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Fuelling propaganda: Has the modern media lost its sense of objectivity?

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mass-media

By Gaurav Sharma

What is the role of media? To present the truth in its complete entirety or to shroud the truth in the garb of manipulated and fabricated stories, which serve the vested interests of the political and corporate bosses?

With new technology being developed every single day, the world has morphed into a global economy, deluged under the flow of information bombardment. These sources invariably involve broadcasting the views of individuals that own them.

In his autobiography Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler says, By far the greater part of “political education” or propaganda is the work of the press.”

Propaganda can be broadly defined as dissemination of news, ideas and information for specifically injuring or benefiting an organisation or individual.

Though it has existed for thousands of years, the commercialisation of technology, in the last hundred years or so, has amplified the unethical practice.

While the academia and think tanks, may be excluded from the realm of agencies that voice  such biased information, mainstream media, undoubtedly, falls under the category of the propagandist communication channel.

The mainstream media is owned directly or indirectly by corporations. For example, Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries controls Network 18, one of India’s largest media companies. The company owns channels such as CNN-IBN, CNBC Awaz, CNBC TV18, websites such as Firstpost, moneycontrol.com and the license of Forbes India, among other businesses.

“How will they [the Network18 journalists] have any chance of doing a decent story on the KG gas deal [where RIL has the rights to dig for gas and is in dispute with the government], the Radia tapes [taped telephone conversations between publicist Nira Radia and a former telecom minister and senior journalists where she’s lobbying on behalf of several big corporate clients], how will they cover any damn thing?”says P.Sainath, a respected journalist.

Internationally, two of the most ‘trusted’ sources of news, The New York Times and Washington Post host people affiliated with corporate giants such as Coca-Cola, Kohlberg and Company, Chevron Corporation, Ford Motor Company among others, as their board members.

In light of such widespread corporatization, media can hardly be looked upon as beacon of unbiased, fair and transparent journalism.

The second important factor in the indoctrination of the media, is the basic fact that the survival of a media outlet depends upon advertising revenue. This gives much weightage to the notion that the media serves the businesses that pay to serve their goods.

Further more, the sourcing of the news is itself very doubtful. Even large media corporations cannot afford to have reporters everywhere. As a result, they have to concentrate their resources in places that hold prospective news stories: government organisations, Parliament, business corporations etc.

This can be termed as selective omission, when commercial interests take precedence over important developments in the hinterland.

Besides, there are many examples of such propaganda being carried out by the mainstream media. Using the basis of social proof, the media often projects a person or country as an enemy, by declaring it be a friend of an already established enemy.

Such brainwashing was used by the media to gather support of the American public against the nuclear arming of Pakistan.

Biases can also be seen when the media fails to bring to light the futility of Vietnam War but greatly advocates the invasion of Iraq, for supposedly holding nuclear weapons.

Back in 2010, a study conducted by Harvard Kennedy School revealed that the controversial practice of waterboarding, a practise in which alleged terrorists are subjected to drowning sensation, was stopped from being termed as ‘torture’ by leading papers such as New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

In 2011, a BBC journalist had revealed the close links between the press and the politicians, in the backdrop of News of the World hacking scandal, in which the now defunct British paper was accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of stories.

The sensationalization of ISIS dominance over the world, is yet another example of the media’s insatiable hunger for hyping and overemphasizing news. There is hardly any mention of the fact that much of the area usurped by the Al-Qaeda outfit, is sparsely populated. Moreover, it has hardly been brought to the notice of the public, that the army of jihadists working for ISIS are still mediocre in size as compared to a nation’s military.

This, however, does not mean the threat posed by ISIS should be taken lightly. But, through such indiscriminate coverage of the terror group, the people are diverted from the whole truth.

The claims made by Noam Chomsky, an American linguist and philosopher, in his book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, that the “The mass media are drawn into a symbiotic relationship with powerful sources of information by economic necessity and reciprocity of interest”, hold much water, not only for the US, but for India as well.

The corporatization and monopolization of media only serves to reduce the space for differing voices. It is a thorn in the democratic thread of the country that needs to be plucked away.

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We Will make you Zero To Hero: This is how Jihadist ISIS Lures Western potential Recruits

The Chicago Project on Security and Threats has concluded that ISIS often targets Western recruits with heroic outcomes

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ISIS actively Lures Recruits from the West for its Jihadi Agenda
FILE - Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, north Syria, June 30, 2014. VOA

Beyond the slick, Hollywood-style cinematics, the Islamic State is targeting Western recruits with videos suggesting they, too, can be heroes like Bruce Willis’ character in Die Hard.

That’s the conclusion of The Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which analyzed some 1,400 videos released by IS between 2013 and 2016. Researchers who watched and catalogued them all said there is more to the recruitment effort than just sophisticated videography, and it’s not necessarily all about Islam.

Instead, Robert Pape, who directs the security center, said the extremist group is targeting Westerners — especially recent Muslim converts — with videos that follow, nearly step-by-step, a screenwriter’s standard blueprint for heroic storytelling.

ISIS targets Western recruits with Hollywood style heroism
Islamic State is recruiting Westerns by using Hollywood-style cinematics, like that seen in the story of “Wonder Woman,” in which a character learns his or her own powers through the course of their reluctant journey to be hero. VOA

“It’s the heroic screenplay journey, the same thing that’s in Wonder Woman, where you have someone who is learning his or her own powers through the course of their reluctant journey to be hero,” Pape said.

Heroic storytelling

The project at the University of Chicago separately has assembled a database of people who have been indicted in the United States for activities related to IS. Thirty-six percent were recent converts to Islam and did not come from established Muslim communities, according to the project. Eighty-three percent watched IS videos, the project said.

Bruce Willis in movie Die Hard 4.0
FILE – U.S. actor Bruce Willis poses for the photographers during a photo call for his new movie “Die Hard 4.0” in Berlin, Germany, June 18, 2007. VOA

The group’s success in using heroic storytelling is prompting copycats, Pape said. The research shows al-Qaida’s Syria affiliate has been mimicking IS’ heroic narrative approach in its own recruitment films. “We have a pattern that’s emerging,” Pape said.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials aren’t sure the approach is all that new. They say IS has been using any method that works to recruit Westerners. Other terrorism researchers think IS’ message is still firmly rooted in religious extremism.

Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks messaging by militant groups, agrees that IS makes strong, visual appeals resembling Hollywood movies and video games, making its media operation more successful than al-Qaida’s. And IS videos can attract hero wannabes, she said.

“However, these features of IS media are only assets to a core message it uses to recruit,” Katz said. “At the foundation of IS recruitment propaganda is not so much the promise to be a Hollywood-esque hero, but a religious hero. There is a big difference between the two.”

Promise of martyrdom

When a fighter sits in front of a camera and calls for attacks, Katz said, he will likely frame it as revenge for Muslims killed or oppressed somewhere in the world. The message is designed to depict any terror attack in that nation as justified and allow the attacker to die as a martyr, she said.

The promise of religious martyrdom is powerful to anybody regardless of whether they are rich or poor, happy or unhappy, steeped in religion or not at all, she said.

Pape said he knows he’s challenging conventional wisdom when he says Westerners are being coaxed to join IS ranks not because of religious beliefs, but because of the group’s message of personal empowerment and Western concepts of individualism.

How else can one explain Western attackers’ loose connections to Islam, or their scarce knowledge of IS’s strict, conservative Sharia law, he asked. IS is embracing, not rejecting, Western culture and ideals, to mobilize Americans, he said.

“This is a journey like Clint Eastwood,” Pape said, recalling Eastwood’s 1970s performance in High Plains Drifter about a stranger who doles out justice in a corrupt mining town. “When Clint Eastwood goes in to save the town, he’s not doing it because he loves them. He even has contempt for the people he’s saving. He’s saving it because he’s superior,” Pape said.

“That’s Bruce Willis in Die Hard. That’s Wonder Woman. … Hollywood has figured out that’s what puts hundreds of millions in theater seats,” Pape said. “IS has figured out that’s how to get Westerners.”

12-step guide

Pape said the narrative in the recruitment videos targeting westerners closely tracks Chris Vogler’s 12-step guide titled “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.” The book is based on a narrative identified by scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama and other storytelling.

Step No. 1 in Vogler’s guide is portraying a character in his “ordinary world.”

An example is a March 25, 2016, video released by al-Qaida’s Syria branch about a young British man with roots in the Indian community. It starts: “Let us tell you the story of a real man … Abu Basir, as we knew him, came from central London. He was a graduate of law and a teacher by profession.”

Vogler’s ninth step is about how the hero survives death, emerging from battle to begin a transformation, sometimes with a prize.

In the al-Qaida video, the Brit runs through sniper fire in battle. He then lays down his weapon and picks up a pen to start his new vocation blogging and posting Twitter messages for the cause.

‘Zero to hero’

Matthew Levitt, a terrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says it doesn’t surprise him that IS would capitalize on what he dubs the “zero to hero” strategy because the organization is very pragmatic and accepts recruits regardless of their commitment to Islamic extremism.

Heroic aspirations are only one reason for joining the ranks of IS, he said. Criminals also seek the cover of IS to commit crimes. Others sign up because they want to belong to something.

“I’ve never seen a case of radicalization that was 100 percent one way or the other,” Levitt said. (VOA)

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Editorial Freedom Should be used Wisely in Public Interest says PM Narendra Modi to Media

Prime Minster Narendra Modi on Monday said that editorial freedom should be used in public interest and urged the newspapers to devote space to increase awareness about climate change

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Editorial Freedom
PM Narendra Modi speaks about Editorial Freedom. Wikimedia

Chennai, Nov 6: Prime Minster Narendra Modi on Monday said that editorial freedom should be used in public interest and urged the newspapers to devote space to increase awareness about climate change.

Speaking at the 75th anniversary celebrations of Tamil newspaper Daily Thanthi at the Madras University Centenary Auditorium, Modi said lot of things happen around the world and the editors decide what is important to be published in their newspapers.

He said: “Editorial freedom should be used wisely and in public interest.”

Pointing out the natural calamities occurring around the world at regular intervals, PM Modi urged newspapers to allocate space to increase awareness about climate change.

Narendra Modi said the freedom to write does not in anyway reduce the importance to be accurate and correct, adding that though media outlets may be owned by the private sector, they serve a public purpose, have much social accountability and their conduct should be above board.

editorial freedom
Media must use editorial freedom with public interest, says PM Modi. Wikimedia.

He said technological advancement enables citizens to compare, discuss and analyse the credibility of news and the media should take extra caution to maintain its credibility.

According to him, reform in media can come from within and through introspection.

Observing most of the media discourse revolves around politics, Modi said the nation is made of over a billion people and the media should focus on the people and their achievements.

Citing the spread of mobile phones, Modi said citizen reporting is important in showcasing individual achievements and also helping in the aftermath of natural disasters.

PM Narendra Modi also released a souvenir.

Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan, Chief Minister K. Palaniswami and his deputy O.Pannerselvam also participated in the function.

Paying encomiums to the founder of Daily Thanthi S.P. Adithanar and his son Sivanthi Adithan, Palaniswami said the daily would certainly see centenary celebrations.

Leaders of several political parties, law makers, industrialists, movie actors and diplomats attended the function.

Earlier on his arrival PM Modi was received by Purohit, Palaniswami and others at the airport.

From the airport Modi reached the INS Adyar naval base here in a helicopter.

At INS Adyar, Modi had a meeting with Palaniswami and discussed about the rain and relief situation in Chennai and neighbouring districts. (IANS)

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Modi seeks Healthy Media Debate on Democracy in Political Parties

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia

New Delhi, October 28: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday urged the media to debate democracy and the democratic values of political parties for transparency in the evolution of their leadership and in their recruitment.

“You (the media) show us what we need to focus on. Democracy in political parties is something that the country is adapting to. We need to have transparency in the recruitment that political parties do. How the leadership of a political party evolves? What kind of opportunities are given to new generations? Do democratic values form the core of their values. It should become an issue of our debate and deeply so,” Modi said in his address to the media at the BJP’s annual Diwali Milan here.

At the event that was also attended by BJP President Amit Shah along and other senior party leaders, the Prime Minister highlighted media’s positive role in promoting democratic values in India.

“Democracy in political parties is a subject more people should know more about. It is true that the funding of political parties is a point of media discussion and many things come out in the open. But overall, how they are formed, how they function, how they recruit, their values, their ideologies and their weaknesses, what is the reason behind such weaknesses… all this should be debated,” he said, adding that political parties evolving “with a true democratic spirit is necessary for the country, necessary for a democracy”.

“I hope the people who are here will one day carry the debate forward.”

He paid his gratitude to media for its “positive role” it played in making the Swachh Bharat Mission a success, despite criticizing the government over other issues.

“Half of the newspaper pages would be filled with the government’s criticism. But when it comes to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, all are on the same page. I thank each one of you for making it a personal mission.”(IANS)