The Fourth Pillar Crisis

    19-Oct-2020   
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The crisis in media, both news and entertainment, is real and eminent. Instead of accusing each other both the industries should introspect and make the necessary course correction; else be ready for the regulation
 

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"Bharat is poised to regain her place of importance in the World” … this is the feeling that most Indians have, irrespective of where they live. This feeling of pride is what should be conveyed to the world too, isn’t it? When anyone does a simple search about Bharat, her culture, her complete acceptance as the melting pot of all religions and cultures, her respect for the female gender, her humane side during natural and unnatural disasters, her positioning of Spirituality over Materialism, her existence as the most thriving Democracy, what does one find? In the country which gave the most varied shades of entertainment to the world through her arts, crafts, dance forms, music – both vocal and instrumental, stories, theatre art, cinemas and more, what does one find if one were to look up all this? Be honest – would you see the beauty that is present in all of this or would you see a highly judgmental opinion of what India is? If you see the latter, who is responsible?
 
What is news? It is a way to communicate to the masses “Information about something that has happened”. Was there ever a time when News did not exist? Probably not. We have read about how messengers would give information about whatever happened in the region and in neighbouring regions, to the king and courtiers of that region. We have also read about how messengers from various kings would carry messages to other kings and deliver such messages openly in the court or privately to the king. All this is a form of news as it exists today too. But in India at least, there is a major difference between the past and the present. In the past, the role of a messenger (dhoot) was considered extremely sacred and no one would question his integrity or purpose. He was treated with extreme respect. The messenger too would convey his message with utmost respect or disdain (depending on what had to be conveyed) but would definitely be conveying the message with complete honesty.
 
For a journalist, ethics would mean giving correct news without colouring it with his/her impressions. For an entertainer, ethics would mean giving full entertainment to the spectator without indoctrinating him/her to hating anyone
 
What about entertainment and entertainers? Bharat has a long history and tradition of art forms. Natya Shastra goes back all the way to Mahadev or Shiva. It has been given the respect of being called the Pancham Veda (the fifth Veda). This obviously means that the entertainers too were treated as special. The performers would be trained for years before they set their foot on the stage to perform a play or a dance or any other art form. Chanakya in his Arthshastra gave special importance to Ganikas or entertainers. They were highly paid, perfect in their art and would give utmost satisfaction to their customers. But they were also fined heavily if they did not satisfy their customers. And they were very patriotic and were expected to work for the benefit of the Nation, if such a situation arose. Some of them were trained spies, whose integrity to the Rajya (Nation) could never be questioned.
 
Ethics is a beautiful word which is actually a set of beliefs about what is right and acceptable in society. So for a doctor, ethics could mean giving the best treatment to the ill irrespective of whether he/she is able to pay the professional fees. For a marketer, ethics would mean giving the best quality at the most reasonable rate. For a Judge, ethics would mean giving justice impartially. For a policeman, ethics would mean not to use his/her power or position to frame an innocent. For a journalist, ethics would mean giving correct news without colouring it with his/her impressions. For an entertainer, ethics would mean giving full entertainment to the spectator without indoctrinating him/her to hating anyone.
 
It would be interesting if someone were to make a study on how the Media and the Entertainment industry worked towards destroying ethics in their respective industries, without having a backlash at all for many years after we got independence from the British rule. While we cannot say that they worked in tandem, one cannot rule out the fact that neither the Media exposed the Entertainment industry, nor did the Entertainment sector ever question seriously the Media via their medium (except maybe in a couple of flop films). Both industries being pally is a well-known fact, blatantly visible when we see the mutual respect and admiration, especially during Awards season. In fact, many media houses have their own version of Film awards given out. Not just that, favourable film reviews are published in newspapers to boost the ticket sales of the films. Widespread criticism by the viewers ended up with film reviews now being taken with a pinch of salt.
 

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There is another similarity which is very striking. Both industries worked towards destroying the cultural fabric of this Nation, while making us feel that they were both protecting the Ganga-JamuniTehzeeb of this Nation. Repeatedly, the Media and the Cinema industry (even theatre arts) held only Sanatan Dharma and its followers (Hindus) as sexist, casteists, rapists, being regressive, superstitious, dacoits, imposing Brahminical Patriarchy, terrorists, being intolerant, traitors and more. It would be difficult to find people from other religions shown as being rude or murderous, even if they were shown as criminals (Zanjeer), smugglers (Raees) or thieves, etc. The number of times “Times of India” a leading newspaper, showed the criminal as a Hindu Sanyasi in the heading or accompanying cartoon, to a piece of news talking about a Muslim criminal, is cringe-worthy. Other newspapers too boldly publish fake news about Hindu miscreants, mobs, etc. without any remorse for reasons best known to them. Actual news about why the Godhra Riots actually started or why Graham Steines was actually killed or who caused the Kashmiri Hindu Genocide are information that came to light, mainly only after the Internet revolution. For years now, the onus on preserving the cultural fabric of the Nation has been only on the Hindus, thanks to these fake money-spinning artists of the Media and the Entertainment industry.
 

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Believe it or not, Vulture Journalism or Vulture Entertainment too are proud offsprings of the above two industries. Let there be a serious crime, especially of a political nature – both Films and Media look at it as an attention grabber and money-spinner. It is not about giving information, it is about making money out of it. I wonder sometimes if it would be politically incorrect to say that the Media industry makes more money out of Suppressing or Blowing up a Crime than it makes out of Advertisements. Same with Films. If there is a tragedy, there’s a film to be made on it. The gorier the crime, the better is the sale of tickets. Politicians can be faulted with vulture tourism – but who is it who is there with the cameras and mics before the politicians have arrived? Why should they not stick to Ethics and give the news as it is instead of taking sides?
 
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Media and Films have today become so powerful a medium that they have reached the limits of corruption too. Honchos of both the industries today feel that they can sway public opinion to destroy the Nation. That is why you find film actors and journalists present and taking sides when it comes to “Break India” or the Tukde-tukde gangs, the Shaheenbaugs, the criticism of the Armed forces, the praising of the Freedom of expression of the Naxalites and Communists, the protection of the actual terrorists, the praising of the fraud Activists and more. When these corrupt, powerful people are questioned by others, they feel that their position is threatened and they put up a flurry of cases in court or put out cleverly worded statements questioning the questioners.
 
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Media and Films have today become so powerful a medium that they have reached the limits of corruption too. Honchos of both the industries today feel that they can sway public opinion to destroy the Nation. 
Recently when a relatively new Media house and its owner questioned the death of a film star and the rampant use of drugs by film stars and starlets, some other media houses ganged up to question this vocal journalist instead of questioning the chain of events. One even went further to give a clean chit and try and evoke compassion for the girlfriend of the late hero. This bizarre turn of events did not stop there … it continued in the form of a vindictive campaign against the new Media channel when an alleged rape took place in Uttar Pradesh. An old political party which is struggling for existence jumped into the fray and went all out to use its ‘eco-system’ to harass the Media channel honcho. If all this was not enough, stars of the Hindi film industry who were embarrassed that their dark secrets were now out in the open, put up a case against this News channel and its Head questioning his freedom to expose them. Say what?! The film industry were the leaders in talking bad about Hindu priests, politicians, judges, policemen, teachers, businessmen, protective fathers, women, doctors, everyone who was doing their job – but question them about their immoral activities and they want to go to court! How’s that?
 
Today, with factual information being available on the Net, there is no reason one should support these fake, con artists masquerading as Journalists or Heroes. It is time they mend their ways and struggle to get back the dignity they commanded in the past in our country. Let them present news as it happened without passing judgments on it and present entertainment without indoctrinating our masses slyly. A word to our Government too – in the past, the rulers punished false messengers and bad entertainers very strictly. Traitors too were punished immediately and strictly. All these restricted unethical activities. It is time the present Government took steps to restrict the flow of fake news and unbridled indoctrination. It is no longer an option, it is a necessity.
 
(The writer is a Mumbai based Columnist)