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How media has killed communication and we don't even care

Valson Thampu
Valson ThampuJan 10, 2017 | 15:04

How media has killed communication and we don't even care

We watch TV daily, compulsively.  It is a hardset habit hard to break, like addiction.

There was a time when religion was the opium of the masses. Now we have a more potent one. With multiple outlets at our fingertips.

The strange thing is this. We know, sitting in front of the wonder box, what is coming next, moment by moment. We can predict what the party spokespersons are going to say. Good fellows, they don't tax us. Not an element of surprise, anytime about anything.

If the ruling party (never mind which) is accused of doing something horrendously shocking, the spokespersons of the party - without exception all parroting the same words, the same syntax - will say:

“Look, who is talking! What did you do when you were in power? You stole a hundred chickens. How dare you bark against our hundred-and-one?”

The effect of this predictable assault is also predictable. The accuser then looks predictably sheepish. He mumbles something predictably wishy-washy.

The spokesperson of the next party then takes it up and gives it a twist that, he thinks, will benefit his party.

Unfortunately for him, the anchor is predictably well-prepared with damning evidence against his party too. He is pilloried and grilled, with predictable results.

The camera then focuses on the face of the defender of the indefensible, with whom this circus began. He now looks smug, even delighted. He smells victory. Chuckles in evident self-satisfaction. He begins to secrete gratitude. 

This goes on day after day. Week after week. Month after month. But congratulations! We are not sick or tired of it. We are addicted. We get our daily fix. We are grateful.

But, alas, there are a couple of small issues, if you don’t mind.

Nothing is communicated. There was a time when it was assumed that the mandate of journalism was to communicate something. With the advent of the media age, that looks like pre-history.

To communicate an event, or "story", one has to step out of it and look at it as the reader or viewer would. From subjectivity alone there can be no communication. This is elementary.

When a person’s only mandate is (as in the case of party-mouths) to obfuscate issues, he is not free to step out of the event even if he wants to. (Of course, he does not want to! It is heresy to even think of such a thing. He will be sacked.)

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Narendra Modi would have been nothing without the media. But the media is what it is because we are a stupid mass of clay that the media mandarins shape at will.

When you get out of an event and look at it from a slight distance, it looks different. To do that is to risk the possibility of you undergoing a change of heart, which is the power of truth.

Think of that! A party spokesperson is sent to the studio to defend, say, Sakshi Maharaj. He looks at the saint's choicest sentiments from the perspective of a sensible human being, which is necessary to be able to communicate in the public domain. Heis shocked and undergoes a change of heart. He refuses to be the mouth of the party! Terrible.

Yet, that will be the assured outcome, if we shift the media of today from noise to voice, from violence to sense, from mystifying the public to educating them.

The second major issue is the legitimisation of depravity.

NDA-II defends itself by invoking what UPA-II has done. Fortunately for NDA-II, there is plenty to invoke. UPA-II has prospectively obliged NDA-II hugely in this respect. Given them not one stick, but a whole bundle of cudgels. And NDA-II are experts in media martial arts and wield those sticks like Bruce Lee his nunchaku.

While the NDA-II's martial artists in TV studios is mesmerising us with the flourish of their skills, the UPA-III experts feel revived in their hopes. If and when their turn comes to defend the indefensible, there is plenty of deadly ammunition now to bank on.

But should we, as citizens, be taken in by this adroitness of depravity? Is it in our interests to excuse the perversity of UPA-II because of what NDA -I did? Should we condone the aberrations of NDA-II because UPA-II was corrupt to its nails?

Suppose NDA -II kicks you in your teeth and you lose a few of them.  When you protest with a bleeding mouth, you are told, “Well, don’t whine like a puppy. UPA-II also kicked you.” Would these comforting words cause your blood to congeal and pain to subside? Will it refit your fallen teeth?

It is profitable for the two corporates in corruption to defend their perversities by invoking each other’s heinous track-record.  We are the losers in the game. What would help us is being equally intolerant of corruption by all. What we need is clean and good governance, which still looks an ever-receding mirage.

All political parties share a common creed. Its articles of faith are (a) The common man is an ass (b) public memory is short (c) there is no sin which cannot be washed away with the gangajal of media mystification. 

Unless these superstitions are rejected irrevocably, we cannot even begin to develop a democratic culture. We will be ruined by the label of democracy we wear. We are like branded animals bought and sold in the market of political cynicism.

General Elections 2014 were essentially a media election. Voters were incidental to it. Their role was only to prove the power of the media to swing elections, like the Iraq-Kuwait War showcasing the superiority of American arms. 

Modi would have been nothing without the media. But the media is what it is because we are a stupid mass of clay that the media mandarins shape at will.

At the end of it all we are told that it is our victory.

And we believe it too!

Last updated: January 10, 2017 | 20:06
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