Media the Jailor of Imagination

Just as the official media is an extension of the government, the private media is effectively an extension of the private sector.


Dr. Javed Jami

What I like about Kejriwal is that he knows the art of hitting the headlines. Unless you make news you cannot be a successful politician. Where however I disagree is that more often than not he attacks the individuals or individual organizations without attacking the philosophical roots. His latest attack on media is justified. But if media behaves the way it behaves, it has bigger reasons than simply projecting one party or the other. The media are not simply the mouthpiece of the forces of economics; they are in fact their partners and present their viewpoints not only on political issues but also on social and economic issues. The channels are arguing that AAP emerged as the result of the huge coverage they got during Anna Movement. They are right. I had told Manish Sisodia then in a TV debate that the media was pushing the movement because the corporate world was against the corruption in politics and as soon as the movement would target the corporate corruption, the media would back out. This is what has exactly happened. The Anna Movement was corporate driven even if Anna Team including Kejriwal did not know about it. The movement was used by the corporate to pressurize UPA government, and as soon as the pressure resulted in UPA accepting the FDI plan, the media lost interest in the movement. How can Kejriwal accept a friendly media if he takes on Ambanis?

I would like to quote here a few excerpts from my book “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, which describe the ulterior motives with which the media work:

“Media is rightly regarded as the Fourth Estate. In real practice, at times it assumes the status of the First. Just as the official media is an extension of the government, the private media is effectively an extension of the private sector. Its real aims are much bigger than simply showing the reality to the masses. One is to maintain pressure on the government to follow the ‘desired’ policies, and to defeat a democratic government not following the diktat of the economic fundamentalists through vituperative and slanderous campaigns against it, and to assist a new political group in ascending the throne by mobilising support for it.

The press is extremely choosy in reports and articles of various hues. These are almost always, with a very few exceptions, aimed at promoting individualism, sexual freedom, aristocratic lifestyles, capitalistic economics and rightist politics.

Even in terms of national issues, the role of media is hardly worthy of praise. The media plays the same political games in all democracies of the world. One objective it has achieved without excep­tion everywhere is that it has succeeded in sweeping most if not all the major social issues under the carpet. The issues that have no economic significance are no more in discussion. The governments are grilled not for their failure in solving the real issues of life but only for the failures at the economic front; and the failures at the economic front are almost always limited only to the failures related to the interests of market

Another significant ‘contribution’ of the media has been its role in driving masses to the markets of all kinds. The media is least concerned with the welfare of the people, or their education and morals. Whatever information the media disseminates is almost always invested with some commercial linkage. The prints as well as the elec­tronic media are playing this role to perfection. The overall strategy is to materialise human lives; as conscientious men and women are of no use to the market. There are no exclusive interviews of the Noble Laureates and hardly any prominence is given to their achievements. The snaps of a Miss World or Miss Universe continue to adore the newspapers and magazines for months but they have little space for the Nobel Prize, Magasasay Award or Nehru Award winners. The private TV has worsened the matter to unbearable limits. Throughout the day and night, the overwhelming majority of the channels present gorgeously or scantly clad film actors and actresses; the academicians, the moralists and reformists are consciously and conveniently neglected. In doing so, they succeed in amassing wealth not only themselves but also help the other industries to satiate their thirst. The advertisements go straight to strike the inner senses of the watchers who go to buy their ‘dream items’ at first opportunity.

Advertising propagates two fold messages. First, it convinces the target watchers that the possession of a certain product, at the earliest, shall enhance their social status, shall improve their quality of life and shall defend them against imminent dangers. Second, it blindly promotes such social values and aggravates such physical desires as will ensure benefits for the market. These two objectives are sometimes difficult to be simulta­neously achieved in a single advertisement. Yet the advertisers are not ready to ignore either of the two, and it results in incongruity between the original message (about the product) and the scenes giving the underlined social message. Whatever the nature of the item, whatever its application and whoever its users, semi-naked, gorgeous women invariably appear on the screen. Not only the natural attraction between men and women is utilised up to the hilt but the human covetousness is also stimulated.

It is not only the private media where economic fundamentalism manifests itself in its ugliest form, the corporations like BBC and Voice of America, too, are extremely partisan in their presentations. They project themselves as the most unbiased news organisations, but, there is always a carefully hidden conspiracy lurking in the shadows of their programmes. Their objectives include presenting the people of the West as developed and civilised, and the people of the East as backward, belligerent and uncivilised, making every possible effort to malign religion (especially a particular religion that is considered the biggest threat to their dominance), beating anti-west nations with the stick of “human rights”, blindly supporting individualism, regard­ing all social aberrations as natural, impressing upon the East that whatever vices the West is blamed for are also existing in their societies, and advising them that, if they want to travel on the road to progress, they have no option but to seek scien­tific, technical and economic assistance from Western Powers. BBC has always spouted venom on communism, Islam and Indian culture. It has constantly striven to demolish religions The sense and concept of chastity with which religious people have always been extremely concerned has been ridiculed rather than appreciated; instead, it has carried reports on homosexuality and other similar perversions in some East Asian countries in order to convince the listeners that debauchery is not limited to the West.

To justify and perpetuate its style of functioning, the media has discovered the “freedom of expression” that has lately assumed notorious proportions. To traduce anybody, to malign religions and religious figures, to describe and exaggerate the most private areas of the life of any celebrity, to portray or publish anyone in the nude, to film the lewdest forms of sexual relations and to engage in disinformation for the furtherance of the desired objec­tives–all these have become great symbols of freedom of expres­sion for them. Liberty has turned into libertinage and license to express has resulted in licentiousness. Any attempt to censor or curb such vagrancy attracts virulent condemnation by the media all over the world. Those who advocate some control on expression are booed down as the enemies of freedom, civilisation and development. To give further credence to its licentiousness, the media has used the “right to know” as an instrument to defend itself. And when sometimes it faces unbearably intensive shelling for its waywardness, it takes refuge in the argument that instead of making any laws to patrol the media the media must itself resolve to exercise self- restraint. This is another matter that, as soon as the controversy gets subdued the self-restraint, too, is cremated with full media honours. Thus “freedom of expression” is nothing but a tool in the hands of the economic fundamentalists, who misuse it with great effect for their commercial adventures.

No doubt one may smile and smile and yet be a villain.”

Kejriwal must not fight half-heartedly if he is really interested in changing the system. But he needs to be fully armed with the weapons of logic if he has to turn the fight into a full scale war against the forces that seek to monopolise power at the cost of the people.

* Dr Javed Jamil is a thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”. Other works include “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”. He can be contacted or 91-8130340339.

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