Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The idiot factory

Ever since electronic media like TV have been opened up for private participation, the statements and speeches made by political figures and officials have become subjects of detailed inspection and ridicule for any absurdity and ignorance shown by them. In earlier days of print media, it used to be very simple to blabber and chatter anything that the politicians wished to say. Next day, when it appeared in press and if it was criticized, the politicians could flatly and simply deny any such thing having said at all. Since there was no proof of their having said that, they could simply disown the statement and get rid of any embarrassment that came out of it.

This old protective umbrella for politicians,  born out of limitations of press media, simply no longer exists. This can be seen clearly from the example of one of the important leader of a party, who during recently concluded general elections in India, became the butt of many a jokes because of series of statements made by him, which people found strange and incoherent. During those days, twitter and facebook pages used to be full of howlers from him and did provide much enjoyment for the people.

There are other politicians too, who bring out instead of enjoyment, ire and anger from the audiences. These people usually make casual remarks about some grievous or serious matters which concerns the people to a great extent. Such comments usually bring out strong resentment and much criticism from the audiences. These politicians perhaps do not realise how transparent the new media have become and expose themselves instantly. There are also officials, who are just so ignorant that they appear almost stupid, come out with statements that could be considered perhaps as the crowning accomplishment of all such blabber.

In the central Chinese province of Hunan, lead metal traces, as high as three times the national standards, were found in the blood of children in a village called Dapu. This can not be considered as a rare incident as widespread environmental damage due to rapid industrialisation over the past 30 years has taken a heavy toll on public health in China and similar incidents have been reported before. In 2011, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, 74 people were detained and work at hundreds of factories was suspended after 172 people - including 53 children – were found to have fallen ill due to lead poisoning. In the year 2012, in the city of Shanghai, after 49 children were diagnosed with lead poisoning, US battery maker Johnson Controls was blamed for lead pollution.

Investigations carried out in Dapu, also led the police similarly to the contamination caused by pollution from nearby Meilun Chemical Materials plant, as the principal reason for the incident. As the investigation continued , the factory was closed for investigation.

Mr Su Genlin is the chief official of this Dapu township. He however did not agree with police investigations and was unhappy with the closure of the factory. He had his own theory about the cause for lead poisoning. He came out with his fantastic theory when he told state broadcaster CCTV that "kids use pencils in school, and chewing pencils could also cause the excessive (lead) levels". Can you believe this?

When press broke out the strange theory, Mr Su Genlin himself was chewed by the social media. Author Cui Chenghao posted on Sina Weibo, China's own Twitter: "How can such low IQ cadres appear in public?" The Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, blasted the official in an op-ed. "It is scientific knowledge that pencils are made from graphite," wrote commentator Zhang Yusheng. "Does this official's statement show ignorance, or just disregard for the people's welfare?"

A Sichuan-based commenter, Zhou Minghua, asked on Tencent Weibo: The responsibility of the pollution lies in the mouths of children? The core of pencils is mostly graphite and clay. This mayor has broken through the lowest level of humanity, pulled the logic of power down to the freezing point and displayed the cold-blooded nature of his authority.

Incidentlly, just the way word 'lead' is used in English to indicate the heavy metal as well as the pencil core, a same character is used in Manadrine for the heavy metal as well as for pencil.

I do not think, anyone appearing on Indian TV has as yet surpassed Mr. Su Galin. Isn't it? Wait and have patience. I am sure we would have someone come out of the Idiot factory soon and enthrall us with his brainwork.

18th June 2014

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