Breaking Down News: Fact versus Fiction

True or False: Did Rajnikanth give private lessons to Arnab Goswami?

Among all the fabulous images coming in from Narendra Modi’s China jaunt, the most fantabulous ever was a shot from Xi’an, showing the prime minister in cool shades going eyeball to eyeball with a terracotta stormtrooper from long ago. Caption by “Keep to your side of the border!” But since we are all a bit jaded with seeing the prime minister strut his stuff in Beijing while a policeman and a woman driver hurl half-bricks at each other in the heat and dust back home, let’s see what’s been afoot elsewhere. For instance, there was the UK election, which established yet again that psephologists are about as credible as witch-doctors. Besides, with such tiny constituencies, why did it take all day to declare the results? Do they still count on their fingers over there? Lick their pencils, too, maybe?

Meanwhile, completely and definitively, Arnab Goswami has arrived. The appearance of Chuck Norris “facts” on the Internet — unverifiable third-party claims like, “Death once had a near-Chuck Norris experience” — had marked the arrival of the actor as an action figure larger than the silver screen could hold. Almost immediately, Rajinikanth’s fans borrowed a few, made up some more, and promoted their own star to memedom. Interestingly, one of those Rajini “facts” claimed that the action star had given private lessons to the noisiest thing on TV. And predictably, those very “facts”, which trace their DNA back to Chuck Norris via Rajinikanth, have morphed into Arnab Goswami memes. They have leapt out of the mainstream internet and onto WhatsApp, signalling that the man has transcended the small screen to stalk the world of popular culture. Best “fact” so far: “From the Moon, you can see the Great Wall of China. And you can hear Arnab Goswami.” Now, we look forward to the Being Arnab T-shirt.

NDTV’s reaction to the noisiest thing on TV is an ad which was apparently created by their journalism school students, a yelling stick figure with hashtags like #AnEyeForAnEye. The noisiest thing is hysterical, polarising tabloid journalism, the ad warned, the greatest threat to the Indian media. Times Now does disturb the peace rather exuberantly, but the claim that it can bring down the Fourth Estate is rather extraordinary. All that the ad reveals is that NDTV feels out of place in a noisy media circus.

AOL is about to be bought over. What? It’s still around? Didn’t it eat Time-Warner alive ages ago and then die of indigestion? While most of the internet was taken aback by news of the acquisition, Slate launched an interesting programme in crowdsourced translation, using the annotation service It called for volunteers to render from “corporatese” to plain English the joint statement on the deal, which bristles with marketer garbage like “premium consumer experiences” (meaning: acceptable service), “emerging technology” (new lolly) and “vision” (surreptitious corporate designs on your lolly). However, the document attributed to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and AOL’s Tim Armstrong really isn’t as obscure as the best of class. For instance, it fails to use the word “synergy” even once. A merger document bereft of the idea that the two companies fit like two spoons just does not ring true. Especially when it’s pitching to buy and sell part of the legacy system of the internet for an incredible $4.4 billion.

But finally, this week was all about Modi in China. As always, he has drawn more camera attention overseas than he tends to do domestically, since he carries off the “at home in the world” act quite well. Which causes one to wonder: what’s the Mandarin for “Ich bin ein Berliner?”

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