Imagine it was 1800 AD and a Danish cartoonist depicts Mohammed in his cartoons. Would the Islamic world have known about it? And how long would it have taken to know about it? And if some people got to know about it would they have been able to rally the whole of Islamic world to agitate against this?
The present day media, consisting of live reports 24 by 7, detailed documentaries, regular news broadcasted on TV, internet that connects the world, people and their opinions on an unprecedented scale, transparent press, is entering our lives unhindered and uncensored on a daily basis. In an instant, we know if France has banned scarves in their schools and we watch this event as it unfolds on a daily basis. Now, we know if a remote town in Oregon has put up toilet seats with pictures of Hindu Gods. The news is beamed to all homes in India (and elsewhere on the planet) on primetime.
Different civilizations on this planet are exposed to the same media content but in reality each of these civilizations hasn’t matured along the same lines and hence we see different reactions to the same
Right after WWI, seeing the impact the media and news coverage has on the swaying opinions of the masses, it was clear that this new tool had a very big role to play. America, a constitutional democracy, consistently uses media to manufacture public opinion to wage it wars. However, the long tradition of media with necessary checks and balances in these countries has a maturing effect on its people – not that it is a permanent one.
The populations in the West do not go to streets the minute they see an American flag being burnt in a remote town in Palestine. They do not get onto streets to protest against Da Vinci Code though it targets at the fundamentals of its religion. However, the same movie raises massive protests in other parts of the world, such as in India, Philippines, etc, where the movie is eventually banned. Here, we can see the clear difference in maturities of different civilizations. Not all of us are at the same maturity level when it comes to dealing with international events as they unfold before us.
This particular point, that we have different temperaments and maturity levels, is completely missed out by local media. In an attempt to ape the West and their media, these local media people ignore the maturities and sensibilities of local populations and instead put them through same exposure as the West resulting in completely unexpected reactions from the people.
Indian people were not exposed to this kind of media content on such a massive and transparent scale even few years ago. It all started quite recently and we have already reached the exposure levels of West within a short period of time. While the media has gone an exponential acceleration in this country, the culture and maturity level has not. Indian mindset is still set in 16th Century while being exposed to the information content of the 20th Century.
We have not got our reformations, we have not got our scientific revolutions, we have not got out Age of Reason, Age of Logic, we have not got our Industrial Revolutions, and we have not got our Age of Enlightenment. We are still a superstitious, blind belief-led, orthodox culture set in Middle Ages of Europe, with heavy doses of religious ignorance and antagonism, with feudal mindset and heavy casteist divisions, but watching the events as they unfold in remotest corners of the earth along with much mature civilizations.
The media blindly aping the West is not just suitable to Indians or many other civilizations. Most Indians media play the role of relayer of information but do not take pains to explain it. For example, in a recent episode of hike in fuel prices, the media sounded shenanigans and spelled the doom for the consumer but did not take pains to explain how the soaring prices in the world market could have influenced it. Such irresponsible behavior can cause lot of turmoil.
On a daily basis the untrained Indian audience, which applies to audience in most post-colonial emerging nations, is witnessing the conflicts arising in remote corners as they are relayed without being prepped up. An Indian who is used to considering legs as filthy and impure watching someone in the West wearing sandals with pictures of Indian gods would be completely shocked. Such information does not make his life better. In fact, it had made it worse. He is not used to seeing it in his daily life, and with his limited exposure to his surroundings where legs are given their lowest place in the hierarchy of things, this sacrilege doesn’t go well. However, if the media wants to play a constructive role, it can precede the news items with how cultures differ in their view of feet and why West does not think feet to be impure. That explanation may help. However, it is starkly missing. Instead, jingoism is used while breast-beating young journalists foment hatred by showing the footage in such a light so as to elicit more antagonism and not understanding.
Some of us may be stumped to see why a remote town in Lebanon protests Danish Cartoons of Mohammed. How come similar caricatures of Jesus Christ in a town in Bangladesh go unnoticed by the West? How come Indian Hindus run to the nearest deity of Ganesha to see it drink milk, while all such miracles in the West are news items in a tabloid read by a whimsical few?
Danish Cartoons united the whole Muslim world to rally against Danish citizens and it embassies and launch major protests across the world. In near future, we will see more such events which will trigger even massive conflicts, civil wars, local wars, international wars, etc. Unless the media plays a constructive role, it can actually trigger conflicts as is the case in the USA where war is actually brought on by the media.
The idea of this article is not to regulate or control the media, or to accelerate the maturities of civilizations, but to agree that we have an issue at hand, a factor which we should not ignore when we broadcast various conflicts.
Example from Indian Context
Let me give an innocent example on how aping West in does not seem to make sense. During the Da Vinci Code episode, CNN-IBN ran a week long program called ‘Sacred Feminine’. These TV anchors just took the phrase aping the West and started to push it into India not knowing how and where it applies.
Sacred Feminine comes as a challenge to chu
Sacred Feminine of Da Vinci Code challenges the theocracy and religion to introduce role of a woman as an equal partner. That has no relevance in India because a woman is already an equal partner in religion. This topic has to be dealt exactly opposite if it has to be applied in India. One has to challenge the existing socio-political structure while celebrating the sacred woman already depicted in Indian Scriptures.
Our media is immature too. Just to create