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How market driven media takes away our ability to think

Hannah Arendt’s 1961 essay “The Crisis in Culture” suggested that a “market-driven media would lead to the displacement of culture by the dictates of entertainment.”

That 1961 essay is getting realised at present in India, at least. The whole landscape of Indian media looks like a criss-cross of open sewage lines full of shit bursting at every joint running from everywhere to everywhere.

Though there are some silver linings but they are lost in, what we technically call, a spiral of silence. In the presence of such dark clouds and such dirt-laden rains, what will a glimmer of that silver lining do when the general mass is enjoying the natural shower.

The picture is not very good to look at. May be, the apparent impression on the mind is pleasuresque but larger picture is painful.

The biggest brand (we all know who) which has surpassed the popularity of all the others is making a mockery of journalism, both print and online. The ‘vulgarity’ of content selection reaches its limit and surpasses that every month.

The word ‘vulgar’ does not amount to the content with vulgarity, sex and sensationalism but it goes beyond that. The selection of news itself is filthy.

Market-driven media: Vanishing line between news and entertainment

A whole generation has grown up reading a newspaper which doesn’t mind being vocal about ignoring the difference between entertainment and news. I vividly remember a quarter page advertisement (image below), in retaliation to The Hindu ad campaign, the newspaper brand went on to say that the baby of Aishwarya Rai is no less important than Vice-President of India.

TOI ad against The Hindu

This pity and shameful situation becomes apparent when our generation thinks the same way. But it’s not their fault. There is a big man sitting in a chamber deciding what to sell, and that sells. That sells because it is from a brand that is tonsuring a big mass by pleasing them.

The problem is: instead of enlightening and informing, media is busy giving pleasure.

The man at the helm is akin to the pied-piper of Hamelin and the readers, rather consumers, are the mice who are all jumping off the cliff because it sounds good. This man is very shrewd and it appears his ambition is to harm the country’s conscience by the slow poison of his marketing strategies.

The news site which gets hits at par with the New York Times has promptly dedicated a big space on the homepage to the entertainment section which can be classified to soft porn and yellow journalism in its prime.

Write provoking headers questioning the senses of individuals, “Is it possible?”, with a deep search engine optimised story to gather the searching mass, and you get the maximum hits.

Reader is equally delighted to see the bikini clad images, the so called ‘oops!’ moments of wardrobe malfunction, hottest girls going nude on magazine covers… on the mainstream media site.

Seldom one finds a good write-up from one of the columnists. Instead of having some thinkers and experts to do the editorials, there are celebrities! As if celebrities are the greatest thinkers on policies and public matters!

What can one imagine of this mass! God save this country from the brutal claws.

Their logic is simple: we give people what they want. The truth, however is the other way round. You are giving something which people should like because they don’t have a choice.

You attack the teenage mind with the semi-nude images in your paper and the website; you distribute paper free of cost in colleges and so they fall in the trap. You mould their brain before they mature and condition them according to your taste. Then you stoop lower and lower to sell and attract them.

And you succeed. Why? Because there is no one else which can fall so low. Then you justify that we give what they want.

As Mark Twain writes:

We are discreet sheep;
we wait to see how the drove is going,
and then go with the drove.

And it is you who decides how the drove should go!

Is it not your responsibility to shape the opinion in a better way and raise citizens who think on their own rather than looking to their left and right when asked to give their opinion on political crisis or even about what game Dhyan Chand is associated with!

Is it not your responsibility to forget about your staggering profit for a few months and engage the mass to the socio-political issues of nation?

Is it not your responsibility to promote good education to enhance the education system rather than printing two pages under your campaign to promote your brand in the garb of corporate social responsibility?

The sheepish mass has lost its potency as a whole and is dormant like the inert gases of Group Zero. They are highly receptive but unreactive. Unless they find a cause fashionable enough they don’t get into it.

The ‘fourth pillar’ is fashionable to hear but is hollow and, perhaps, non-existent. The few rods of the pillar which are trying to keep it standing are limited to a few readers.

Overall it’s a very sad situation for India and we need to throw a big hammer with our collective force in the face of this Goliath. This Goliath needs to fall and David again needs to win. We are the hands that should hold the hammer.

(The views expressed are author’s personal.)

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