Why Kejriwal isn’t wrong on media
The ‘thin skin’ of news media, including the television, print and new media, is on ample display. After the overreaction to Arvind Kejriwal’s scathing criticism of media, and taking umbrage to his justified comments on vested interests driving the news industry, the fault lines laying bare the biases and prejudices within the sector are out in the open. In fact, the virulence with which mainstream media has been going after Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party, dubbing it an anarchic organisation devoid of any ideological core, demonstrates how big media corners and excludes political formations and phenomena that are antagonistic to its entrenched pro-establishment stance. With a number of high-profile sackings within major media houses, obviously dictated by the overt conflict between the management and editorial preferences, media now stands exposed as an ideological state apparatus of not just the nation-state, but in fact the corporation-state. That Kejriwal has put his finger on the ‘legitimate and long overdue’ criticism of media and that it rides on the growing disenchantment with the fourth estate, is a fact that many within the newshouses are still disinclined to embrace. Media, much like the political fraternity, has metamorphosed from a robust and sprawling space of public debates, intellectual arguments and policy discourses, to one which is utterly and dangerously circumscribed by corporate money and open political leanings, nipping the analyses in the bud. Well thought-out and reasoned arguments are almost absent in this age of hyperbole and instant punditry, with not just coverage, but also opinions and surveys being suitably bought off and re-presented according to industry diktats.
Hence, it must not be forgotten that Kejriwal’s overstatement has not just a grain, but a sea of truth in their allegations. With revered commentators already lamenting the fact that big media is simply infotainment run by giant corporate houses, particularly one that has stakes in almost every segment of industrial sector, newsstream has become a river of fabrications, half-truths and about manufacturing of reality to benefit the political and business elite. In fact, unfortunately for the print media, it allows television channels to set the agenda, while the latter thrive on dilution and shrillness of debates that have been suitably shorn of wider voices, and kept alive only by the rise and fall of TRPs. The much-touted ‘newshours’ and ‘prime time debates’, despite their pretentions of being informed dialogues on issues, are effectively elaborate performances bordering, more often than not, on hyperventilating news anchors taking yellow journalism to newer heights. Pointed and piercing questions, nevertheless, linger in their conspicuous absence, while the ‘momentous and momentary’ flux of the newsstream makes a virtue of amnesia. Lacking a historical perspective and utterly unmoored in a solid matrix of political praxis, news becomes a ‘feed’, never a threat to the embedded ‘deep state’ that stays intact, irrespective of who’s occupying the seat of power. Instead of lampooning Kejriwal, it would do media some good to look into its own face in the mirror for once.