When information turns into leisure
In America one can watch tv for hours on finish. Their format of turning actual life occasions into leisure has spawned a complete sphere of actuality TV, a peek right into a world which we’re in any other case not a part of, the wicked world of the legal or the glamorous world of the wealthy and exquisite, all the higher in the event that they by some means coincide. Reworking information into leisure the place the main focus isn’t on points of presidency coverage or holding individuals accountable, the place the intent is simply to get one of the best scores, and pander to the bottom widespread denominator, is what finally led to America electing a actuality TV star because the president, irrespective of how unsuited for the job he’s.
With the appearance of Star TV within the Nineties, Indians eventually encountered a format totally different to what, till then, the understated Doordarshan had provided. Since then Indian tv has relentlessly pursued the American mannequin the place scores or TRPs which measure market share of the viewers is the defining parameter for what will get aired. This summer time, the aggressive American format of reporting and the boredom that Covid-19 lockdown engendered, created an ideal storm of Indian media sensationalism.
The suicide of a promising however overshadowed actor, Sushant Singh Rajput led to an outpouring of grief because it generally occurs when an surprising occasion results in a nationwide catharsis. There was a lot soul-searching about how Bollywood’s nepotism and inherent narcissism made the business tone-deaf to particular person struggling. By some means, inside days, pushed by Twitter rage, it was determined that Bollywood needed to atone for its sins. However how may a whole business be dropped at justice? Febrile feelings had been ripe for conspiracy theories to germinate, and so they did—SSR didn’t die by suicide however was in actual fact murdered.
Not surprisingly a girl, SSR’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, was provided up because the sacrificial lamb to satiate the general public. What may very well be extra handy to whet the general public urge for food than a younger lady—the unique virgin sacrifice. Nothing was deemed unscrupulous within the public shaming of Rhea. India’s media homes swung into motion; no proof was required, simply the limitless creativeness of TV anchors to spin tales, to concoct motives which ranged from having killed him for his cash to having poisoned him with medicine. On this nice circus tent, different keen businesses had been co-opted—the police, the Narcotics Management Bureau (NCB), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the CBI pursued the case with all of the zeal required for convicting mafia dons and serial murderers. Nothing was to be off limits. Her personal textual content messages may very well be leaked to media homes to be aired publicly (nobody was ever held accountable for these leaks) her funds trawled by way of, her dwelling looked for medicine, her whole life turned to chaos. Regardless of the dearth of proof connecting her to SSR’s suicide, finally she was charged on a laughable drug-related offence. The online then widened to incorporate different Bollywood stars as a result of a narrative dropping steam needed to be revived, and a technique or one other Bollywood, the golden business, self-reliant, self-absorbed, and an individualist organism which doesn’t bow to the whims of the collective, nonetheless needed to be taught a lesson.
The worst dictators and authoritarian governments in historical past have all the time swum splendidly within the sump of propaganda equipment they create and commandeer. In democracies, it’s tough to co-opt the free media however it’s not past the realm of chance to infiltrate it. In America, Fox New is the channel of Conservative get together propaganda. In India, equally, TV channels have sprung up which might distort information and distract the nation from the problems at hand to serve get together pursuits. It’s appalling that whereas the nation is going through a pandemic, a devastated economic system, and assaults on its geographical frontiers, even the nation’s prime newspapers spent their time specializing in the SSR-Rhea case.
Keep in mind, the general public that watches hours of protection on a ridiculous case of trumped up allegations is similar uninformed public which exhibits up on the voting sales space to elect the nation’s leaders. How simple it’s for political events to hyperlink to some jingoistic rhetoric and switch that into votes on the polling station. The SSR-Rhea case was underpinned by tensions between Mumbai’s tenuous Shiv Sena coalition authorities and the all the time aspiring BJP ready within the wings, its propaganda equipment in over-drive. There’s ample proof that faux social media accounts had been utilized by political events to push conspiracy theories and heighten public feelings.
But when we disregard the position politics needed to play on this debacle what does it say concerning the Indian collective consciousness which doesn’t really feel regret for his or her unabashed glee in looking down a susceptible lady, making her personal life public, imprisoning her, destroying her life, and even when introduced with proof on the contrary, that Sushant Singh Rajput did certainly die by suicide, nonetheless insist that she needs to be made to pay. What does this bloodthirst say about Indians?
It’s true, whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad. We’re present process an odd kind of insanity in our occasions. The insanity of believing every part we learn on social media or worse nonetheless the insanity of believing every part that confirms our personal bias. It’s really easy to unfold insanity by way of WhatsApp forwards and Fb posts, a insanity that may destroy us all.
(The author is the writer of Goan Pioneers of East Africa)