“Everything quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. Wish to return”, the famous illustrator, Frederic Remington telegrammed this message to his boss since he couldn’t find anything newsworthy while his mission to report the Cuban insurrection against the Spanish regime in 1897. “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I will furnish the war” – William Randolph Hearst, one of the most influential figures in the US media history, had no doubt in what to reply to his employee’s message.
This story might be a myth, but the role played by Hearst’s sensational journalism in flaming the Spanish-American war is indisputable. Looking at the way the Indian media has been reporting the Indo-Pak tension, one can easily find it is highly motivated by this Hearstian kind of journalism. The result of this influence is the change from the ‘national media’ to ‘nationalist media’, or probably ‘hyper-nationalist’ media. Nationalism is not a bad notion. But if one mistakes nationalism for jingoism, it turns into a dangerous idea. A very significant section of Indian media has this confusion, and that’s why they write a headline like: “War, Not Peace”.
Who decides whether India needs war not peace? Do the majority of Indians long for a war with Pakistan after a successful surgical strike by its able army? It would turn our valiant soldiers into corpses, throwing our people and the economy into mayhem, and divert focus from its war against its own social issues. While spewing out the let’s-start-the war rhetoric, Indian media has been simply avoiding these questions for their love of TRPs and circulation. Instead, what it is trying to do is project itself as the ‘single’ voice of India, and pressurise the government to follow its own interest in the war by making it believe that it’s the overall vibe in the country.
The media sponsored warmongering crossed all its limits as it has brutally eclipsed the voices that stood for peace. They vehemently attacked whoever took a stand against their idea of nationalism. The latest victim is Arvind Kejriwal. Misconstruing his request to Narendra Modi to give a befitting reply to Pakistan’s false propaganda as his challenge to give proof for the surgical strike, media put him under trial for being an antinational. The fact is that he never uttered the word ‘proof’ even once in the video message he shared on social media.
“We have only demanded that PM should stringently fight back the propaganda by the international media on behalf of Pakistan suspecting the authenticity of the surgical strikes. It is BJP and the media which have attributed word ‘saboot’ which is not there at all in the footage,” says AAP leader, Manish Sisodia. By misrepresenting facts to gain viewership, it’s not Arvind Kejriwal who provided the Pakistan media with leads for its propaganda to prove to its people that the surgical strikes did not take place, but the media of India that has led the country down.
Blaming politicians is not enough. The Indian media has not proved to be any better. TV studios have been turned into courtrooms and everyone who dissents is getting prosecuted. Barkha Dutt, Saeed Mirza, Salman Khan, Om Puri, Sudheendra Kulkarni, and many other personalities were found guilty of treason and branded as antinationals after the newsroom trials. Instead of informing people with objectivity, media is acting as the proponent of an intolerant nationalism which doesn’t allow the right to opinion. You are either with us or against us (You either agree with our views or you don’t have the right to hold any views)– all the debates orchestrated in the newsrooms revolve only around this question.
The new demand of the vanguard of the nationalist media is that the Pakistani artists who work in India should leave the nation unless they are ready to denounce Pakistan for its responsibility in Uri attacks. What is the logic behind such arguments? How could media raise such a call in a democracy? As long as these artists have all sufficient documents required for foreigner to work and stay in India and are not engaged in any activity against the law and order here, they have the right to continue working here. They are being expected to openly condemn the country where their families are based and where the security situation is fragile, risking their well-being to satiate the thirst of ultra-nationals who are looking for their 5 minutes of fame at the cost of someone else’s well-being. Why don’t they question the government for not revoking their visas? Or offer them the safety and the comfort as in the case of singer Adnan Sami who became an Indian citizen and vociferously supported the Indian army, condemning Pakistan for its terror activities.
How would they react to a public outrage in another country for the expulsion of nonresident Indians on the pretext of a conflict between the governments of the two nations? This shows that actually, the patriots who vanguard the nationalist media have little respect for the constitution. Also, it proves that no logic is put to use when making such arguments.
The irony is that except for shedding crocodile tears over our soldiers’ sacrifices, the media are not been paying enough attention to their issues. Though it has been ten days since Pakistan army captured an Indian soldier who accidentally wandered into their territory, our media has not yet bothered to exert pressure on the government for his immediate release as they are too busy with stamping ‘the other’ as antinational. It proves how short public memory is and how media is used, or misused, to shape public opinion. This very ultra-nationalist media kept mum when the body of Ravi Sisodia, one of the accused in Dadri mob lynching, was draped in the national flag. Media couldn’t find anything antinational in it even though Mohammad Akhlaq, who was killed by Ravi was the father of an Indian soldier. The double standards of those who “break” news has been exposed. Don’t blame them for not paying attention to such silly matters since they are too busy fighting the traitors of this nation. Do we need an army when we have them to fight our wars?
Now, our media is serving up to the technocratic, upper caste and right wing middle and elite classes who set the agenda of the discourses in public sphere. National media is actually only local media if you look at the news coverage it does, neglecting some of the most distressing news for it does not suit the taste of their clientele. Media turns news into spectacles that satiate their moral taste buds and meet their class interests. The aim of these courtroom dramas which are euphemistically called ‘news nights’ is to take the excitement of that consumer-class to the fever-pitch. Thus the media, instead of being the watchdog of the people, becomes the campaigner of the state. Instead of attempting to protect the people by raising its voice for peace, a large section of Indian media is shamelessly manufacturing the consent for a war.
The question arises, who will the war benefit? Connect the dots….
What Noam Chomsky said about the US media is turning out to be true in the case of its Indian counterpart as well – nothing more, nothing less: “…But more crucially they wanted to control the thought of the more intelligent members of the community in the United States, who would then disseminate the propaganda that they were concocting and convert the pacifistic country to wartime hysteria. That worked. It worked very well. And it taught a lesson: State propaganda, when supported by the educated classes and when no deviation is permitted from it, can have a big effect. It was a lesson learned by Hitler and many others, and it has been pursued to this day.”