(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Who’s afraid of Western media? Certainly not Modi’s India. The telltale signs of recent times convey a stunning departure from India of old when every censure from a New York Times or British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) sent a chill down the government corridors of New Delhi.
Now an extremely well-networked Western journalist Aatish Taseer, who writes for Time, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, has his OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card revoked by New Delhi for concealing his parentage and despite a personal written appeal by 260 celebrated men of letters, including Salman Rushdie, to the Indian prime minister, it hasn’t elicited a word in response from Narendra Modi.
It’s nearing four months since the political heavyweights of Jammu and Kashmir were put under house arrest by the Modi government after it abrogated the “special status” of state of Jammu and Kashmir and broke it into three separate territories. Despite the din and orchestrated campaign in Western media, the Modi government hasn’t bothered to put a timeline on their release.
In the altered reality of our times, the gravity of the world has shifted to Asia where India along with China, and Russia, have popular leaders in control of the destiny of their countries. Nationalism is at the heart of their policy which by its very definition runs counter to the liberal narrative of the Western media.
Western media isn’t just about the United States or the United Kingdom—it by and large represents most West European countries and comes in a language-bouquet of English, French, German, Spanish, Italian etc. Western media is the foot soldiers of West in winning the public perception in latter’s favour. It has a veneer of independence but actually is an extension of the liberal establishment which acquired hegemony after World War II. West detests any assertion of sovereignty and nationalism and so does its media. Brexit is a case in point.
The evidence too is hard to ignore. The Economist openly urged Indian voters to vote for Congress and not Modi’s BJP in both 2014 and 2019 elections. Yet voters overwhelmingly voted for BJP. The Guardian bemoaned Modi’s win as “India’s soul lost to a dark politics.” The New York Times found India to be suffering from Modi’s “raw wisdom.” Washington Post believed Modi won because “India had no credible alternative.” All through, the Western media narrative has been the demonization of Modi, on the “divisive” politics of beef and “lynchings” of Muslims. Yet it made little dent to Modi’s popularity.
Modi’s India thus sees no benefit in trying to cultivate a network which is fundamentally in conflict with their sovereignty. It relies on its strong domestic base which won them a second successive term with full majority this summer. As an economy which could be third largest in coming years, it knows it’s attractive to the world’s largest corporations and business. It received its largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) ever this financial year. India now ranks very high in the Ease of Doing Business rankings too. It’s also aware that millions of Hindus, quite a few well-heeled and a force in Western capitals of New York and London, are quick to pick up the cudgels against orchestrated campaigns.
India appears to have hedged its bets well. The two strongest cards West and its’ media plays are “human rights” and “democracy.” West uses these two weapons to wreak havoc in countries as diverse as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan are from Bolivia, Chile and Cuba. Sometimes there are direct military interventions overriding international laws; on other occasions, there are suffocating economic sanctions; at other times it’s stage-managed internal eruptions as have been witnessed in Ukraine, the Middle East and now Hong Kong.
India bets against such a scenario because it’s not only economically attractive to the West but also Donald Trump’s United States hopes to ride on its shoulders for its’ Act Asia policy. Internal eruptions are a powerful tool which the United States has perfected over the years. But India is assured it won’t happen to them in the near future, at least till the 2020 US presidential elections are over, a year from now. Without an active US intervention, New Delhi’s streets won’t be filled with demonstrators as it’s happening in Hong Kong or Bolivia. Modi knows well within he could ignore the barking dogs.
Times of India in its editorial today has cried bucketful on the “harmful” influence of social media on the “news-professionals” like them, and other mainstream media. It offers a sanguine advice to Facebook to wake up to the “fake and misleading news that are downright fabrications.” The edit writer has no doubt that the US polls have been influenced by false information posted as “news” on social media.
For too long news professionals—of which I was a part for three-decades and more—have believed that they know best. For large part of my career I was an international cricket writer and believed only insider knows what’s happening. There was an air about me which suitably got punctured when CricInfo came on to the scene. There was initial mocking, disdain which turned into grudging acceptance to downright admiration for their language, insight and imagination in due course. Men like Rahul Bhattacharrya, Dileep Premchandran and Sidharth Monga earned deep respect with their work.
Sport was one such instance. There were separate fields like politics, social commentary, historical references which began receiving fresh winds of change. Many of us “professional news” gatherers began picking up the minds on social media. Our copies were better for it; our insight only got richer. Most of my fellow print journalists reading this piece would admit, if they are honest, that a lot of their “reporting” happens on the phone only. This claim to being “professionals” is so stupid. At least 99 per cent of we “professional journalists” wouldn’t have read 10 books in our lifetimes.
The Times of India edit increasingly begin pontificating. It says that social media may lead to “medievalisation” of the global community. “It would give spurt to tribal instincts—in the form of racism, xenophobia or communalism—that is exploding around the world.”
Really, how stupid you can get. Newspapers at best offer a bridge of communication between public and public institutions. It ought to put both viewpoints in perspective. But the mainstream media of today completely eschews this role. In its worldview, the unheard must not be heard; the unspoken must not be allowed to speak. The “have-nots” of this world have no reason to question the “haves” to which the modern media is a part. These ivory towers of the world are increasingly being smashed as BrExit and US polls reveal how removed they are from reality. The credit for it squarely goes to “social media” where people are connecting, sharing information and forming their own opinion. You look at our newspapers and you would know who is promoting “racism” and “communalism.”
So troubled are mainstream media with their shaken foundations that they refuse to examine the evidence that is out there in open in social media. For example there is this piece which completely exposes Arvind Kejriwal in a sting operation called K-files. But you wouldn’t find our mainstream media taking it up. Or that most of our mainstream journalists are offered “cushioned” posts by the Delhi government. Again, you wouldn’t hear a murmur. There are pointed referrals to how mainstream media is giving disconnected headlines with the text. NewsBred has relentlessly exposed this “misinformation” and “spreading of lies” but you would never find a Times of India putting the lens back on its tribe.
The NewsBred links below would offer dozens of such deliberate “misreporting” and “twisting” of facts. If this is what Times of India has in mind by way of “professionalism” the readers are better off without it. The mainstream media is increasingly becoming not worth of our time and certainly not of our money. This closed shop has crumbled but the rats can’t feel the boiling water in the tub.
The so-called “news professionals” are just sound-byte carriers. They go to the source which is likely to offer them the point of view they wish to publish or telecast. Unlike in social media where the news and information is more rigorously debated and evidence is provided with. Every opinion is open to challenge on social media. Unlike the closed shop that mainstream media has become. Mainstream Media is in deep shit and they know it.
Times of India ends its piece by urging Facebook, Twitter and Google to put a limit on social media. This is the same newspaper which cried hoarse when former Union Minister Kapil Sibal tried to put a restriction on facebook and twitter. The “freedom of expression” doesn’t concern them now.