Why, everywhere, this murderous rage?

If you are angry about the Kolaveri front- page story in The Hindu, I ask you “Why this Kolaveri?” thus rendering your argument moot, like a ship in a maelstrom. The only way to truly express opposition to this editorial choice is to be happy about it, in which case you do not have a Kolaveri against the paper and are, in reality, taking a diametrically opposite stance. In short, if you are anti-Kolaveri, you must like it.  

This is a classic Catch-22, a paradox coined by Joseph Heller. The original Catch-22 went thus: “If a pilot is insane, he must not fly but to be declared insane, he must request an evaluation. Only insane people fly planes during war, so anyone requesting an exemption must be sane, and therefore must fly.”

The arguments against this front-page story were quite interesting. There was the “Good Taste” argument, that The Hindu has traditionally never given credence to “Tanglish” and that it has always stood as a bastion against the invading forces of “Bad English.” The problem with this argument is that when viewed through the lens of history, most “Bad” English has just turned out to be “New” English which, over time, just became “English.” For instance, there was outrage when they dropped the ending “k” in the word “magic” during a period of spelling modernisation some 400 years ago. Also, it's not as if Tamil has never influenced English in the past. The rice you eat with your sambar has its etymological origins in arisi. English did not become the world's lingua franca by being a Victorian-era gentleman's club with a dress code. If it had been that tight-fisted about what was correct language, the newspaper you are reading now would have been titled “The Hindoo.

The second argument was about relevance. Why is a cheesy film song jostling for space with news that has more gravitas? When AR Rahman won the Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire,” it was front-page news and no one complained then. I suspect it's because Danny Boyle's movie validated Rahman's talent on a global stage and we naturally had to celebrate that, but Dhanush's simply worded lament against girls who break boys' hearts is problematic because many of us don't quite understand why kids in Delhi and Bombay are humming what is now a Prince of Earworms in the Kingdom of Earwormia. But that's the thing. Any post-facto analysis of why something went viral on the internet is usually bogus because if we truly understood why things go viral, we'd all be top-notch virus manufacturers. It's viral precisely because we have no clue why it's viral (another respectful nod to Joseph Heller).  

I think the expectation that a newspaper adhere to a particular definition of good taste in matters of culture is fundamentally flawed. Kolaveri is a genuine phenomenon. With millions of hits on Youtube and plays on radio channels everywhere in India, it doesn't matter whether it's in good taste. If a newspaper doesn't inform you front and centre that you ought to know what it's about, it's doing a bad job. Newspapers are not in the taste business. They are in business, and being irrelevant by judging this song to be irrelevant isn't good for business. 

In a world where people increasingly get their news from social networks and where TV channels scramble to play last week's Youtube phenomena, I ask you, the anti-Kolaveri reader, “Why this Kolaveri?”