The Merchants of Opinion: Trojan Horses of Indian Media, loopholes and inferences

Last year we saw the advent of a new kind of journalism when the veterans were basking in fifty shades of native advertising. An HBO weekly called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver raised this important point among various others that the television debates on Climate Change did not give a true demographic representation in the scientific community about human caused climate change while 90% of the scientific community among the most optimistic figures agrees that humans are the cause, a TV representation is always 1:1 divided and most who argue against are economists, lobbyists, politicians among other colourful lot. This gives an illusion of a divided opinion and a false representation of things most of which affects public opinion and hence policy.

Back in India, the last few years have seen the rise of social media and a drastic increase of news distribution through the web and its derivatives. The first decade of the new millennium saw a mushrooming of news channels decreasing the impact of a news story on a particular channel. Therefore in the last decade it became easier for media houses to act as bandwagons and there came the golden age of opinionated news. Now as the television started losing its ground the respective houses started catering to the rising netizens of the country. But as the internet platform is very different, just reporting the news was not good enough. The internet is a fast paced environment where the reach of an event is faster than the creation of a tangible story. Most news articles on web can be compressed to a single sentence of reporting around which a 300-1000 word cuisine is spun which mostly consisted of equivocating and opinionating. As this craft was perfected it was found that most netizens more or less do not actually care about the news, and sensationalism is required to compete with the daily ongoings in the house of Bigg Boss.

And The Trojan Horses of News were created – Juicy packets of sensationalism which have targeted explosions into the minds of the reader. Nobody seemed to care and business seemed to be booming. In the last year more and more news articles evolved into opinion pieces. One can see great effort and investment being put into websites that have editorial styled articles with a great bias that is only revealed once you are roped in into reading the first half.

Clearly one must not criticize the increase of opinions as words can bring revolution and the level of expression is the measure of the development of democracy. But most of these websites are a collective entity of writer usually backed by great investment. It is not the independent bloggers putting out their opinion but a collective cause by likeminded people giving an illusion of a false representation. They contradict with the spirit of internet news revolution which was all about non-organized reporting and free representation of opinions which are not tailored in any way.

Apart from the fact of misrepresentation and organized opinion, these websites have no obligation to report unbiased news but on the contrary every event is filtered as best suited to the collective. Therefore the reader is not given a room to generate their own original opinion but fed into a cycle of mass produced opinions. As an original idea causes more intellectual work after a while the reader is addicted to belong to one of the factions which feeds him opinions. The ability to objectively form an opinion is lost amongst the comforts of ready meals.

A phenomenon must not be put in a light hearted notion just because it has never happened. The intelligentsias have always struggled to develop more relevant ways to engage the masses. The greatest weapon we could have as the cog wheels of democracy is an unbiased two way communication to the ones in power and polity and the funny part is, it is already there and working. Let us not keep it idle, to be used as a tool for Big Brother , I mean Bigg Boss.

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” – “Who will guard the guards themselves?“
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If this was an article one the opinion dailies, it would have ended with the above line on a high note. Pushing the reader into making a thought which has conglomerate elements in it and out of which at least some are rightfully justifiable. The above is just an imperfection against masters of the craft who are professional writers and have a strong grip on the psychology of the reader. They fatigue the reader over large points and suddenly give a short summary in the next few lines so that the reader fully absorbs the idea. They have also other tricks some simple like for eg. ‘The Chidiya Udd’ where you put forth a few undeniable points and attempt to disguise one of their own in between, the disagreement if caused will put both parties to a middle ground. To other elaborate ones where you play with the reader’s psychology remind him of something happy and then try to relate everything around it.

What I am trying to say is we have little to no training on how to perceive and react to things that go straight into our heads. We have not being taught how to defend ourselves psychologically against abstract objects ranging from advertisements to manipulations. We cannot objectively determine the bad apples from the good ones as of yet and our mind’s palpability will be used now more than ever that internet is invented. This ability or ‘Viveka’ is a much needed defence against the cases of internet used against us.

I will not name the alleged opinion dailies, as it will defeat the purpose.

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