Friday, November 18, 2016

Of mass media, propaganda and mass society

I responded recently to certain questions a researcher posed to me as part of her ongoing work on a paper on media trends in India.

This post is based on my responses in italics to some of her questions.

*I was asked how my blog site works differently from a traditional newspaper. (This question may sound strange, but I was told it was originally meant to be asked of people running much larger-sized publishing outfits and was put to me without being rephrased because of time crunch.) 

Mine is just a blog site that I use as a personal diary to post my thoughts, articles, etc., whenever
I feel like writing. 

There have been many weeks or even months when I didn’t feel like writing and so didn’t post anything.

I think all or most ‘traditional newspapers’ are or behave as if they are ‘mass media’ vehicles.

I view a ‘mass media’ vehicle as targeted towards ‘mass society’ and making use of ‘mass production’ set-up.

A ‘mass production’ set-up, by its very nature, can only be a capital intensive enterprise, which means only very few people can own and control it.

That implies (a) ultimate control vests in one or a few persons, (b) existence of a hierarchy of managerial/editorial functionaries as is usual in any capitalistic enterprise even though such a hierarchy is ill-suited to journalism’s need for open and uninhibited communication.

These implications lead to further implications, such as top down command and control that often results in tendentious reportage or manufacture of propaganda material.

Another upshot of ‘mass production’ set up is a narrow defining of areas to be covered by reporters according to their place in the hierarchy, which means initiative and intellectual growth gets straitjacketed.

In a ‘mass production’ set-up, the managers/editors must fill up the available space (excluding the space reserved for advertisers) with some ‘material’ each day of publication regardless of whether they have the news or commentary that really measures up their own standards.

So factuality, discourse, debate, intellectuality, reasoning, sentiment, balance and every other element of journalism become subservient to regular ‘production’ of the periodical, which becomes the overriding concern.

The medium becomes an end in itself; the information and ideas just become the filler and all journalistic functions become increasingly production-oriented and degraded.

I also feel that moving up the hierarchy in a media organization often means that the journalist so promoted ends up making less effort to gather facts (degradation of empirical nature of journalism) and settles into smug opinionatedness.

Given the top-down nature of control in a media organization, one also feels that going up the hierarchy has a lot to do with a person’s willingness to conform to the owners’ wishes. 

Thus journalists transform into some kind of ‘managers’ as they move up the hierarchy.

These factors put one’s job in a mass media organization completely out of kilter with one’s need for one’s sense and sensibility to evolve. 

In other words, one’s media career often inhibits or works against one’s better sense and one’s intellectual evolution.
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One can debate what came first: ‘mass media’ or ‘mass society’. It’s clear to me, however, that ‘mass media’ facilitates the creation of ‘mass society’ and the existence of ‘mass society’ helps justify the existence of ‘mass media’.

There would be no ‘mass media’ without ‘mass society.’ And the ‘mass society’ would loosen up towards more autonomy and less heteronomy (i.e. would tend towards losing its ‘mass’ character) if ‘mass media’ were to be eliminated.

I would instantiate ‘mass society’ as people living in large cities like Mumbai and Delhi with incredibly high population densities and huge crowds in public places being a regular experience of each individual.

The defining characteristics of a ‘mass society’ are its heteronomy and impersonal relations which are wholly accounted for by two abstract domains of ‘political’ and ‘economic’ – as contrasted with the more autonomous and real domain of ‘communal’ which includes family, close friends, neighbours, etc.

Such ‘mass societies’ inexorably come to be seen as possessing ‘crowd’-like characteristics and as requiring to be ‘supplied’ with news and views through standardized means similar to the ones utilized in meeting their more material needs.

Put simply, ‘mass societies’ are treated as ‘crowds’ to be satisfied, pacified and controlled with mass produced goods and services, including the media.

Standardized means of production and supply of news and views to a large population, which can only be organized as a capital intensive enterprise, will inevitably tend towards a system of propaganda in line with the requirements of the two abstract domains of ‘political’ and ‘economic’.

In simpler terms, ‘mass media’ can only be a means of propaganda with the propaganda function varying or evolving according to the ‘political’ and ‘economic’ factors.

Since I deem ‘political’ and ‘economic’ domains abstract and unreal as against the real domain of ‘communal’ (i.e. of ‘community’), I view mass media as tending towards the unreal.

(I should point out again that I believe that the two abstract domains of ‘political’ and ‘economic’ stand for ‘heteronomy’ of human life whereas the real domain of ‘communal’ represents the ‘autonomy’ of human life.)

*I was asked how I view the mainstream media, especially with regards to the issues I cover in my blog posts.  

Mainstream media in India, in my opinion, bears striking similarities with the ‘propaganda model’ of mass media expounded by Herman and Chomsky in their 1988 work, ‘Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media’.

I, for instance, have taken a critical look at the public-private partnership (PPP) policy and projects in my blog.

The mainstream media, on the other hand, has refused to look critically at PPPs and continues to publish the propaganda material handed out by the government and big business.

I also have thought through concepts like ‘religion,’ ‘culture,’ ‘secularism,’ ‘communalism’ (a word that seem to have a special meaning and negative context in India), etc.

The mainstream media continues to be obtuse and dangerously propagandistic in its uncritical acceptance and promotion of stupid Western ideas as applied to the Indian context.

*I was asked as to how the name of my site reflects my cause.

The title of my blog site, ‘Thinking Through,’ reflects the difficulty I have in accepting the received, mass disseminated ideas.

I think many of these ideas, particularly those of the West, are pernicious or simply stupid when they are applied to non-Western societies (or even to Western ones).

I think ‘mass media’ and ‘mass education’ are taking us all towards ‘mass stupidity’.

So the problem is not that people can’t appreciate the truth; the problem is that a constant state of propaganda fills one’s head with so much stupid ideas that people find it difficult to appreciate simplest and most intuitive of realities and truths.

I was asked as to what I wanted to achieve through my blog.

I believe I have worked for the last 4-5 years on concepts like ‘religion’, ‘culture’, ‘community’, etc., and have come up with quite intuitive understanding of them.

I believe these ideas can disabuse people of the stupidity, narrow-mindedness and conflict into which they are forced through mass propaganda.

So my primary goal is to have my ideas help people realize their own vulnerability to propaganda and start thinking on their own.
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A blog post on Arvind Kejriwal finds an echo in Delhi legislature

Published on Oct. 5, my article, My Stint with Kejriwal: Wising up to ‘Democracy’ and ‘Social Activism’, found an echo in Delhi's legislative assembly on Nov. 15. 

Given at the bottom of this post are links to BJP legislator Vijender Gupta's tweet and the reportage on his citing in the assembly an episode described in my article.

I hope to overcome my habitual inertia to write more. 

In my future writing, I will seek to nail the oft-repeated lie behind the formation of AAP: that it is born of a 'people's movement'.

I will also try to further explain my understanding of a concept like 'democracy' which I deem nothing more than an abstraction of the age-old human community - i.e. any human community found anywhere in the world through time. 

'Democracy' is a lovely example of the West's appropriation of the concept of human community for its own imperial purposes. It's an example of what I call a 'conceptual fraud' packaged nicely in 'classical Greek' humbug.

Here are some 'by-the-way' thoughts.

The entire 'political' realm is a domain predicated on myths and half-truths perpetuated by the mass propaganda system that goes by the name 'media'.

This mass propaganda system is not external to the 'system' (by which I primarily mean the ‘political’ realm together with its kindred domain of the ‘economic’), but is part of the 'system'.

It is meant to perpetuate the system through its myth making function.

Interestingly, myth making - also known as mythopoeia - is the fundamental nature of an empire which is what all states, including India, were designed to be in the Western colonial-imperial matrix.

Unlike myths found in human communities across the world, the mythopoeic nature of an empire claims for itself 'universalism'  and 'rationalism' packaged neatly in what is taught as 'history'.

The Empire that calls itself the 'West', for instance, chose for itself the mythical Greek patrimony while erecting itself and writing for itself (and for its subjects like us Indians) its 'grand narrative' or 'history'. 

A lot of the West's Greek story, not to mention its 'grand narrative or 'history,' is pure fiction. Prof. C.K. Raju has, for instance, explained in his book, 'Euclid and Jesus,' that Pythagoras is myth and there is no historical evidence for Euclid.

(Another way to understand the point I am making would be to imagine that a lot of dubious reportage and propaganda we read in our newspapers is going to be packaged as 'history' to be 'taught' to our succeeding generations.)

The 'educated' are all taught to view the place we call the 'world' as a complex of states. A 'state' is a 'polity,' but 'polity' or the 'political' domain itself is an abstraction, which means it exists only in the mind of the 'educated'.

I believe 'political' and its kindred domain of 'economic' are pure abstractions. In other words, there is no such thing as 'polity' or 'economy' except what we have been taught to imagine as 'political' and 'economic' relations.

(Since I believe there is no such thing as 'economy' or pure 'economic' relations, I also believe that 'economics' -- i.e. all kinds of 'economics' -- is pure, unadulterated pseudology or a pretended field of study.)

'Community,' on the other hand, is not an abstraction. It's a real domain. All human relations - without exception - are 'communal' (i.e. of community) or 'social' in nature.

'Community' (or 'society') accounts for the wholeness or the entirety of human relations --- including those that we are taught to imagine as 'political' and 'economic' relations that in fact don't really exist.

'Culture' is what a human 'community' thinks and does. So 'culture' also represents the wholeness - and the unabstracted state - of human life or human relations.

Thus 'community' and 'culture' can usually be used interchangeably.
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AAP MLAs raised hue & cry aftr I raised issue of Kejriwal's sex escapades in House.CM left &the House was adjourned.
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BJP raises Kejriwal’s Aloo Sex scandal in Delhi Assembly
Aloo raises its head in the Delhi Assembly as Arvind Kejriwal tries to rake up demonetization issue

By Team PGurus -  November 17, 2016

Rarely does the BJP pay back with the same coin.

A day after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal re-hashed the old and closed case on Birla Diaries and cooked-up Sahara Diaries to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Opposition Leader Vijender Gupta gave him a below the belt blow on Wednesday by raking up the sex scandal involving Kejriwal and a lady colleague, who is now heading a statutory body.

This scandal was revealed one month ago by Kejriwal’s old associate journalist Kapil Bajaj, who witnessed this incident.

Kapil Bajaj’s detailed blog on this curious sexual encounter of Kejriwal was first reported by PGurus and some other websites, while mainstream media was keeping a stony silence perhaps due to the Delhi Government’s advertising largesse.

The blog did not name the lady, who is now heading a Statutory Body. However Kapil Bajaj gave a name to her – Shilpa and revealed that Shilpa fondly calls Kejriwal as Aloo.
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http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/arvind-kejriwal-demonetisation-pm-modi-criticism-parliament-twitter/1/813601.html

Kejriwal incurs Twitterati's wrath for opposing government's demonetisation scheme

Kejriwal was booed when he went to RBI on Parliament street to enquire about the fallout of demonetisation. At Azadpur Mandi, where he held a joint rally with Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, people started shouting "Modi, Modi".

Mail Today Bureau, 18 Nov. 2016

In a day of trouble, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal faced public anger at Azadpur Mandi and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for opposing the Narendra Modi government's demonetisation move against black money.

Heavy Criticism
Ridicule flowed online after extremely personal allegations levelled against him by ex-colleague Kapil Bajaj in a blog post. And media baron and Rajya Sabha MP Subhash Chandra sued him for defamation.

On Thursday, mysteriously, the hashtags #AlooKejriwal & #AlooMaloo started trending on Twitter. 

Unknown to many, these are in reference to charges by former business journalist Kapil Bajaj in his blog that Kejriwal was having an affair in 2008-09 with a colleague 16 years younger to him.
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Vijender Gupta, BJP MLA, alleges Kejriwal of Illicit Affair (sex escapades) & What is #alookejriwal?

Posted on November 17, 2016

Vijender Gupta the lone BJP MLA in Delhi Assembly has today sparked a renewed controversy by tweeting that “AAP MLAs raised hue & cry aftr I raised issue of Kejriwal’s sex escapades in House.CM left & the House was adjourned”.
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Kejriwal’s sex scandal raised in “Delhi Vidhan Sabha”- CM left the house- Hose adjourned immediately.
November 16, 2016

So, the sex scandal in which Arvind Kejriwal has been the protagonist seems true?

The reactions say a lot. A month ago a journalist who has worked with Arvind Kejriwal during his NGO days exposed Arvind Kejriwal’s sex scandal with a reputed lady in AAP.

He changed the name of the lady as “Shilpa” in the article and said that the lady used to work with Kejriwal during NGO days.
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Was BJP Minister Hurled out of Delhi Assembly for his Question on 'Aloo' to Kejriwal?
November 17, 2016

One thing we must grant to the Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal! His media management is undoubtedly and unbeatably the best!

When the whole social media is exposing and attacking Aam Aadmi Party and its leader, mainstream media is remarkably silent and supportive. And why not!

When the overall budget of Delhi government for the financial year amounted to Rs 41,120 crore, a whopping share of Rs 526 crore was paid to media for advertising and publicity.
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Talks Of Kejriwal’s “Sex Scandal” In Delhi Vidhan Sabha Creates Mayhem: CM Leaves House Immediate; House Adjourned

A few days ago, Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘sex scandal’ with a reputed lady in AAP raised much eyebrows. This was reported by a journalist who had previously worked with Kejriwal during his NGO days.

The lady’s name was changed to ‘Shilpa’ in the report, and she reportedly worked with Kejriwal in the NGO with which the latter was associated.
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Pakistani academic deems Sanskrit dead; Indian lawyer deems Hindi non-existent!

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