germany, Ali notes that since 2014, India has been gripped by growing authoritarianism. This is because the Modi government has “managed to transform the political culture in such a way that important functionaries in both State and civil society are incentivised to undermine the rule of law and the principles of equal citizenship as long as it appears to be in consonance with the political vision of Modi and his party”.

He concludes: “This is the ‘cumulative radicalisation’ which opens the door for all kinds of atrocities.”

Read the article here.

Partition violence

“What does it mean then to remember that ‘horror’, especially at a time when identities are so polarised?” asks Urvashi Butalia in The India Forum. “ Do we remember only what was done to us, leaving out all that we did to others and even to our own? Do we remember the violence we perpetrated and exult in it? Or do we, as many did, live with the constant regret of having violated bodies or taken lives?”

Read the article here.

Blackface in the classroom

In September, in a class at the University of Michigan on adapting literary texts into opera, composer Bright Sheng screened the 1965 film of Shakespeare’s Othello, with Laurence Olivier in the lead. A heated controversy ensued. Some students said they were offended by having to watch a film featuring Olivier in blackface without Sheng explaining why it had been chosen. Sheng apologised and stepped back from the class.

“To some observers, it’s a case of campus ‘cancel culture’ run amok,” writes Jennifer Schuessler in The New York Times. “To others, the incident is symbolic of an arrogant academic and artistic old guard and of the deeply embedded anti-Black racism in classical music, a field that has been slow to abandon performance traditions featuring blackface and other racialised makeup.”

Read the article here.

The future of music

On his blog, American jazz musician and writer Ted Gioia hazards 12 predictions about how the music industry will shape up over the next decade.

Some of his forecasts:

  • “More new artists will get their big break from web platforms (TikTok, YouTube, Peloton, Bandcamp, etc.) than from record labels.”
  • “Listeners will have favorite new songs, but not know (or care) about the name of the artist.”
  • “Dead musicians will start showing up everywhere – via holograms, biopics, deepfake vocals, and other technology-driven interfaces.”

Read the article here.