Advocating my case
If it makes you think I’m speaking on robert Vadra’s behalf, or defending him, should that deter me? If it does I’m not a devil’s advocate, writes Karan Thapar.columns Updated: Oct 13, 2012 22:30 IST
‘Why were you picking on Arvind Kejriwal last week?’ Pertie asked, somewhat testily. “He’s done the right thing by drawing attention to Robert Vadra’s accounts and properties and he’s raised very legitimate questions. But by questioning his motive and his timing or by claiming he should have given Vadra a chance to explain before going public you tried to undermine Kejriwal. Was that fair? And, more importantly, was it the proper thing to do?”
Pertie certainly had marshalled his thoughts into a seemingly strong attack. I could sense that there was pent up anger behind the comments. He clearly felt strongly about this matter. And, although he didn’t go so far, he was hinting that I had taken up cudgels on behalf of Vadra, a man few would wish to defend. Perhaps that perception is what had made him so upset.
“Remember three things before you jump to any conclusion,” I said, trying not to get rattled by Pertie’s manner nor seem defensive. “First, the programme is called Devil’s Advocate. My role is to take the opposite standpoint to that of the interviewee. And it’s a perfectly legitimate technique. Now, if it makes you think I’m speaking on Vadra’s behalf, or defending him, should that deter me? If it does I’m not a devil’s advocate.”
“But do you personally believe in the questions you were asking?” Pertie interrupted, “because many people thought you did.”
“That’s the second thing. I’m an interviewer and pointing out the infirmities or lapses in someone’s case is my job. I don’t have to really believe what they’ve done is wrong but I do have to identify the apparent faults and forcefully suggest they weaken or undermine the person’s position. It’s like a defence lawyer who may nor may not believe his client is innocent but whose job is to demolish the prosecution and defend the accused. Whether third parties approve or not is another matter.”
“But why do you have to do it so relentlessly? And with so much force or passion? That, perhaps, is the real reason why most people feel you were targeting Kejriwal and standing up for Vadra. Some even concluded you are prejudiced against Kejriwal and don’t like him.” I instinctively sensed this was the real nub of Pertie’s case. In fact, to be honest, I’ve heard it from other people as well.
“Because if you have a job to do, it’s your duty to do it to the best of your ability. That’s the third point I wanted to make. I don’t mean to be pompous or supercilious but what would be achieved by being restrained and half-hearted? If I’m going to try and convince the audience that there’s another or different way of looking at things — and, surely, that’s the object of the interview — then I have to give it my best shot. Otherwise why bother?”
“You make it sound like a game or a role you’re playing. You are suggesting there’s a difference between you and your own views and the interviewer on screen and the questions he asks. But what if everyone doesn’t accept that? What if they mistake the interviewer for you? And suppose that leads them to dislike you?”
“Well,” I said, unable to think of a better reply, “that’s just bad luck.”
“For whom?” But now Pertie was smiling, perhaps a bit too gleefully for my taste. “You or them?”
The grin on his face suggested he knew the answer!
The views expressed by the author are personal