Faking news with the Paagal Patrakar4 min read
He introduced satire to a slapstick-driven audience and it worked. His website Faking News is undoubtedly India’s best and most popular in its kind and Rahul Roushan knows this for real.
Beginning with a B.Sc. degree in Mathematics and moving on to a Diploma in Journalism and finally to an MBA and then to news anchoring for three years; he has gained all the experience he needs to run a news website, especially when it comes to spreading fake news. Writing satirical pieces on popular events is his life and the internet is his playground.
In an interview with TMJ, the Pagal Patrakar who was a guest speaker for Article 19 (Communication fest of Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal) talks about himself and his website. Here are the excerpts:
When and why did you start blogging? And why the pseudonym Pagal Patrakar?
I started blogging in 2008 but was writing my personal blog since 2004. I was not a regular blogger at all and I used to post once a month. When it started in September 2008, Faking News was just a blog with a custom domain name and it was not a self hosted website. That happened a year later in August 2009. The name ‘Pagal Patrakar’ was also very impulsive like the website. During my MBA days, since I had done a diploma in journalism, they use to call me Patrakar. I use to post weird but real news on our college intranet and then they began calling me Pagal Patrakar.
‘Faking news’ in itself is a satire on the term ‘breaking news’. Although the idea was not new, I had always wondered why there’s nothing like ‘The Onion’ in India. When I started FakingNews, I thought I was the first but apparently there were a couple of blogs in the past which hadn’t gotten the attention they required. Somehow luck was with me and the site became popular. My biggest challenge is my biggest failure. Tomorrow if I fall sick, the website shouldn’t fall sick. The website has to grow beyond me now. The expectations are higher these days. I’ve been posting all the articles myself and I’ve had guest writers posting on the site occasionally.
Your website gained much attention after people thought a report about a ‘man who sued a deodorant manufacturer because he wasn’t able to attract a single woman’ was true. What happened there?
Frankly speaking, I wouldn’t rate it as one of my best articles. I presume that somebody mass-mailed it and some small-time journalist must have submitted it. After that incident, most of my articles have ‘FakingNews’. Some journalist took it as a real event and published it on OneIndia. After which some foreign agency picked it up and published it worldwide. It turned out to be more popular in the west than in India. A few people still think it really happened.
In a blog post in 2010, you wrote an open letter to Arundhati Roy based on her ‘Statement to Srinagar’ calling her a charlatan. After all the following reactions in the comments, a lot of the readers were supportive. What made you write that open letter?
That letter was frankly a bit of a rant. It wasn’t exactly a scholarly critique. The way that whatever she wrote becomes the gospel truth and her means of saying it is not the best. She removes the main issues and she becomes the issue.
The satirical pieces about IIPM and Arindham Chaudhari were blocked by Department of Telecommunications (DoT) recently. But you reposted them on your website. What triggered that action?
Some people will try to spook me by bringing up the courts’ name. But the belief that the internet community which supports people would stand behind me got me to repost the articles. I do read upon the laws and I don’t think I’ve been on the wrong side of the law. Even Arindham has commented that he’s not against satire and there may have been a mistake. The case is between Google and Arindham and I don’t know what suggested to the court that the links must be blocked.
Do you avoid writing pieces on any political leader or other personalities due to their huge fan following on internet?
Although just recently I posted an article about Modi, if there is a satirical piece on someone that is interesting, I’d go ahead and post it. It’s true that there is a huge angry fan base but I don’t think I’d avoid writing about someone if there’s something interesting to write about.
Do you think satire is being taken more seriously in India these days?
Satire is more accessible in India now due to the internet. I guess many people don’t get the meaning of satire in the sense of pure humour and satire. Satire is more like a comment which is usually missed by the reader and that’s where I think people need to evolve. They need to learn to differentiate between the different types of humour. We laugh at celebrities and famous personalities but we should learn to laugh at ourselves and our society. There must be an object of humour instead of a subject of humour.
Sub-edited by Priyanka Sharma