Saturday, November 8, 2008

Squeeze the rags

The cardinal rule of journalism is to be accurate in reporting a news story. There is no more imperative and pressing principle that defines and distinguishes credible journalism from all other forms of so-called ‘news.’

In an age of competing news sources, the pressure on reporting breaking news and events has perhaps never been greater; there’s an understandable desire among individual journalists and news outlets alike to be ‘the first to break a news story.’

However, such pressure to ‘be the first’ – which can on occasion understandably cause one to be inadvertently careless in checking one’s sources and confirming one’s facts is a far cry indeed from situations in which there is a blatant disregard for the accuracy of the information being reported. Such latter situations have no resemblance to what is commonly known as journalism. As a matter of fact, reports lacking in accuracy or objectivity are typically regarded as propaganda – not journalism. Unlike journalism, the central objective of propaganda is first and foremost, to manipulate public opinion for certain specific predetermined ends. Such propaganda type publications are – in street parlance, ultimately, merely - rags. Such rags are indeed a far cry from being credible news reporting outlets.

It seems abundantly clear that there are not only some electronic media but print media as well, which continue to masquerade as practising legitimate journalism when in fact these media are nothing but rags. Such rags do a thorough disservice to the public and make a mockery of the concept of journalism or a free press. They function in the guise of being news outlets but fundamentally serve to deliberately miss-inform by ensuring that a pre-scripted message, the message of the powers that be, is ultimately legitimated in the public’s consciousness.  But beyond that, the propaganda also seeks to affirm to the wider public agenda of the establishment. Therefore, these so called news outlets and propagandists who enable the manipulation of public opinion ultimately seek to serve certain political masters. In the process, the propagandists are preoccupied with just one thing: managing information to ensure the political supremacy of their masters.  Simply put, the rags enrich and legitimate the political establishment.

Over the recent past, I have been struck by the frequency and level of criticism of the regime’s controlled propaganda media. I can’t help but wonder that it’s about time we the consumers stopped complaining about these rags and started showing our disgust for them by not consciously or inadvertently enabling and enriching them through our patronage of such propaganda outlets.   

There are many ways by which we as consumers of news can challenge such manipulation of information by a self-serving establishment. But arguably, there is no more effective way to undermine the establishment's propaganda than in tuning out and tuning off the rags – both the electronic and non-electronic ones. We, the public conscience, need to more firmly express our disapproval of the manipulation we’ve routinely and persistently been subjected to through these rags.

Quite simply, it is futile to try and overcome political manipulation and propaganda when one is simultaneously enabling it. Be an agent of change, be an agent reform - start boycotting the regime’s propaganda machines. It’s the best thing we can do, under the circumstances, to register our disgust for the manipulation and propaganda we’re subjected to.        

G. Krishnan