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Guest column: Don`t Tar All Media with the Same Brush

Don`t tar all media with the same (grimy) brush

 You know how people constantly, relentlessly, moan about how terrible the media is, how it exists only to spread fake news, how it polarizes people?

Well, you know what? India is still a free country, last time I checked. We don’t need to consume the kind of media we heap so much contempt on. It`s our money, our choice. And that`s the ground truth.

The proverbial hair that broke this camel`s back was a lengthy forward that began with the apocryphal tale of a donkey, a farmer, and a ghost…don’t even ask. It meandered to the end of its confused trajectory and there was the moral: “In the end, the media dodges all responsibility. So, it`s our responsibility to not react to every donkey released by the media.“

Those concluding  sentiments are most noble, and definitely not to be argued with. Neither is the statement that a large part of  the media spews out irresponsible, incendiary stuff pretty much on an hourly basis, and that`s not counting social media. But why on earth must we turn to the page, tune into the news that gives us gastric trouble, I ask.

Scapegoating of the media

My  rant comes as I grow sick of the constant scapegoating  of the media. It is not my contention even for a minute that much of the mainstream media is operating from a place of responsibility, ethics or decency. Quite the opposite, in fact, as we know. The mainstream media is slowly normalizing the dissemination of vile content, of fake news, of sensationalism. As people are fed their daily dose, more of them accept what they see, read  and hear as the gospel truth, and it usually brings to the surface all the latent bile, leading to acts of aggression which does nobody any good.

It is an  indisputable fact that there exist publications and channels that will make up, twist, tweak, downright lie to achieve their TRP targets. This is media that stays  true to their political alignments, and truth be damned; they will report the facts but in such a skewed manner that the faithful will be left in no doubt that  they need to take to the streets and defend their faith/cause/beliefs.

However, for every biased media platform, there are a handful (alas, just a handful in these post-truth times) that bravely do what they signed up as journalists to do: report the truth, analyze it in a calm, non-partisan manner, give the readers/viewers a clear idea of what is happening on the ground. The latter lot are, in today`s times, really brave in flying the banner of objective reporting. It is quite another matter that we the people who have become addicted to our daily dose of hyperbole dismiss them as – oh, the irony inherent here — stodgy, tedious, too content-heavy.

The point to be pointed out here: all media is not media that lists to the right or the left. All media is not slanted news. All media is not lying media.

All about choice

Which brings me to the second indisputable fact: it`s all about choice. Who is forcing us to consume sensational news? Who is forcing us to read scurrilous gossip or watch talking heads shouting their heads off on TV?

We know well enough to sift the grain from the chaff; it`s just that, let`s face it,  we  enjoy our daily diet of garbage.  We have our s**t detectors working just fine, it`s just that we easily  succumb to the noisy lure of scuttlebutt. We would rather drown our unemployment-inflation- spiralling gas prices sorrows in bursts of vociferous discussion on what filmstars wore at Cannes, why the person pointing out that Hindi is not the national language is an anti-national. We would rather look away at what stares us grimly in the face, and seek distractions elsewhere.

But you know what? Ultimately, we are what we consume. We need to think about that, long and hard.

This appeared in the Sunday Express Magazine of 29 May 2022.

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guest columnmatter of choicenon-partisan mediascapegoating of the mediaTNIETNIE Sunday Express magazinevirulent media

Sheila Kumar • May 29, 2022

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