A journalist is basically a person who reports things which happen locally, nationally and globally to the public. What the journalist puts down first is what is called as the first draft of history and hence he is the primary historian. Historians constantly blend news which finally becomes part of it. News is news only if it is credible and believed. SIDE always influences the way in which events are recorded. Selection, Interpretation, Distortion and Emphasis.
Media which has existed from the beginning has two functions:
1. Mirroring society
2. Setting agenda
Mirroring society means faithfully reporting events as they unfold. Eg. The Twin tower attacks. Media setting agenda has to do with the social responsibility. We see that the 20th and 21st century mass media journalistic practices falsely produced history which created consequences and chains of events which otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.
1. Power of media
When you pick up the newspaper or put on the TV do you see what you want to read or see or do you see what the media people want you to see? Commercialization is used by the media to twist the actual event and the final intention is to mislead the public. For eg. When the newsperson says that 4 terrorists were shot dead by the army at the border, we do really believe that it happened because we have no other means of checking whether it truly happened. TV enjoys a de facto monopoly on what goes into the heads of the public and what they think. The hidden agendas of the media often prevent the audience from understanding the true meaning of an event that has taken place.
2. World War I and Cold War
From the beginning, the World War I has been seen as a commercial operation by Karl Krauss which was desired and run by those who could profit by it. To make the unacceptable acceptable the journalists of that time told lies. The entry of the media into the picture meant the death of the public imagination and their confusion through the commercialization of language for purposes of cheating, control and profit. Many negative events that occur are shown as something positive and it acts as an advertisement for the company.
The misleading term ‘Cold War’ was invented by a Western journalist. This term has been used to cover up a series of actual hot wars where millions were killed. The use of this term actually distracted media audiences from the really important issues. A children’s comic strip named ‘Tintin in the land of the Soviets’ came out during this time which was used as propaganda against the USSR. This story made the Western citizens convinced that they had to either agree with or at least consent to it and remain passive. To give an Indian example let us take the ‘Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan’. The way it is portrayed by the media, it appears as if all the roads and buildings have been cleant. So also the mythical heroes which are portrayed in the cartoons like Chhota Bheem, Ramayana and others, it leaves a deep impact on the minds of those watching it (especially children).
3. Rise of Fascism and the ‘Fall’ of Berlin Wall
The way we look at the world depends on the way in which media presents it to us. The mass murder at Auschwitz was possible because of the mass murder of language which took place in the media. The press is an event creating, death bringing organization of moral and spiritual irresponsibility which by means of the fascination of the printed word is able to divert attention from the danger it represents says Krauss. Mr. Narendra Modi, the one because of whom the Gujarat riots took place, won the elections because he was shown as the new face of change (Acche din aane waale hein) in the media. Since it was constantly repeated on news channels and in the newspapers it entered in the minds of people who eventually ended up voting for him, thinking that he truly would be the change that they wanted to see.
The Berlin Wall event was witnessed by thousands who were at the spot and by millions across the world on TV however a distorted image was immediately created in favor of the power elites like West Germany and USA which remains fixed in popular memory. This story said that the East German people rose up against their dictatorial government and stormed the Berlin Wall. What actually happened was the result of the USA dominated global geopolitics.
4. War in the Balkans and 9/11
In the TV report on how the media handled the war in the Balkans which is in south Eastern Europe, the audience was deprived of the truth. Through all that was said the audience didn’t know how many deaths were caused by the person who was giving the information on the war. The economic reason was that the people would turn off the TV if the reality of the war was shown. The political reason was that the people would immediately turn against a war if it was shown in the real sense. This would lead to less sales of the leading arms manufacturing and exporting countries namely USA and UK.
The 9/ 11 event was shown as a conflict between good and evil to which the BBC lent itself as a mouthpiece for US propaganda. The programs led the people to accept that military action in Iraq was justified. The war was presented in such a way that it appeared as a continuing ‘war on terrorism’ and that Iraq was the ‘axis of evil’. Only after thousands were slaughtered and many others were injured i.e. the ‘liberation of Iraq’ that the true story was revealed (the deception of the public by its leaders). Barkha Dutt a well-known journalist who was reporting the 26/ 11 attacks frequently said ‘The Taj, the icon of India is under attack.’ All of us very well know that the Taj is not the icon of India. To add to it, there was hardly any mention about VT station where thousands were killed.
As we have seen and heard, media has a massive role to play in informing, educating and entertaining the public, all the more in a democracy. Media can be used by people in power to promote their point of view or to show something that is not true. Good people can be made villains and those with a criminal history can be portrayed as saviors of a nation or as the new face of change by the media. Aleksandar Zograf, the one who survived the bombs in the Balkans gives a wonderful insight: “I should say again and again, that we are living in a savage world, hiding behind the happy face of mass communication.” I would like to end by saying that we need to accept the things that are portrayed by the media always with a pinch of salt and a critical mindset.