India needs Aazadi from Biased Media: It is killing Indian democracy
Indian democracy is failing because the vast majority of citizens do not recognize media biases and supplemented propaganda.
In Plato’s Meno there is an episode of exchange between Socrates and Anytus, who was one of the prosecutors of Socrates for his critical views. When Socrates asks Anytus, “How can you know what is good or bad in something when you have no experience of it? the response was: Quite easily. At any rate, I know their kind, whether I've had experience or not”. This perhaps essays the essence of the large sections of India Media, which proudly exercise its propaganda. There is no objective truth but a lot of malice, there is no accountability but to serve the regime. This crisis of Indian media is writing a new history that recommends the death of critical journalism with constant manufactured opinion and no accountability. Media as propaganda is quite inherent to its functioning but this nakedness of representing the regimes’ voice against the objective truth is killing Indian democracy all in the name of freedom of the press. This crisis has ceased to become a disease now. News Anchors have become Judge and pass their judgment shamelessly without any ethical consideration. This making of new history is to make people consumers than citizens whose only job is to remain a passive entity. It is eroding India’s democratic credentials. News has lost it worthiness and the priorities are shifted from people to serve the regime and its supported business houses that control and set the agenda, all in the name of freedom of the press.
For the media, opinion needs to be manufactured to misinform the people and any independent thought. Media doesn’t represent people and therefore it doesn’t feel it has any accountability to tell people the reality rather it counterfeits them. At this moment the prevailing orthodoxy in the large section of media has developed an uncritical admiration of the Modi regime. Any genuine critics of the regime’s policy are categorised as anti-national.
The Indian public has been supplied misinformation as a hard truth and they don’t know it as it has been done repeatedly and pathologically so that all public opinion is manufactured. Chomsky was not wrong when he said, “the general population doesn’t know what’s happening and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know”. This whole narrative about JNU as a hotbed of anti-national activities has been sold as a reality, this whole madness has made an institution an enemy of its own people who should have celebrated it beyond the wall of any ideological lens. Do these media houses ever produce a government source to verify their own claim?
There has never been a single verified government source that indicts JNU as a centre of anti-national activities. It has been awarded by every government for its excellence and its achievements. These media houses have filtered out the news to marginalize any dissent against the government which has been given by the Indian Constitution. Are they above the Constitution? The regulatory bodies have failed to stop such biased channels and their noisy anchors to pontificate their opinions as gospels. This entire media bias is depressing to the hilt. There is a constant battle on how far facts can be distorted.
Media freedom is no sacrosanct and this system of patronage by the regime has been a prime source of vulgar stereotyping. Media houses have no intellectual curiosity but they keep recycling the absurdities into new formats. The JNU case is a prime example. Since the arrival of the Modi government, JNU has been a soft target. As the political parties have been miserable in challenging the totalitarian methods of the government, JNU still embarks upon its credentials to challenge their policies and authoritarianism masking behind the majoritarian and toxic religious nationalism. There is constant vilification of this university all in one concert: JNU is a hotbed of anti-nationals. What is the basis for it? Do people need not know: has any government ever indicted JNU with such malign adjectives as these media houses shamelessly adhere it to? These propaganda machines have been a medium of thought-controlling all in the name of the free press. Orwell once wrote, ‘Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness’. This systematic vilification is no surprise, therefore.
The function of any independent media is to have that investigative curiosity but this self -appointed defenders of the free press have become road blockers of the truth. Stereotyping is not static, it’s a functional process and it aims to construct a myth. These media houses have sold their critical power to separate its truths from their errors. Hatred has become India’s newest religion and fake news is an everyday ritual. This whole culture has polluted the rationality of Indians at large who have been consistently pushed to behave in a certain manner otherwise to face the wrath. Indian democracy is failing because the vast majority of citizens do not recognize media biases and supplemented propaganda.
Those Media houses are writing a wrong history by spreading fake news as gospels. Mischievous speculations and constant disinformation have been whipping large section of Indian into a frenzy. Lies spread faster than truth and the role of social media has become a major source of recycling absurdities coming from these mainstream media. In this totalitarian coordination, social media has become instrumental in spreading lies. This mischief from these sold-out media along with social media as a major source of hatred and propaganda has reduced people’s ability to oppose unpopular ideas without any official ban. There is a constant exercise of silencing the unpleasant voice. Media has become a game of circus to divert people, to maintain the status quo, to support the ill policies of demonetisation, crippling the economy, hard truth on unemployment and worsening performance on poverty alleviation. JNU is thus a victim of that nexus between the current regime and its patronized ‘Godi media’.
Indian democracy is in retreat. Universities which are a centre for critical thinking have been vilified without any evidence and demonised by shared lies. Falsehood has become a reality and journalistic wisdom has been sold to financial or Ideological reasons. But prejudices are not always inversely proportional to education. A large section of Indians has surrendered their sovereign thinking with the passive recitation of facts and swallowing a large volume of distorted facts on an everyday basis as a rush of dopamine. Indian masses have developed the art of ‘confirmation biases’ to embrace information that supports their beliefs and rejects information that contradicts them. Voltaire was not wrong when he said, ‘those who make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.’ There is a distinction between news and truth and it is essential in forming people’s opinion. The famous journalist Walter Lippman once said, ‘What one normally gets is not truth but fact, and that fact is circumscribed by a variety of reporters, fear of libel, and that which is superficial. News, therefore, stereotype, standardization judgment and disregard for subtlety’.
These media biases have one grand agenda: fake news. There is a constant exercise of turning Indian public into a passive consumer by spreading lies in the name of a free press but deep within there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that people will accept without questioning.
One needs to remember that If you can’t exercise your freedom you are inviting a tyranny. Independent thoughts are the only critical voice that stops that tyranny. For the people at large need to ask before submitting to any lies: where is the evidence? Distortions can’t be facts and lies however comfortable they sound can’t replace the truth. Malcolm X was dead right when he said ‘media has the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's the power because they control the minds of the masses’.
The call for freedom or Azaadi is incomplete without objective truth and it is a crime and constitutionally wrong to deny it.
Prem Anand Mishra is a PhD student at School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. This is the author’s personal view.