So you watch an episode of Roadies and you think it is all true, notwithstanding the eerie coincidence that the gender ratio among the participants always seems to remain stable, and that each participant seems to portray a unique character, like they would in a perfectly-scripted soap opera? Or do you read an communal-bashing editorial and believe that the party the writer supports is actually secular? Worse, do you watch a news item which blames the state of Pakistan for the entirety of the Kashmir problem, and take that to be the truth? If you do, then you might be making a mistake, for the truth is far from what we are told. Mass media have always been known to be biased, but the mass media of today are more lopsided than biased, frequently touching the limits of incredulity and often bordering on fantasy.
Television, now this is one thing I’d devote one half of my text to if I were to write a book titled Absurdia. I simply do not understand its relevance in today’s world. I mean, there is so much we can do to spend our time and have fun while we’re at it, but we prefer to sit in front of a screen which shows nothing but illusions, and we amuse ourselves by imagining the illusions to be reality. Many people see their real world as illusions these days, which is evident in the way they try to emulate what they see on the tube, often with distasteful results. Even the news channels have joined the bandwagon, preferring to delve into the private lives of film stars (who sleeps with whom and who has to satisfy himself because he has nobody to sleep with) and crimes, especially rape, because sex sells, baby. It would make some sense if they spread awareness about crime, but they simply make an entertaining piece out of someone’s agony, be it a murder or 26/11. Bravo.
Coming to newspapers, the so-called mouthpiece of the erudite. Gone are the days when newspapers played a pivotal role in the freedom struggle, and had radicals at their helm. In our time we have seen the rise of the tabloid, the newspaper that so isn’t. Worse than that, all newspapers that claim to be free from sensationalism (the genre that tabloids have mastered) seem to have some tabloid-like tendencies. Though they are far more reliable than the television for giving you a view of the world outside your window, they remain biased towards certain political factions, and since most of us only read a single newspaper, we usually end up with a distorted view of the world. If of late you’ve been reading the Outlook, for example, there is a good chance that you’re convinced Varun Gandhi is worse than Masood Azhar. And though they themselves will deny it, all newspapers are controlled, at some level, by the powers behind the curtain, the details of which I shall address via another post soon.
So how can we counter this rapidly-advancing world of illusions that is threatening to encroach into every part of our existence? How do we get to know what we want to know, rather than what is presented to us? The answer is simple: the internet. The reason why I say this is simple: on the internet, there are no boundaries or regulations. You can find different versions of the same story, say, the views of the Pakistan press about the Mumbai incident. Or maybe, about the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal from the American viewpoint. In a way, you can verify the truth about the world around you while checking your mail. And sites like Wikipedia go a long way to establish the credibility of the world wide web. But the much of this credbility stems from the selectivity of the internet, enabling us to choose what we wish to know, rather than having skewed knowledge dumped upon us.
The established mass media have created a virtual blindfold, making us slaves to the directions they provide. It is high time we tore off this handicap, and tried to search the truth ourselves. It is time we realized that Roadies is not reality but a cooked-up show, that the secular parties only consider Muslims (and not Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains and Parsis as a whole) as a minority and ignore them as soon as elections are over, and that our BSF’s frequent human rights violations are partially responsible for the present situation in Kashmir. For if we don’t, we will be soon living in a second dark age, oblivious to the real world, and lost in our own illusions. Your choice, your call.