Monday, January 25, 2021

How privileged classes' false narrative is bought by middle-class and the poor through media manipulation


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

How it happens that if there is a talk about subsidy for farmers or support to poor or any weaker section, these steps are seen as giving freebies and a narrative of 'our things snatched and given to them' is created.

We know how rich countries like US, France and others heavily subsidise farming. That here too everyone is a tax payer, there is tax on everything from petrol to the matchbox is known. 

Yet, it is claimed that 'we' suffer due to taxes and poor don't pay and just get the privileges. 

1. It is a complex thing. To understand this a bit backgrounder is necessary. In our society, there has been a traditional contempt for working class, strong belief among privileged who are themselves pampered but manage to create perception that poor are getting away with too much, that they are appeased and get away with a lot. 

2. Certain groups are 'otherised'. Just that who are the 'others', it keeps changing. Vernacular papers role has been crucial in creating this system and doing it in such a way that the middle-class and the lower-middle class too comes round to this idea. 

3. The opinions are created in cities [capitals], towns that run [and represent] the states. Sense of equality, what basic things every one is entitled, even this is misrepresented. So, those living in slum clusters are seen as land encroachers, getting free electricity et al. 

4. Those earning 10,000 or 12,000 or even 7,000--they all want to feel they are middle class, as it is cleverly linked to a person's ego and self-respect. These fake pride that stops him from building solidarity with someone like him or be sensitive. 

He doesn't want to feel that he is a 'lower middle-class' person or that his family is poor, just like in terms of popular vocabulary no one wants to claim backwardness at a personal level.

5. Different sections of similar economic background are pitted against each other, made to feel like 'others'. Then, the religious, regional and caste aspects also come and it becomes easy for newspapers to play this game.

6. If there is suffering, blame just another group, someone like your own. The unique system, not expecting people whom you elect to do a thing, but just shift blame on another section amongst us, has been working for decades now. Newspapers are run by barons and they represent interests of the elite.

7. Hence, they push narrative. The poor who consider these papers to speak about their issues, believe them. For example, newspaper can say outsiders in this city are taking 'our jobs'. It differs from state to state, people from a region, Biharis or any section, can be blamed. 

When one group is poor but doesn't want to accept that it is poor, looks at another similar group as not its own, and there is no solidarity or feeling that they too need support, the society can never become just. 

8. Papers play clever role how opinion shaped or society consciousness about issues is kept under check. People want to believe that they are middle class, even if they are really poor, but the deep urge to feel that we better than the 'rest', and 'we haven't done badly in life', keeps you hooked to these papers. 

9. You draw a satisfaction from this and believe that you are entitled to more but not doing as good as you deserved, because of these--'others', any class similar to one self. We always find someone to blame. Because we are and were always great.

10. The moment few crimes take place, papers write on their own that 'outsiders to be blamed' though reporters, most staff came to region from other state a few years ago, and as if outsiders are devils and locals are angels though no definition of local- 20, 30, 50 yrs! 

Yet, they create this perception and that's how it continues, always. 

Photo--Mr Yogendra Singh. Pexels

Sunday, January 24, 2021

COURAGEOUS: Joe Biden's comments on threat from domestic terror show pragmatism, hope


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Joe Biden's comments on the threat from domestic extremism and terror must be welcomed. 
These are truly historic because it needs strong conviction and bravery to speak up against 'majoritarian sentiment'. 
Also, this is courageous because even acknowledging it is tough. Generally, the majority population feels* 'it is nation'.
This is true in most countries of the world. The majority doesn't want to own up faults, in fact, it never likes to be told that there are people or a segment in it that are responsible for the mess.
It, instead, tends to blame 'other, outsider'. But when you are in a mess, you need to redress the issues. Solution requires introspection, being fair, tough and even straightforward to the point that your own people may get irked.
Compare it with other countries where people, leaders won't even accept that there is any problem. 'Right-wing' is considered a representative of the main stream. Media that is not inclusive, generally, also pushes the ultra right-wing majoritarian narrative. Shifting a problem, hiding it by blaming others, letting it worsen is what they know.
To accept that there're issues with 'us' is a really brave thing in our times. It shows the maturity of United States of America. In post-Trump era, especially, the mob violence at Capitol Hill, it was necessary to speak up. 
However, for too long, the issue of 'domestic terrorism' was not taken as seriously. This is true in other countries as well. The core problem is diverted or ignored. However, petty things are brought up, instead resolving the real problem. [The photograph shows the lead, headline on front page of Times of India, Mr Chidanand Rajghatta's report]
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*The feeling among majority that 'we truly represent the nation' is due to right-wing narrative pushed by TV, newspapers and media that are not as inclusive. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

How media hides names of criminals belonging to one religion but splashes when suspects belong to another faith

 


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

It's sad that I have to write but we need to talk about it. 

It is a dark chapter in the annals of Indian journalism. 

This brutal gang rape took place in MP, iron rod was inserted. It's not that the names of the accused are not known. 

Most papers didn't publish them. English papers also didn't carry. Neither did portals, agencies.

If not first day, in follow-up you can write. But if a system has been internally devised when to publish names & photos in a big way, and when 'not'. One NBT report mentions a bit. Read carefully and you'll find, one of the accused's profession and you may realise. 

The second report below, just in one paper, had two names in the last line. Otherwise English papers and portals too ranging from Times Of India to India Today, Hindi newspapers, all concealed the names. 

Earlier papers had 'style sheets', that had to be adhered in reporting & writing. Not now but an unwritten code. Of the 10 cases, find the one that 'suits' agenda and then go all guns blazing. Not just accused, target everything, get houses razed. Else, keep mum.

Such level of deep shit that you can't even discuss. There are people who straight come from wings of the organisation that wants to propagate falsehoods, create a narrative that 'criminals' are only of one kind & 'we' can't be bad. They are in newsrooms, affect others' thinking.

Each day, they have worked like maniacs on the ground, whichever newsroom they entered, they ensured that even after they leave, it will continue. Such smart ways that even those who have balanced views, change, after interaction.

People take lightly or don't realise, but within states it has huge impact. It has power to change your mind, your opinion, you begin to view things differently when the medium that makes you watch, is totally compromised. Being done for long, has changed perceptions.

Doesn't take much effort, a person who is ideologically compromised, can do this, easily. The least needed is to carry or not carry names of accused in first, second paragraphs or carry even in intro, sub-headline, box or just take in the end, 'continuation' depending on 'names'.

This so cheap and 'ghatiya' that one doesn't even want to rake it up. Ironically, if you say it, you are seen as someone who has a 'different eye' and unnecessarily getting into. 

But this needs to be mentioned, anyway. #RadioRwanda was not just one day exercise.

Some persons who were really balanced, sane. I saw them change because of those around them. 

Certain benefits, things you get from the regime, it also makes you so comfortable that they too don't realise how they slide, get swayed and finally, are 'compromised'. 

Otherwise, names are published in the first paragraph itself, repeated, sometimes in sub-headlines or headlines and boxes. Photographs are published in big way, which causes anger. Then certain wings demand action, demolition of house of suspects. 

But when you don't even publish names, do it so selectively, you want to create a perception that just persons from one community are involved in crimes and this is extreme hatred, creating divide in society and paving way for fascism. Enough for now.

LINK to NBT report: Gang rape in Sindhi, accused arrested

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Right-wing majoritarianism can put countries at risk of law-and-order breakdown: Derailing democracies and parallels between India and USA


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi


The mob that gathered at Capitol Hill in United States of America, seems to have surprised Indian elite. 

There was 'amazement' that 'see it can happen there, so we...', as if nothing of that sort happens around us. 

Surprisingly, back home, the same vocal elite dosen't care if right-wing runs riot in our own country, able to get away with lynchings and even change public opinion besides vigilantism and pushing forward unjust laws that target minorities. 

Not long ago, a man --Afrzaul, was burnt alive and in killer's support, hundreds came out on the streets, they even went on rampage in the court premises. Recall, how cops were dealing with this mob. Quite softly. 

This was in Rajasthan a few years ago. Right-wing, its core feel it owns the country, anywhere. The right-wing core that may not even comprise a majority, but it draws its power from the 'majority' & feel it is 'patriot', owns all. 

'First class citizen' & 'second class citizen'. Officials behave differently to a mob in one case though can be harsh on victims in other case. Today, any person who throws a 'stone' is seen as the ultimate law-breaker. 

But when caste group's 'Sena' cadre was on streets, burning buses and pelting stones, it's office-bearers didn't need to run away, as if they felt they 'owned' the nation enough and that it's delegation could honorably go & meet Home Secretary.

Just watch out, the next time, some outfit belonging to 'privileged' or majority community indulges in stone pelting or arson, nobody would even talk about 'seizing property', arrests or suggestions about life term for it. 

So even after Rajasthan rampage in society, papers-people were not upset. No conversations were heard that 'these people are doing too much'. This is the normalization. They fell, 'we own the country, our people even if the do wrong, they've the right...our land'. Majoritarianism.

Unfortunately, it is not seriously taken. Media creates the perception and hence minority or marginalised groups get demonised but the mainstream bigotry and vandalism is ignored. There is definitely a threat to the nations. 

READ: Lessons from US that how White supremacist or right-wing threat can't be overlooked

Lessons for countries, other democracies from USA after Trump supporters' Coup at Capitol Hill

 


On the left is the screen shot of the New York Times' website. 

It says, 'Mob storms Capitol...'. On social media, there was shock across the world to see the images from Washington.

But is this unexpected? There are clearly, many lessons from societies and democracies in other countries. 

As a journalist on TV said, 'how can we (US) who go to other countries to oversee their elections, now after this...'

But the fact is that white supremacists in US (just like majority in other places) feel that they 'own' country and can get away. Law in practice becomes an expression of power and creates a clear divide between two sets of people.

A black person may face a bullet for no reason, but even after the White supremacists do this, they are treated softly. Over decades, media that too, knowingly or unknowingly, creates the perception of who 'owns the country', 'the system'. And, people in every sphere adapt.

The right-wing and the core that may not be a majority, draws its power from the 'majority'. The 'first class citizen' and the 'second class citizen' in other countries as we see. Law is fine, remains in books, but it's not applied, fairly. 

If representation of other groups, communities is better in a society, then there is some hope, somewhere. Otherwise, in any majoritarian society, the 'core'--the supremacists among them, have tremendous privilege, power and even their worst acts, are seen as just an aberration.

Now leave US, in an Asian country, you can have a person killed because of his name or religion, murdered in encounter or lynched, or spend years in jail. However, a right-wing thug gets away easily and even gets respect. 

So, institutions and media must be more inclusive. Majoritarianism and right-wing tilt can do this to strong countries. Institutions must be strong. The system of checks and balances is needed. America has diversity and it is more inclusive than many other countries. Hence, it will be able to deal with such a situation. But it's not easy in other countries. And, that's the lesson.