[Reader-list] Fwd: Indian print media:critique
monica at sarai.net
Sat Dec 3 03:13:58 IST 2005
In the way things are, this was forwarded to me. Good comparative
Begin forwarded message:
> It's dressing-down of Indian print media. I mostly agree with the
> Cautionary tale By Ayaz Amir (Dawn 2 Dec 05)
> IT takes a good two hours in the morning going through a stack of
> Pakistani newspapers. It takes about half an hour to go through the
> leading English dailies that you get in Delhi. I have had to read
> them — newspaper-reading being a habit that members of the tribe
> carry with their luggage — these past three or four days (invited
> to Delhi for one of those seminars...what else?...in which worthy
> subjects are discussed) — and I can say with confidence that I
> don’t know what’s happening in the rest of the world.
> You read them and you get to know more than you probably would want
> to about happenings in the film or fashion industry. But if you
> want to know a bit about events in the rest of the world you would
> have to seek some other fountain of knowledge.
> You can’t blame television for being chatty and entertainment-
> driven because that’s how television sells. But you would expect
> newspapers to be slightly different. No such luck with Indian
> papers which, driven by the great forces of the market, have been
> dumbed down to the point where they are indistinguishable from any
> other consumer product. Small wonder if they are marketed in the
> same way and as aggressively as, say, a brand of washing powder or
> the latest cell phone from Nokia or Samsung.
> There’s no point in singling any newspaper out. By and large, they
> all look like tabloids out of Bollywood, devoted primarily not to
> anything as gross or insulting as national or international issues
> but to some form of entertainment. After the information revolution
> and in the age of globalization we were all supposed to be more
> ‘empowered’. Is such dumbing down the new road to empowerment?
> In Pakistan we are supposed to be overly obsessed with politics.
> Newspapers are full of political reporting. Columns and articles
> often sound as if they are one long wail about the national
> condition. Indeed, we have turned moaning and the pursuit of
> cynicism into national art forms.
> Sounds morbid, doesn’t it? Yet comparing it to the Bollywoodization
> of the Indian media, the conscious pursuit of blandness and
> mindless entertainment even by such standard-bearers of the Indian
> press as the Times of India and the Hindustan Times, you wonder
> which is the more insidious, such over-the-top passion as to be
> found in Pakistan or the complete loss of passion, at least as
> mirrored in the press, you see in India?
> You have to admit, it’s a neat arrangement. The masses are
> entertained — constant entertainment or a form of it the new opiate
> of the masses, much more effective than religion in many respects —
> while the governing class and the great captains of commerce and
> industry have things their own way at the top.
> This principle the later Caesars observed to great effect in Rome
> where, when the empire started falling on hard times, they saw to
> it that the Roman rabble and indeed even the more responsible
> citizens were kept occupied and entertained by never-ending
> festivals and gladiatorial contests, so that no one thought too
> hard about the intrigues and power games being played behind palace
> Do the mass of American citizens think too hard about what is
> happening in their country or what their country is doing to the
> rest of the world? That George Bush and the cabal around him — a
> more dangerous set of characters than the world has known for some
> time — could drag their country into a war on the basis of the most
> transparent lies doesn’t say much for the collective intelligence
> and awareness of the American people or indeed of their chosen
> representatives in Congress.
> The same Roman principle is at work here, the masses stuffed to
> overflowing on a diet of consumerism and entertainment while the
> leaders of government go about their business undisturbed. If
> questions are now being asked about the Iraq war it’s not primarily
> because of a rush of any new-found awareness but because the
> seriousness of the Iraqi resistance is more than anyone in
> Washington had bargained for, and because the lies of the Bush
> administration are finally catching up with it.
> I hope I am not stretching the point when I say much the same
> dynamic can be seen in India where the media has managed to do two
> things very successfully: (1) brushed some very serious national
> problems under the carpet, to the point where there is not much
> national or international awareness about them; and (2) celebrated
> a story of Indian progress which partly is very real but which also
> relies heavily on fiction.
> Entire regions of India — UP, Bihar, to name only two states — are
> in the grip of serious lawlessness and there is not much that
> anyone has been able to do about it. But sitting in Delhi or
> reading the Indian press you won’t get this impression. Only when
> something out-of-the-ordinary happens, a high profile killing, for
> instance — although in India’s wild east even this is no longer
> surprising — does it figure in the headlines, otherwise not.
> There is a full-fledged insurgency in the northeast — Mizoram,
> Nagaland, Manipur, etc — but you won’t get to know much about it if
> your sole source of information is the Indian press.
> More serious than these two problems is something potentially more
> dangerous. From the Nepal border in the north right down to Andhra
> Pradesh in the south, a wide swathe of territory almost cutting
> through this huge country is in the effective control not of any
> government, central or state, but the Naxalite movement. This is a
> mind-boggling circumstance, about 160 districts of the country —
> the total number of districts in Pakistan being 105 — outside
> governmental control. But again the Naxalite movement doesn’t
> figure much in Indian discourse.
> True, India’s stability or integrity is not under threat. India’s
> very size is the biggest shock absorber of all, its capacity to
> absorb problems of this nature or magnitude commensurate with its
> bulk. Still, to insist, or convey the impression, that nothing
> troubles the Indian heartland is to close one’s eyes to reality. As
> already stated, the Indian media performs this pigeon act very
> India is coming of age as an economic power. It is also flexing its
> muscles as a major military power. We all know the story and the
> statistics. Indeed, talking to an educated Indian who wears his
> patriotism on his sleeve (there being no shortage of this kind
> because being relatively new to high-power status, Indians tend to
> be touchy about different aspects of their nationhood) one stands
> in danger of getting an earful of these statistics.
> But it is also a fact that the benefits of growth are not evenly
> spread, roughly 30 per cent of the Indian population enjoying the
> fruits of progress while 70 per cent is still trapped in different
> versions of poverty.
> While the rich-poor divide is true of most societies, the great
> success of the Indian media lies in obscuring this distinction.
> Watching Indian TV or reading Indian papers one could be forgiven
> for believing that the entire Indian population, one billion
> strong, is living the high life. This feat the media has achieved
> by trivializing national discourse. The biggest temple of all in
> India is dedicated to none of the older gods in the Indian pantheon
> but to the new god of entertainment.
> The cautionary tale is for us as we move forward on the road to
> democracy (a journey which would be made easier infinitely if
> Pakistan’s ruling general, fourth in a line of patriarchs the
> country could have done without, is persuaded to shed his fears and
> his uniform). If we can get democracy without lowering the standard
> of national discourse or without the pursuit of trivia, that would
> be a goal worth striving for.
> Enjoy this Diwali with Y! India Click here
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