I can be accused of 'media determinism', but looking at the current wave of illiberal politics, I can't help but believe that this is the last stand of the broadcast media.
Two countries I closely follow are caught up in the same 'illiberal' wave - India and Britain. Two very different countries, at different stages of development: A matured media scene in Britain, where newspapers are dying and even Rupert Murdoch has to fight for his corner, when in India, ever expanding newspaper circulation and 24x7 news channels seem to defy gravity. But, then, it could perhaps be seen across the world: Even the technologically advanced Japan, the newly resurgent Russia, and even inside the Facebook nation - a march of illiberal views, based on intolerance, rejection of the other, and increasingly, violence, at least of the verbal kind.
Cass Sunstein argues that this is resulting from 'media personalisation', a new media phenomenon rather than the old media (in Republic 2.0). We can now choose our media diet by using various tools afforded by the Internet, and this leads us to an 'Echo Chamber', where we only hear voices that are like us. In Sunstein's conception, this leads to an increasingly divided society - you don't want to participate in a coffee-house debate anymore - and creates the 'illiberal' society that I am talking about.
I shall argue that this overstates the effect media personalisation is having, at least outside the developed societies, or shall we say, the 'anglophone' sphere. The tools exist, but the mass mobilisation for a certain dominant view of the world, a mix of free markets but unfree society, currently espoused in its extreme form by as unlikely figures as Marine Le Pen, Narendra Modi and Nigel Farage, are creeping into the domain of mass politics and changing the discussion within the political establishment. This is the work of broadcast media: It is only fitting that Nigel Farage and Liberal Leader Nick Clegg fought it out on Europe on radio recently, where Nigel Farage's xenophobia own the day and Clegg only appeared to be an wonkish, out of touch politician.
Indeed, Clegg can't complain, because he himself has benefitted handsomely from Broadcast media. He became a national figure in Britain only because he looked good on TV, where a poor, old, tired and even more wonkish Gordon Brown was trumped by the populist, young, good-looking dual act of David Cameron and Nick Clegg. And, TV is what is making Narendra Modi, despite his bot-army unleashed on the Internet: As India goes through its election, the Internet has turned against Modi, leaking out all sorts of inconvenient news, footage, and views that his bots try aggressively to suppress, intimidate and simply block - and therefore, he is making extra efforts to buy out paid interviews and threatening the other TV channels into submission.
Despite Sunstein's warning of the 'Echo Chambers', this looks like the Broadcast media's last stand. Particularly of Television, which is changing in itself. The proliferation of channels did expand choice, but reduced the responsibility of the individual broadcasters. The old world principles of balanced coverage has now been given up - the existence of anti- channels justified the existence of pro- channels - somewhat defying the logic that the audience is not likely to watch two news channels at the same time, and the existence of some propaganda channels do not justify the abandonment of balance by the others (and, indeed, the same responsibility applies to bloggers, though they only can have a fairly limited impact).
However, I shall see this moment not as the moment of triumph of the broadcast media, but its last stand. Gone are those days when they unleashed not just the young looking, but also the rhetoric of freedom: Kennedy's upending Nixon was not just a win for his good looks, but also his fresh-sounding ideas of freedom. But, the words of freedom are now overused, and the Television's refuge now is the idea of purity. Despite Franklin's warnings against the trade-off between liberty and security, the increasingly besieged broadcast media instinctively sympathise with those feeling uncertain and besieged by globalisation, those who want to retreat to an imaginary 'pure' communities, the ideals of the Midsomer Murder's world, of Nigel Farage's world. Madison may have warned that such retreat never restores the security or happiness, but that is a view the Television may want to peddle right now, if only because the media itself is dreaming of a return to the days before Internet, and if possible, even to 60s world, days before the cable.
But Madison may still prevail because the same illiberalism that is feeding the broadcast media now must necessarily destroy it. The leaders who come to power riding on the power of broadcast media knows how powerful the media could be, and indeed, the way to perpetuate their powers must start with destroying the powers of such media. They would seek to suppress or fragment the media and render it impotent, and the disconnect between life and screen eventually, but inevitably, creates spaces for new forms of talk. Indeed, the media theorist Tim Wu talks about even this new form of talk eventually getting monopolised and becoming a tool of power, rather than a tool of freedom, eventually, and worries whether we are already seeing this on the Internet (in The Master Switch), but I shall argue, this still lies in the future. For the moment, Broadcast Media is unleashing a 'triumphant calamity' (using Horkheimer and Adorno's phrase, as they sound as relevant as ever), which will, eventually, subsume itself.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.