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Between News and Propaganda





EmilSincliar opinion tweet
No thanks.
Recently I had the opportunity to read and educate myself a bit about the cult hype surrounding the Cobrapost sting operations. Now many of you might be knowing about it and many of you might be wondering which is this new breed of snake. For those who haven't heard about Cobrapost or anything related to it, it's a news/investigative portal that did a series of sting operations on various television, news and digital media platforms. The sting operations revealed how big media houses and digital companies are willing to sell religious/political propaganda and agenda through their channels and platforms for money. There were many big names involved in this scandal and the outrage on the internet regarding this was tremendous. Especially on Twitter and Reddit. The two least toxic social media platforms out there as of now. (Can't say that about Twitter anymore though)

Now the outrage was justified. News and media channels are ideally supposed to be unbiased and maintain their integrity. Ideally they're also supposed to just report facts as is without having their own political or opinionated stand on the things they're reporting. But since we live in a practical world and idealism is often considered as artistic and romantic concept. In my opinion, news media was never unbiased, right since primordial times. It was always a tool. A tool to reach out to maximum number of people with your ideas and viewpoints. Jim Morrison was apparently speaking the truth when he said that whoever controls the media, controls the mind.

Since ages, revolutionaries and governments have relied on media to propagate information and agenda to the masses. And I think that there's no such thing as a unbiased news or a neutral journalist. Every journalist has a point of view. A certain perception and opinion on things. And that's the way they often report the news. If look at this Cobrapost incident, it showed us one story. A story of how we can propagate whatever we want if we're willing to shell out shitload of money and fill their pockets. I remember a time when I used to watch news and read newspapers daily like my life depended on it. Back when I was a bit naive and how my teachers used to say that watching news helps us stay updated about the world and eventually makes us smart. Oh how I believed in that horseshit as a kid.

Now let me put it a bluntly, it's all a make believe world out there. Everything is advertising and marketing. There's no such thing as news. Every news is just another subtle advertisement for some person or a certain ideology. Right from that boisterous guy who shouts everyday on our television screens about how the nation wants to know about something or the other, to the self righteous lady who thinks that the secularism is in danger from right wing extremism and the minorities are neglected. From the guy who criticizes the government to the guy who criticizes the opposition, every journalist has a point of view. Every journalist has his own personal opinion. And that's how they news is produced. The only real news  I care about is the news that talks about weather and even that ain't accurate. Or those ridiculously tragic headlines which upon reading you can't help but chuckle. Like this one headline I remember about how a certain guy who accidentally shot himself to death in Punjab while trying to click a selfie holding a pistol. Apart from these funny bits, the news these days is plain depressing and sad. Like every day, you read about people being murdered, crimes being committed against women and whatnot. It's like we love to read tragic stuff. Like Mynard Keenan says in Vicarious,

"Cause I need to watch things die, from a distance
Vicariously I live while the whole world dies
You all need it too, don't lie"

Just another normal front-page of a newspaper

Now, every news channel out there has a political opinion of their own. Most of the news channels out there are trying to sell you their ideas and their point of view. I might sound like I just jacked off to Aldous Huxley or read a bit too much of Orwell but this is what I believe. Some of them are even blatant enough to put in right their in their channel name!

Anyway, I wasn't surprised at all with all this ruckus on social media regarding the Cobrapost sting. This was happening since aeons, it still happens now and will continue to happen. Majority of the people out there have a sub conscious belief system. Their own morals, ideologies and principles that they believe in firmly or maybe have an affinity towards. How they formed these beliefs is not the matter of concern here. The matter of concern is some people are willing to change their beliefs with time while some won't. These stubborn folks will go to the extent of changing the time rather than their beliefs and their principles. It's very difficult to change people's perception about things in general. People go on wars just to defend their ideologies and beliefs. Don't believe me? Well, just try convincing a vegetarian that butter chicken tastes better than paneer masala. Or need a bigger challenge? Try convincing a believer that their god doesn't exist.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk has announced that he's undertaking a new project to tackle the spread of fake news, naming it Pravda. Now I have no doubt about this genius' abilities and intellect but I think this probably won't work. The concept of Pravda  is that it would take into consideration the opinions of readers and users, regarding a certain news story and then let them rate the story on its authenticity. Therein lies the flaw of this concept. People only accept things that resonate with their pre-formed notions and beliefs. It's a natural human tendency. A guy with conservative political beliefs always thinks that liberals are idiots and vice-versa. So, if that said person reads a news story expressing different perception than his own, he tries to find faults in it and is skeptical about it. His natural tendency is to think that the news story is fake and that it should be reported. For one man's terrorist is often another man's revolutionary. It all depends of whose side of the story you're listening to. Whose side of the story interests you and keeps you engaged. And whose side of the story entertains and amuses you the most.

So you may now ask me what should we do? Should we all just stop watching the news altogether? Maybe. That does sound like a great solution but then it also takes you far away from the society and makes you feel like a neanderthal being. So now what?

I think the best way to tackle this is to just read the news like we read the terms and conditions and the privacy policies of the websites that we use. Don't let it affect your peace of mind. I know reading terms & conditions is necessary and that everyone needs to go through the privacy policy before accepting it but the fact is no one really cares. Not unless you see your naked picture from the phone gallery, flashing on a banner ad of Xvideos and you wonder how did it reach there.

However, jokes apart, the best way to form an opinion about something is to first understand all possible sides of a story and then choose the one that you think is the right one. The one that suits you or floats your boat. So, if you ask me about my opinion on Cobrapost sting, I accept that it's unethical and it harms the integrity of the entire news and media industry and the other companies involved in it. But then it's not necessary that everyone has the same opinion as mine. The problem is people get influenced way too easily by whatever they see and hear on the television or whatever they read in the newspapers and are quick to react to it.

Consider this, tomorrow you're going to run for presidency. And your viewpoint is that you want to legalize marijuana. Your opposition thinks that marijuana should not be legalized and has some fair counter arguments regarding this. Now, it's not necessary that everyone out there needs to accept your views. But what's absolutely crucial is that you have the freedom and the liberty to express your views no matter what they are. And that's what the news media needs to do. To protect this freedom of speech. Yeah, go on take that money and propagate whatever you want but please, please, please ensure that when it matters the most, you don't shy away or compromise on the freedom and integrity of what journalism actually stands for.

The power these news and media houses have is tremendous. It could build or destroy nations. And they just need to ensure that when it's needed the most, they step up their standards and sincerely be the voice of the people. Just like they did during our struggle for freedom against the British. Journalism back then had a mission. A mission to educate and encourage the masses about uniting against the tyrannical British rule and to fight for freedom. It was inculcating the ideas of patriotism and freedom in the minds of the Indian people. Whether it was Tilak's Kesari and Maratha or Dadabhai Naorozi's Rast Goftar, the news media formed the spine of our freedom struggle and inspired the people to rebel against the Britishers. Had the media then not propagated nationalism, democracy and equality in the minds of the masses then perhaps our freedom would have been delayed by decades or centuries, who knows!

Right from the Russian Revolution to Donald Trump being elected as the US president, media has always played a pivotal role and it'll continue to do so in the future. It's not for me to decide and debate whether news media should propagate certain things or not. Maybe all news is propaganda but what really matters is they propagate the right things when the need desperately arises.

Okay now, I should sign off here. Thank you for taking out your time to read this arduously long article. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below and share it you enjoyed it. Until next time, Adios!
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Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

2 comments:

  1. That hits hard. Expecting more such articles inspired by your days in the noiseroom!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks mahn! Thank you for reading!

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