Friday, February 26, 2016

The Point of View that Really Matters

There is an old commercial for the UK newspaper The Guardian which starts with a skinhead racing up a street. In the next scene, we see him dashing towards a businessman in suit carrying a briefcase, and attacking him. The businessman on noticing the hooligan's attack at the last moment, raises his briefcase to protect himself from the attack. The film runs again, this time from a wider angle. And it is only this time that we notice that the skinhead was no hooligan but trying to save the businessman from a full load of construction material falling on him from a builder's pallet above him. The audio of this commercial narrates, "An event seen from one point of view gives one impression; seen from another point of view gives quite a different impression, but it's only when you get the whole picture do you understand what's going on."

I was reminded of this old commercial as I was watching and reading the news coverage on the Rohit Vemula suicide, the JNU row and the terrorist attack in Pampore. It was really sad to see the opportunists way many of our politicians were behaving to get political mileage out of these events, with scan regard for the ill effects their statements was having on our nation's integrity. But what was even more depression was to see the half-truths and even complete falsehoods perpetuated by some news channels and newspapers (read NDTV, AajTak, Hindustan Times, The Times of India, Economic Times, etc.).

Certain amount of bias is inevitable in news reporting and analysis. After all the news reporters and editors are also human beings, so their reporting and analysis is bound to be influenced by their own implicit biases. We may view ourselves as completely unbiased individuals, but the fact of the matter is that we rarely see things as they really are. Our perception is usually colored by our own belief systems and life experiences. However, this does not mean that we cannot strive to be objective in our lives. And it is definitely the duty of journalists to continuously strive for this objectivity. Yet, what we see today in news coverage is a deliberate attempt by some agencies to obfuscate facts. It is as if these agencies repeatedly run the portion of the video that gives us the impression that the redhead is trying to rob a businessman. They deliberately withhold the wider view that would have given the true picture, and in the process, propagate falsehoods.

Indian mass media has become completely corrupt. Many of the news channels and newspapers are either owned or headed by political leaders and their relatives. In such a system, how do you expect to find the truth of events? It may seem like a hopeless situation, but it isn't. With the reach of internet, and more specifically the social media, we can now easily confront these channels, newspapers and their editors. It is imperative though that we do these confrontations in a logical and respectful manner. Argue but do so with facts and figures. Unfortunately, we see a lot of name calling on social media websites. Calling names--be it Bhakts or Sickulars--is only going to polarize views in a way that will fail us to come closer to truth. Lastly, when you argue with someone, don't do it to win the argument; do it to gain perspectives and come closer to truth.

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