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Media or Social Media – Which is the Greater Evil?

In very recent times, the social media has been abuzz with the undoing or misdoings of the Media in the aftermath of coverage by it of Sushant Singh Rajput’s mysterious and unfortunate untimely death. I came to know the true character of the media only about a decade back when I had firsthand experience of interacting with it after I went public in exposing annual loss of approximately Rs 5000 crores through cartels in railway procurement. Till then, like any naïve citizen, I used to think very highly of the media, considering it to be the true conscience keeper for the society. There is nothing like firsthand interaction for making you know what is what!

Today the true character of the media lies totally exposed more or less – to the common man. It is another matter that the media still continues with its business as unabashedly as ever, because the common man knowing its evil character and designs still continues to be influenced by it. Not only common man, it applies to the intelligentsia of the society, probably more so. It is how one of the top known international thinkers, Yuval Noah Harari, very precisely and incisively summed up the working of the present day global media through his published interview in TOI about a year back:

Today we suffer from too much information, so people are too distracted to investigate the truth. There are so many things competing for our attention that our attention itself becomes a scarce resource. The struggle to capture people’s attention has resulted in a destructive model for the news industry: “exciting news that cost you nothing—in exchange for your attention”. Our attention is captured by sensational headlines, and is then sold to advertisers and politicians. In this battle for attention, there is little incentive to safeguard the truth. 

You might think that you are nevertheless getting a good bargain here. You don’t have to pay anything, and you are entertained with interesting stories. But, in fact, you are not the customer at all, you are the product. You are being sold. You are giving up your most valuable asset—your attention—and you allow powerful corporations and politicians to brainwash you. That’s crazy…..

One will have to think over a little to assimilate the meaning of these words. I find the greatest manifestation of total degeneration and degradation of the Media currently, hardly anyone excluded, in the way it continues to sell the fraudulent and scripted cricket to the masses as a competitive sport, shedding all the shame, even though the true character of cricket lies exposed, proven, and known to the media for last many years. Books can be written on how Media today is holding the people to ransom. But let us close on it by summarizing that whatever media has accused anyone ever of, viz. being irresponsible, crook, shameless, idiot, arrogant, hypocrite, fool, rogue, liar, etc., applies to it first and foremost, applies to most of its editors and journalists.

Let us now see how social media compares. Is it better or worse? To understand this one should think about the posts one comes across on social media and contemplate a bit about those. Most of the posts on Whatsapp are forwards. Most of these forwards are either words of wisdom with or without good morning messages that those forwarding feel the least inclined to follow, or doings/creations of the propaganda industry that easily permeate through most of the Whatsapp groups. The intellectuals on twitter start talking of whatever media takes up, pointing fingers at media  at times and yet being driven by it like puppets, unknowingly (may please read Harari’s take once again). And Whatsapp groups follow suit. Everyone on social media appears to be governed by fixed minds or set agenda, finding fulfillment in pointing fingers at others, at this or that.

A critical, objective thinking appears to have become a forgotten commodity both in media and in social media. Only the other day, someone pointed out to me that number of likes on Facebook were to decide the validity of what was being said. Even though Facebook is somewhat different than Twitter and Whatsapp. Mostly people use this platform to share their personal space with friends, and feel happy to receive many likes. Nothing wrong in that. But there are groups there also, many for discussions on specific topics.

Now let us try to broadly see what is happening in social media as a whole. If Media is continuing to market the biggest ever Indian scam called IPL, as none other than Bishen Singh Bedi said two years ago, is social media feeling any concern about it? There are a few, number pleasantly increasing, who are now expressing concern. But largely people remain ignorant, because media has assiduously been hiding this truth from the masses. There is still a sizable number of people who vaguely know that IPL matches are fixed, not knowing the extent and implications. They also are mostly unconcerned, rather happy to celebrate the excitement of the thrilling fixed matches, made up last ball finishes and ties, since it titillates them. They are same people who will ransack hospitals if something untoward happened to their near and dears by some mistake or perceived mistake by a doctor! Either they are ignorant or not concerned that what titillates them loots tens of millions of addicted bettors across the globe or aids terror funding in a big way. I cite this just an example to highlight that social media that blames even the media that blames all the institutions, is hardly any better.

None other than you and I constitute the social media that can be the pillar of democracy. But today it is more a platform for bickering, not for creating synergy for the common good. Mostly people try to show off, not trying to achieve. I consider social media to be more powerful than media today. But unfortunately it is no better than media, if not worse. Which of the two is the greater evil? Both media and social media appear to be competing for same.

But democracy will have to find ways to survive and win. Will platforms like Voice of Margin provide that way? Only time will tell.

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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