The so-called fourth pillar of democracy in our country, especially the English media, has been farcical so far. It does not report news. It peddles news. It does not help you shape opinions; it is already opinionated. It does not help you form an ideology; it shoves a pre-cooked ideology down your throat whether you like it or not. There isn’t much choice available to you. Propaganda trumps over awareness. Often, the objective is not to spread information, but to spread misinformation. They don’t want to empower you through knowledge, they want to disempower you by misleading you. The alternative opinion is non-existent. You’re constantly fed falsities. Based on these falsities you form your political, cultural and social opinions. Based on these opinions, you support political parties. And then these political parties decide how you and your children live and what sort of future you and your children have.
If you remember the NDA days, the media was full of negative news. Farmers were dying. There was a screw-up in Kargil. Various scams were happening. The Kandahar hijacking fiasco. The attack on the Parliament. The coffin scam. The failed or sabotaged Musharraf meet. The Gujarat riots. There was scarcity of food. The public sector “temples” were being dismantled and sold to profiteering businesses. The economy was in doldrums. The entire “India shining” was in fact, according to the ever-hyperventilating English media, nothing but “India dimming further”. The result, despite great performance, the NDA government lost and the disastrous phase of the UPA-rule began. Nobody knows how long it will take for the country to recover.
Media management, hence is going to be very critical. There’s going to be the same old propaganda. There is going to be the same old hype that the country was better off under the Congress and worse off under the BJP. Every UPA failure is going to be swept under the carpet, and every BJP-shortcoming is going to be magnified multiple times. Every action of the new government is going to be scrutinised under the critical microscope. It will be hammered again and again into the people’s psyche that they committed a big mistake and as soon as possible they should get back to the old fold. The negative propaganda has already started. Have you noticed how every journalist and every anchor cynically repeats the phrase “achche din” and no discussion is complete without the revocation and disguised ridiculing of the slogan. Such are the mind games the people in the media play, and these are the mind games that ought to be countered.
But why is such an attitude reserved for the BJP — especially for Narendra Modi? Partly to be blamed is Macaulay who sowed the seeds of self-loathing and a monumental sense of doubt in our indigenous abilities. Partly also to be blamed are our elitist intellectual class.
There is a complete ecosystem of journalists, NGO-runners, ‘scholars’, ‘intellectuals’ and other such charlatans whose survival depends on the doles distributed by a quintessential welfare state. They help the non-performing Government shape minds and hence, consolidate its political base. In return, the Government distributes liberal doses of grants, concessions, allocations and preferential treatments among these people. They survive on each other. True development — development that actually improves the lot of the people at the grassroots level works against their interest. True development cannot be heralded without market, intellectual, cultural and scholarly liberalisation and when such liberalisation manifests, people are forced to compete on the basis of their abilities rather than their connections.
Narendra Modi, being a nationalist, would like his country to develop on the basis of its strengths and abilities rather than perpetually depend on costly and destructive welfare schemes. His ambitious plans are totally antithetical to the survival of the elitist class which has gotten used to getting a lot with little effort. These people have survived on connections, on the proverbial “jod-tod” for more than six decades. Many such generations have survived like this and one cannot expect them to change suddenly. So what are they going to do? They’re going to make every possible effort to make the country return to the same old system of “you scratch my back, I scratch yours”. The propaganda pitch is going to attain its crescendo.
Lots of exciting things are taking place with the arrival of the new Government. The economy is being overhauled, the education system is being restructured, institutions are being revived, bureaucracy is being revamped. Perhaps for the first time in the history of the country, people are experiencing actual governance. The political landscape is changing. People’s faith in governance is being restored. The country and its rivers are being cleaned up. Hard, difficult decisions are being made. Are these developments being covered by the media? No.
Predictably, there are many roadblocks. There are even disappointments. There are many problems that seem unsurmountable. Communication is going to be vital. If something good is happening, it needs to be conveyed. If hard decisions are being taken, people should be able to understand them. Policies and decisions shouldn’t just be dumped on them.
The job of writers and journalists is to keep the public aware about what is happening, why it is happening, and what short-term and long-term impact it is going to have on its life and how, accordingly, it should prepare itself. No propaganda, but real, usable information. No skewed opinion but objective, analytical observations that can be used to arrive at decisions.