The internet is buzzing with news of peoples protests, opposition to various legislations slated for Parliament, petitions against government oppression, an entirely different world from that reflected in the so called mainstream media through the long, and often very tedious, 24 hours coverage.
The VIP media of editors and proprietors with farm houses and five star book launches covers only VIP politicians, mega scams, corporate honcho successions, sensational rapes, leaving the protesting people of India to fend for themselves. So while television channels are engaged in sensationalizing non events, and generating debates on inconsequential political happenings, the people of India have moved on to the internet, flooding it with petitions, videos, photographs of a reality that has been squeezed out of the so called ‘national’ media altogether. For instance, there was coverage of the peoples protests against the Koodankulam nuclear power project so long as the anchors could dress up the story in sexy garb by pitching the centre against Chief Minister Jayalalitha. It was almost projected as a protest organized by the AIADMK leader in a major distortion of the facts. But there has not been a word in the media about the fact that 3015 persons, including leading activists like Dr S.P.Udayakumar, have been charged now for waging war against the country and sedition by the Tamil Nadu police. The media has disappeared from view, leaving it to activists to launch petition campaigns and seek justice on their own.
Similarly, there has not been a word in the media criticizing former Home Secretary G.K.Pillai for virtually justifying the encounter murder of young Ishrat Jehan by the Gujarat police by suggesting that by checking into different hotels with “another man” was definite ground for suspicion. This at a time when the SIT report has established her death as an encounter, in the first glimmerings of justice for the victims of the Gujarat violence. It is the Pillai kind of mindset that justifies state brutality, as clearly his case is that an independent woman taking control of her own life is suspect. This mentality is reflected in the police station where rape victims are placed on trial by the cops---“the woman is of ‘loose’ character”, “she was not dressed soberly,”etc--- before they even register the complaint. It has been left to civil society to move a petition for signatures against the former Home Secretary demanding an “immediate apology.” The Gujarat High Court has fortunately expressed serious displeasure at the comments made by Pillai to the media.
Tired and disillusioned, the young people are moving to the internet not just in India but all across the world. The real pictures of Libya and now possibly Syria are not found in the world media, controlled as it is by the big powers, but on the internet where local journalists and photographers have been posting videos about the cold blooded murders of sovereign state leaders like Gadaffi (after Saddam Hussein), the repression of the people by Israel in Palestine on a daily basis, and the contrast between the rebels and the people who are supporting the regime in Syria as they do not want their country to be destroyed by US/Nato bombers. The story on the internet is often totally different to what is projected by the big media that has either not understood what is happening inside a nation, or has understood but does not care, or more sinister, is playing along with a larger international conspiracy.
The story of a country cannot be without its people. The government’s decision to bring in a Food Security Bill cannot be divorced, in the coverage, of what impact it will have on the ground. It is the job of the media to explore not the legalities of the legislation, but whether it will bring relief to the people, and to what extent. These stories are not being covered any more with the media getting away with a couple of quotes from the VIP politicians, and a ‘this party is against the other party’ kind of superficial approach. What has happened to the Womens' Reservation Bill? What does 51 per cent FDI in the retail sector mean for the people? And by people, the yardstick should be the poor people at the receiving end, and not just the consumers who determine the advertisements and the TRP ratings.
People do not like to come out on the streets to protest. Not even those who belong to political parties. They do so because they genuinely believe that there is no other course, and the issue is important enough to merit their full participation. But when thousands of workers march on the streets of Delhi for justice and rights, the entire media with not a single exception blocks them out as they are the conscience check for unbridled capitalism keeping the corporates in business. All that is reported are traffic jams as a result of peoples protests. Of course, if the protests turn violent the media is in full attendance to damn the protestors and their supporters.
Pilgers film (The War You Don't See) while very important is not mainstream media. It can never be as it is too honest, very courageous and brutal in projecting the truth. It will be seen by a handful of persons as compared to the millions who are bombarded with contrived images and manipulated news about the Arab world day after day. The media motto is: convert the lie into a truth by repeating it over and over again. It works as international, and of course national, stereotypes have been created on this basis, completely suffocating the tiny voices of truth. Right and wrong is established through this manipulation, with the definition being determined by the powerful few and not the impoverished many.