Saturday, 11 July 2015

How Modi became Media, and Media became Modi. .

Decades ago when George Orwell picked up his pen and paper and prophesied the state of Oceania, his book '1984' was just another novel full of high end gadgetry and fanaticism about human future. But as the world moved on, and more and more democracies were heralded, and more and more praise was poured over the society for collective progress, some realized that Oceania was not a state built purely out of fantasy. In fact Oceania was gradually becoming a very succinct and deft way to depict our reality. And while media was supposed to be the ombudsman and the catharsis for bringing out the truth. Somewhere in the middle, this necessary pillar of every democracy crumbled and gave way to its own Parallel Universe. One it built itself.

While media in the Orwellian Oceania largely comprised of a steady stream of messages, all adulating and praising the Big Brother and his ruling party, our media might still be in some stead for improvement. Now a lot has already been said about media houses becoming puppets of the government or top notch corporate czars, but there is something that might actually be worth paying attention to. While we already know that media is a master of manipulation and can twist a tale to such an extent that the original piece may actually get lost in the media sleight, what if media has moved beyond their petty ways and has done something larger than we could ever imagine? 

Everyone knows that media and movies play a big role in influencing the general opinion of the times and the epoch. But what if suddenly media assumed the much more profound role of not just being a mere influencer but becoming a force that turned us into believers. Imagine an anti incumbency wave sweeping a democracy. The doom of the current government was pretty much inevitable but no one knew who was going to be the much needed hero. So the opposition throws up a face. A state level politician who was once besmirched by the media, comes with the agenda of emancipating the millions of the nation in a downtrodden state by doing many different things, all under the umbrella and the ambit of bringing #AccheDin. 

Now while the initial idea was just to propound the potential glory on media through plain advertising, you were exposed to the ads between pieces of news, and news that largely pertained to this one single upcoming hero of the masses. While the reporting in the news might raise questions about the claims of this man and all his followers, about him being the much awaited hero who'll steer the tide in their favor, the media itself seemed to tell the answer by airing ads that were intertwined between those questions, telling the people that this indeed is the guy to vote for. It all works because half of this country's population didn't really capture the moment when the channel switched from a news report to an ad, and the mind just ended up witnessing a flurry of information, which ultimately suggested that #AchheDin will arrive only when this one single man comes into power.

While the much lauded guy with this massive campaign went on to sweep the ruling party out of the house, everyone was happy because the verdict ,meant what people wanted. They wanted the only man they believed could bring the #AccheDin. Now it was the media which at first led them to believe that he's rather concomitant with their panacea and the things that they needed in the future, it was once again the media which had to play the pivotal role in shaping public opinion. In a way the media was the first one to tell everyone about the problems which included coverage of all the scams, inflation and what not, which miffed the people during the UPA era. Then once again the media raised questions about the credibility of this man with a 56 inches chest. And finally it was the media again which aired ads that made people believe that yes, he is the answer. So once again the media had the onus.

The media here could've either decimated the newly found leader by saying they themselves were wrong initially, through constant negative reporting, or could have accentuated the faith in the fact that #AccheDin have finally arrived by just stating optimism. So while some news channels retorted to the surfacing of multiple scams and all, other news channels went with a barrage of information which the government itself wanted to get aired. So the Make In India campaign, the Swach Baharat campaign, multiple visits to foreign countries, Mann ki baat, and even the recently introduced Digital India were just ways of giving the media ubiquitous content to share. Once again, in one way the media was not at all stating the new regime as being effective or as being a harbinger of happiness. But with this one single baton holder of the government always present on the media and on the news channels in some way or the other, talking about initiatives and vision, people were suddenly made to believe that yeah the new guy is walking the talk. Because if media, which otherwise is the platform and the pulpit from where a debate is to be shaped, was just having this one single guy speaking all the time, maybe the only reality one had to digest was just the activity and the panache that were associated with him. 

Though the new government was definitely involved in getting stuff done and executed, but they had the massive support for all of their campaigns. In fact the entire public sentiment was going to stay their way and even despite the recently surfaced slew of scams like Vyapam and Lalitgate, the amount of belief that the voters have on theirs having made the right choice, has only been marginally dented. People are still feeling sanguine and happy, and in their own aplomb of believing that #AccheDin are here. People went upbeat when the Pradhanmantri Jandhan Yojana was launched, and no one noticed that a paltry 8.5k accounts opened this ended up with any deposits. All people noticed was that a humongous 10 million plus accounts were opened on a single day. And as that was the only thing even media reported, it was the only thing people had to go with. After all, who has the time to carry independent research for information deficit. And the media must be telling the truth, right? 

And so suddenly, despite many smear campaigns and many attempts by the opposition, the #AccheDin wave is still strong as a vortex and pretty much intact. Yes, to some extent the image of a clean leader with clean members has been tarnished, but the media is yet to come up with the perfect remedy. Their unflinching incessant coverage of everything from the PM's visits to foreign countries to the ever growing investments in the country(Which once again comes as a result of investor optimism primarily), with no real comment on the efficacy, would once again lead the factotums believe that life is going good and that #AccheDin are still here!

As I move on to conclude this post, I'd like to say that I hold nothing against the government and our PM and his council of ministers. However, I was just too bemused to see how our media that so rancorously led charge against the ruling UPA for so long with AAP and BJP calling the shots, was suddenly in a way commiserating with the campaigns of both AAP and BJP, which definitely would've paid millions to media to do just that. The media while never being judgmental about how good these new leaders are, just allows the gentlemen to speak for themselves And since news channels enjoy a deeply entrenched sacrosanct perception, we believe that the gentlemen are speaking nothing but the truth. And as no one ever seems to question anything, the media houses are not schmucks to get their funding blocked by starting a campaign against the ruling parties.  And where did UPA spend their funding then? Maybe on the handful of channels which did negative reporting but whose argument got quashed because UPA's media management has always been hopeless and because their scam earned money is already gone! 

In short, please be careful about what you side with after seeing a piece of news. The reporting may not be as honest and innocuous as it once was, and don't ever fall for media's own parallel universe. Question, debate and stay in the real one where you actually belong!  

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