Palimpsest

Itinerant Ideas

Month: June, 2013

Indian Media Laws

Analogy: Ruling party : Humans :: Media : Robots.

Original Asimov Laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not harm a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot should obey the orders given to it, except where such orders conflict with the first law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection doesn’t conflict with the first or second laws.

Were we to extend this to the political and media sphere, we can derive three underlying laws for all (successful) media houses:

  1. A media house may not harm the ruling party, or through inaction, allow the ruling party to come to harm.
  2. A media house should report stories which it is made aware of, except where such reportage contradicts with the first law.
  3. A media house must protect its own reputation, as long as such protection doesn’t conflict with the first or second laws.

Murphy’s Laws of Indian Government Projects

  1. In any given cost estimate for an Indian government-run project, the cost of equipment will exceed the estimated expenditure by a factor of 10.
  2. Measurements will always be expressed in the least useable terms, such as furlongs, fortnights, quantum weeks and metric slugs per cubic inch
  3. In a mathematical calculation, any error that creeps in will do so in a way as to increase the cost and cause loss of lives, rather than merely someone’s property which is utterly replaceable.
  4. Well engineered buildings aren’t.
  5. Building bridges isn’t the government’s core competency, and even if they did, bridges are likely to fall someday.
  6. The probability of a cost estimate being omitted from the quotation is directly proportional to its political importance.
  7. Information necessitating a statutory change in a life-threatening design will be conveyed to the engineers after at least 3 people are dead because of a malfunction.
  8. In simple cases, presenting the obvious right way and the obvious wrong way can lead to politicians allowing the engineers to choose the wrong way only, so that revisions can happen later.
  9. The most innocuous of modifications will lead to wide-ranging repercussions which will nevertheless not affect the Prime Minister’s unimpeachable integrity.
  10. Financial instruments for government projects will always have provisions to allow politicians to earn money from them illegally.

Adapted from here.

Laws of Indian politics

  1. Zeroth law: If two issues emanating from any sphere of life are as contentious at any given point of time as a third issue, the issues are all considered in political equilibrium with each other.
  2. First law of Indian politics: Political attention span can neither be created, nor destroyed, only transferred from one political issue to another.
    1. First corollary to the first law: When total political attention span available increased for any specific issue, it is almost always because of external interference.
    2. Second corollary to the first law: It is impossible to create political attention span in a politically closed system OR only the government creates political attention span where there is none, and the opposition can at best respond.
  3. Second law of Indian politics: When two disparate issues are competing for attention in news channels and are allowed to be combined in a talk show, the attention span assigned to each will eventually become equal.
    1. Corollary to the second law: When there is an issue which is more contentious than either issue, that issue will corner all the media’s attention span.
      1. Corollary to the first corollary to the second law: As any discussion grows, you can bring in the most divisive issues like Narendra Modi, the 2002 Gujarat riots, the 1984 Sikh Riots, Ram Janmabhoomi if you wait long enough
  4. Third law: The political attention span for any given issue regardless of contentiousness always approaches zero over time.
    1. Corollary to the third law: Over time, only one most contentious issue will actually continue get political attention.