Why I Don’t Talk About Politics

There are so many sides to every story and all we know, as people who weren’t there, is what the media decides to tell us. That’s a recipe for disaster, in my opinion.

Whenever I hear a crazy story about something that happened and people are getting worked up about it, my first thought is, “There’s more to this story than what we’ve been told.”

Let’s take the example of the current situation with the arrest of Devyani Khobragade. This is a situation that is causing immense tension between India and America, yet the facts are extremely unclear and each side is being told something different.

  • In India, apparently, the media is reporting that this Indian diplomat was strip searched in public by a man (which, I have to say, living in the U.S., that sounds ridiculous and pretty improbable, but that’s what I’ve been told is being heard).
  • In the US we are told that she was strip searched, which was standard procedure for the arrest, and it was in private by a woman.

Which one is right? We don’t know. One of those things happened and not the other, but we were not there and so we rely on the media to accurately tell us which it was. Someone is lying.

[Now, this is just an example. As with most things in the news, I don't feel confident that I have all the facts to be making any judgment calls]

Media is supposed to be unbiased, just reporting facts. But there are two problems with that.

1) People have biases. It’s impossible to completely shut them off. Our experiences and beliefs color the way we perceive facts. Cultural misunderstanding could lead us to draw incorrect conclusions. Even the best reporter is still a victim of his own biases.

2) Facts themselves are trickier than it would seem. There are always more of them than can fit into a news story and so what gets left out is also significant and changes the look of what happened. Misinterpretation of a situation can also lead us to draw the wrong conclusion from facts.

There are still many questions about what is really going on with Devyani Khobragade. We hear about some parts of the case, but not others. Was she really paying her housekeeper well below minimum wage (which, by the way, minimum wage is nearly impossible to live on in the US)? If so, how did it come to light?

“There has been much misinformation and factual inaccuracy in the reporting on the charges against Devyani Khobragade,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara about India’s 39-year-old deputy consul general for political, economic, commercial and women’s affairs, who was arrested December 12 in New York by federal agents. “It is important to correct these inaccuracies because they are misleading people and creating an inflammatory atmosphere on an unfounded basis.” -http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/17/politics/india-us-diplomat/?c&page=5

I don’t talk much about politics because I can’t ever figure out all the facts of a situation. I’m told one outrageous thing, I get upset and worked up, then some other media source says that report was wrong and it’s actually this other thing and then someone else says they’re wrong and it is even worse than we suspected. There’s no way to sort out who is right and what really happened. Only the people who were there really know.

As a blogger, people often want me to take a stand about things. I usually don’t because I’m not an expert in whatever it was that happened and I don’t have the knowledge to accurately declare who is right and who is wrong. It’s not my job to be a judge. It’s my job to tell you the story of what it’s like to be a religion that people don’t always accept; to tell my story. Not to speculate about the story of someone else.

We watch or read the news and we feel informed, but we’re being sold a story, whether it’s accurate or not. Unfortunately I think the incentive for media is to get attention and their pay is based on how much attention they can get. So the more outrageous the story, the better.

When I was a kid I always had an instinct not to trust the news. It was only confirmed by watching a really stunning episode of Babylon 5 that I would recommend to anyone, science-fiction fan or not. It’s called The Illusion of Truth and it shows a news crew coming to this space station that we have gotten to know and love throughout the series. The station knows that the news is controlled by a government that doesn’t trust them, so everyone is trying to be very careful not to say anything that would paint them in a bad light. We watch all the interviews, see everything the news crew sees.

The second half of the show is the broadcast from the news. It’s stunning the way they have managed to twist the story into exactly the opposite of what is actually happening on the station. It’s brilliant and I think quite accurate to some of the ways that media massages a story to make it what they want it to be.

(The episode is available for individual purchase on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNfk7vx5Uqk)

When you hear a story on the news that makes your blood boil, I would urge you to pause and wonder what about that story you aren’t being told. Learn more, read from different sources with different biases to piece together a more accurate picture. It’s very rarely a black and white/right and wrong situation.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/khobragade-falsely-said-she-had-no-flat-when-she-got-one-in-adarsh-probe-panel/1210170/

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Jan

    I agree with you that we will never know what really happened – if she was strip searched by man or if it was just standard procedure. But the thing that makes me very annoyed is how the Indian media chose to just talk about the arrest and the strip search and say nothing about her actually underpaying the maid. And while Devyani has been vociferous about the immunity (that she obtained very recently) she has never offered any explanations about how much she was paying the maid.

    This issue has me riled up a lot. It is one thing to have corrupt politicians, but corrupt bureaucrats just leaves me with no hope!

  • Doku

    The thing that riles us all in India is how hypocrite USA can be, when a CIA contractor Raymond Davis kills 2 people in Pakistan he is assumed to be a diplomat just because he works for CIA not even an embassy staff and has assumed privileges to walk free out of pakistan, where as in this case we dont know that nanny might be lying as who doesn’t want a one way ticket to USA, not only this time earlier a lady diplomat/CIA agent infiltrated cabinet committee for security and jeopardized India’s security by leaking 1000 pages of documents was expelled where as USA arrested russian spy and traded for CIA agents caught in Russia.

    • Ambaa

      Ah! That’s what the person on my FB page was talking about. I have heard nothing about a CIA person. See, this is part of the problem. The information we all get is different.

  • Ayan

    Ambaa, most educated Indian understand the situation & will side with the us govt… In india politicians & people with political backings can get away with anything. Khobragade & her family are involved in many other corruption scandals in india but since they are close to the ruling congress party in india, they have not been charged. Indian media is also biased , they are influenced by the ruling party…

    • 5w_haul

      its not about taking sides, its about logic of convenience used in law interpretation by us chaps. remember pak, Romania Kenya.
      if you have read us press about this incident you’ll die laughing that level of ignorance they have about india as a whole.

      • Ambaa

        So I know that I can’t trust the coverage, particularly because the reporters, understandably enough, are not experts on the inner culture of every country everywhere in the world. But then I’m left with not knowing anyone that I can trust.

    • Ambaa

      And that’s another example of where the information that I get is filtered through US news, right? So I don’t know how most people feel because it’s all consolidated into this message of all of India is furious with us.

      • John D.

        yes , I don’t Support any kind messy protest against “Americans” .

        But I do Support Peaceful protest against ” American Government ”
        because
        when Your official People do any mistake it’s Responsibility of
        American Government to “Apologize” for it and if you don’t then you
        implicitly Support them and show Arrogance.

        I am Sure if you read the details of this issue and things happening in background , it will be shock for you.

        Read these links carefully and make conclusion About the whole drama and Bad Karma of your State Department and Diplomats.

        these links are must to know reality of this Diplomat mess

        http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2014-01-13/us/46148692_1_social-media-embassy-comments

        http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Waynes-word-How-US-political-wing-let-security-team-run-amok/articleshow/28767404.cms

        http://racistdiplomatsusa.tumblr.com/

        http://forums.bharat-rakshak.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6025&start=9480 – “post of Nesoj is imprtant”

        http://mindbodypolitic.com/

        Take important and throw garbage out , Thanks to internet warrior of India.

      • John D.

        you know American Diplomats and Embassy are violating their own laws and Indian Wage law as well , They paying 250 dollars per month to office clerk(Indian) and just side by him American Clerk 3000-4000$ per month working in same office in American land “Embassy” and Condition of Cooks , Gardner , Drivers , Helpers is worst paying between 100-150$ per month , No matter which law you apply Indian or American It’s Crime .

        American Embassy is Selling tax free goods and Making Money out of it (it’s kind of Smuggling ). They involved in tax frauds .

        If India take this seriously Half of American Diplomats will be in jail . It’s just Foreign Relations due to which Government don’t touch them.

        Read Links given in down comment of mine
        on Facebook one American Diplomat openly inviting to purchase Smuggled “Perls” when other commented it as “Smuggling” he said that’s why we have “Diplomatic immunity” .

        • Ambaa

          See, I dont’ know these things! Sometimes it seems like there is just so much to know that I can’t keep up with it all.

  • Ambaa

    But that’s the point, isn’t it? We all hear things and read things and get told things, and how much of it is true? That’s what I was told people were hearing, but maybe it’s not. There’s a lot of rumor going around, as there always is.

  • Ambaa

    I am and was horrified when Bush declared war for no f-ing reason. He gave this absurd speech where he tried to make it sound like because of 9/11, we had to go to Iraq and fight Hussein. It made no sense at all. I was livid with anger.

    I was also trapped. There was nothing I could do about it. Hundreds of people like me protested, and were told that we were unpatriotic and should just get the hell out of America.

    I don’t know who you want an apology from. All of America? I can’t provide that.

    I hate American policies on war. I do my best to vote different policies in. It never seems to work. All I get is told that I’m unAmerican, when I think America is supposed to stand for accepting all people and treating all as equals.

    I don’t feel that I can accept responsibility and apologize for things that happened before I was born, before I had the chance to vote or protest.

  • Ambaa

    I think you know more about it than I do!

  • Rohan

    Why Andrea doesnt discuss politics? Because you know Indian people are mostly childish,immature and biased towards their own type and i think its spot on.Indians are like that.Most media houses here think of them as holier than thou and give a media trial

    • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

      Why you gotta go bringing me into this?

      • Rohan

        Sorry i thought ambaa = andrea lol
        What my point was why did Indian govt so zealously impose hardship on american embassies in retaliation by banning alcohol,putting up barricades,denying permission for so and so things (2 wrongs dont make a right).
        Doesnt it have better things to do , why cant they show the same zeal in uplifting the country and being more progressive and address more pressing issues.

        And why did scores of people come out protesting against the treatment dished out to the diplomat , ok it may not have been the best but thats the Foreign Secretaries job

        • Ambaa

          Sorry for the confusion! :)

          Those are good questions. In both India and America (and other places) it often surprises me what people get screaming mad about. There are so many problems and issues to get angry about and people seem to pick different ones than I expect.

    • Ambaa

      ??? I think Andrea is much more willing to discuss politics than I am. I’m the one who made the statement, so you should probably be addressing me.

      • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

        I think they think your name is Andrea now that I think about it – this is not the first time you have been addressed as Andrea on this page :)

        And it really depends what the issue is. I don’t like to talk about politics either, especially with people who already have their minds made up :)

        • Ambaa

          Weird, since my bio with the name Ambaa is right there at the top of the comments section! O.o


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