Not too long ago, major chunks of habitation in urban India, and the big metros like Delhi, lived in the old neighbourhoods and communities. Generations of different families were born and brought up in the same surroundings, and neighbours were like extended families, each aware of other families, their darkest secrets, their strengths, and their weaknesses. Privacy was not a possibility; yet, goodwill and trust were more forthcoming from the community. Of course, there were many disadvantages, lack of privacy already mentioned for one. In order to be a part of a community or a neighbourhood, one had to conform to the unspoken laws of the society. There was little room for tolerance for the wayward. However, people stood up in defence too. If I go back sixty-eight years, then numerous stories during the partition on both sides will corroborate this neighbourly trust. But for these neighbours, many of our families would have found it difficult to survive and cross the borders on each side to reach the land of their choosing.
Major source of information until the 1980s was the community grapevine and the newspaper dailies. Limited people possessed radios, and still fewer had televisions. Even the televisions were limited to some state run channels. Some twenty-five or so years ago, an advent of private channels and cable TV changed the way communication happened. Ever since, mass communication has increased leaps and bounds and other forums like digital space, Internet, chats, tweeting, and blogging has added to this torrent.
The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.
Since little is left under wraps, more communication has contributed to more awareness. The downside is that reporting has lost its key ingredients like research, facts, responsibility, integrity, honesty, and given way to target rating points (TRPs), number of followers, likes, and other statistics. This is a dangerous trend, because lack of information was a definite drawback, but too much of untrustworthy and incorrect information is a bigger evil. Reputations are made and destroyed by the media, and deliberate or undeliberate wrong reporting can leave an indelible blot on a person, institution, or organization’s reputation and no amount of apologies and defamation suits can clear the initial impression made on the people. Most of these apologies or defamation suits do not even reach public, and first impressions become permanent. Many populist sentiments and inaccurate information has been instrumental in both, creating and bringing down governments.
Hitler had a great sway over the masses. He almost had hypnotic control over them and all his speeches were highly motivational. His use of media was limited to some radio and some television. Imagine the extent of his influence if he were living in current times.
If you see ninety-nine people running one way and three going the opposite, don’t be too quick to join the majority.
There are so many negatives of the digital media and social networks. We hear an utterance and meanings are drawn, statements are distorted, context is lost, twisted, connotations are added, interpretations are based on thousand past references, outrage ensues, people fly off the handle, social agitations are launched, social networks and the media become the messenger, judge, jury, social police, harbinger of justice, and the judgment is pronounced. All the people participating feel proud of their pseudo-intellects, and believe in half-baked truths with all the sincerity of the social workers and the aware citizens of the world.
In existing times, famous personalities, media people, politicians etc. are walking on eggshells. One misconstrued statement and the news channels will start shouting, “outrage!” Social networks will start buzzing with the denouncements, and the event will take the proportions of national crisis. Everyone will act devil’s advocate, and the head of the person involved will be chewed off. Everyone will want to become the ‘rescuer’ of the ‘sufferer’ and social conscience of the speaker. The only thing it will generate is publicity and TRPs. Not even 1% of this active population will ever join forums, get their hands dirty, and do the real work. We will suddenly have all the information in the world on the person’s past, present and future. Everyone will gear up with the web links about the person. During all of this, we will take the attitude of being so holy, perfect beings, with a complete right in the world to make the pronouncements and judge others.
On the flipside, the same media will be used to stay in the news. Irresponsible statements, movies, events, jokes, etc. will be created in the name of the freedom of speech, deliberately outraging the public sentiments to generate news.
Cyber wars over inconsequential issues have become the norm, and important issues never see the light of the day. Most people are not even aware of or interested in the finer issues that are affecting the society or the economy, and would not even be interested. For you see, these issues do not make for grapevine and good blather points.
Print media still retains some integrity in reporting and the reporters from their regular beats are able to get the fine print and add it to their story. In contrast, digital media and television rely on human-interest stories that can garner their TRPs. People who rely on television as their source of information are depending upon some headlines and a few channel chosen debates to enlighten them. Most of these debates are shouting matches. It is like thinking the promo of a film to be the entire movie, or accepting a media personality’s verdict on a product in an advertisement to be the whole truth, and adopting it.
I only wish that human minds were not as fragile, as susceptible to believe anything doled out to them as information.
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||