Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Setting the Terms of Debate - Part I

An old adage of public deception - to paraphrase Thomas Pynchon - is:

"If you get them to ask wrong questions, you will never have to give the right answers."

This is a good description of what is often termed as "setting the terms of debate" - he who sets the ground rule, is bound to win.

A good example of this phenomenon is the response of Indian main-stream media and politicians to the Volcker Report. The report mentioned 129 Indian companies and one politician (Natwar Singh) as the "non-contractual beneficiary" of the kickbacks.

Predictably, there are numerous questions raised in the parliament, cover-page articles, first-page headlines, etc., about Natwar Singh's role (or its refutal).

Surprisingly (or perhaps not really so), there is hardly any coverage, questions or comments about the alleged role of the Indian companies mentioned in the report (that include some big names like Reliance Industries, Tata international, India Oil, Godrej Boyce, Kirloskar Brothers, Alembic Chemicals, Ajanta Pharma, State Trading Corp, etc.).

And that is how, the terms of "public debate" are set...

... for that matter, the Volcker Report itself is a good example of "setting the terms of debate".... (so wait for Part II of this posting)...

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