Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ashok Mitra's scathing attack on media

If the price is right, the letters will be printed
Is not there a huge misunderstanding at work? The culture of writing letters to the editor, a colonial curiosum, is sought to be grafted into the postcolonial soil. This country during all these post-Independence decades has, however, hardly been a prim, stable system in the grip of the bourgeoisie, whatever the illusion of the latter. Post-Emergency, post-Mandal Commission, post-Babri Masjid destruction, India is a most messy affair. It is worth considering how Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar has come to be accorded retrospective deification more than half a century after his death. Our current inheritance is a coarse, uncouth, relentlessly cynical terrain.

The coup de grâce has been afflicted by economic liberalization, setting at total disarray the parameters of the system. Illiteracy, for one, is fast replacing rational discourse. As long as one is reasonably acquainted with the lingo of the information technology universe, it is possible to get along famously, that is, make piles of money, with no need to surf in any other direction. Familiarity with art and literature has zero lucre-yielding prospect, unless one is savvy enough to climb the bandwagon of, for example, event management or public relations or the electronic media. To stay relevant, it may actually often be necessary to feign idiocy. Globalization-mongers detest history and are proud of their disdain for philosophy; so steer clear of these themes too. Culture is whatever is telescoped into pastilles dispensed by the gobblebox. Little tolerance is shown for news which does not concern one’s narrow sphere of interest. The demand schedule is king. The traditional newspapers have to convert themselves, for dear life, into tabloids. They have been forced to move away from hard news; gossip and visuals are enough.

The central message of globalization — make money whatever the means — has led to the inevitable consequence: indulgence in corrupt practice has turned into passport for social recognition. Since no stigma attaches any more to financial skulduggery, the news industry has taken to it as effortlessly as a duck takes to water. News can now be manufactured if the price is right. Space has to be found for such fabricated news.

Remember the story of the Texas hillbilly who struck oil under his land and was all of a sudden flush with money? At the end of a busy day in town, he stopped for a drink at a wayside inn, right next to the precincts of a newly set up university. He was curious to know what a university did and was told it produced PhDs and the innkeeper had the franchise from the university to sell the doctoral degrees. The hillbilly felt expansive and bought a PhD for himself by dishing out a thousand dollars. As an afterthought, he laid out on the table another thousand bucks and purchased a PhD for his horse as well. That is roughly the state of affairs in India as of this moment. The strange animals who die to write letters to the editor are altogether out of place here. On the other hand, one never knows, they too could easily imbibe the ethos of the free market economy and offer hard cash to newspaper editors to get their lofty thoughts published. If the price is right, the letters will be printed, which eventually will have nothing to do with the quality of their contents.
Ashok Mitra in The Telegraph. Here

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...