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



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.