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Decline & Degeneration of Indian Media
and so called “Intelligentsia”
|by K. Gajendra Singh|
What Wiki leaks have done; to expose the duplicity, hypocrisy and decline of an erstwhile Imperial hyper power the United States of America, in India the same has been achieved to some extent by what are known as Nira Radia tapes; which have exposed the nexus and massive corruption and degeneration of Indian political, bureaucratic, corporate, media and academic segments (Does it exist after having been strangulated by the likes of Lals, Yadavas, Reddys and others?) of the polity, all chasing the capitalist dream in USA, which itself has been dismantled and is falling apart. In this piece we will look at the state of Indian media, opinion and decision makers primarily and its manipulation by Washington’s soft or public diplomacy.
But in spite of decades of dealing with the media and its divas, this writer was in for some shocks during 1990-91 Gulf war.
US journalists were regularly spreading false stories. A reliable journalist told this writer that at times Western journalists would toss food or water bottles to thirsty and hungry refugees who had trudged all the way from Kuwait, 1,500 kilometers away. Naturally, the refugees scrambled for the food, which the media gentlemen then filmed and photographed for their readers back home. This exploitation of misery was disgusting. (Katrina Hurricane disaster and criminal neglect and misery of the Blacks is not shown on Western TV channels but Tsunami in Indonesia is telecast repeatedly)
The Fall of the Berlin Wall was really the beginning of the steep decline of western media, when the Soviet Union started disintegrating and collapsed. While Izvestia and Pravda did not always purvey the truth but they exercised some restraint on distortions, half-truths and lies now spewed by western media. From its responsibilities as the fourth estate, Western media has become a lap dog and handmaiden of Western governments to communicate corporate policies. Journalism is now taught in US universities as communications (for corporate interests) and public relations.
The commercialization and vulgarization of the global media is a very recent development. Until the 1980s, media systems were generally national, although much maligned by the west. While books, films, music and TV shows were imported, the basic broadcasting systems and newspaper industries were domestically owned and regulated. From 1980s, pressure from the West dominated institutions IMF, World Bank and U.S. government itself to deregulate and privatize media and communication systems coincided with new satellite and digital technologies, resulting in the rise of transnational media giants in the West.
The global media system and its control and its reach expanded very fast. In 1983, the principal media outlets in America were owned by fifty corporations. By 2002, this had fallen to just nine companies. Today, five or so conglomerates control 90 per cent of the terrestrial and cable audience. It is true of the Internet; You Tube, Face book and now twitters. Mostly US led Western company’s control, or influence most of the world's visual media, the principal source of information for most people. The profits for a media giant income from media industries, film production, book publishing, music, TV channels and networks, retail stores, amusement parks is much more than magazines, newspapers and the like. Firms that do not have conglomerated media holdings simply cannot compete in this market. United States constitutionally has the freest press in the world. But by any standard of democracy, such a concentration of media power was troubling This has resulted in the decline of the US democracy and takeover of the country by the military-industry complex, energy, entertainment and other corporate conglomerates.
"Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks the whip. But the really well-trained dog is the one that turns somersaults when there is no whip" - George Orwell
In totalitarian societies, people took for granted that their governments lied to them, so people adjusted accordingly. They learnt to read between the lines. They relied on a flourishing underground “telegraph”. But corporate control of US media succeeded in making 70% Americans believe that Iraqis were connected with 11 September attacks in USA which is untrue. Such a perception was possible only because distorted and half-truths uttered by top US leadership were dutifully disseminated by US media. “Of course it is self-discipline”, Western journalists and others would protest: "No one has ever told me what to say."
Public relations is the twin of advertising. In the last twenty years, the whole concept of PR has changed dramatically which has now become an enormous propaganda industry. In the United Kingdom, pre-packaged PR now accounts for half of the content of some major newspapers. This pernicious development has taken hold of Indian media with paid in news. The idea of "embedding" journalists with the US military during the invasion of Iraq came from public relations experts in the Pentagon, whose current strategic-planning literature describes journalism as part of psychological operations, or "psyops".
Journalism as Psyops
The aim, says the Pentagon, is to achieve "information dominance" - which, in turn, is part of "full spectrum dominance" - the stated policy of the United States to control land, sea, space and information including cyber space. They make no secret of it. To achieve this all means including buying into media, of journalists, academics, civil and military bureaucrats, politicians are employed .This is a dimension of the so called public diplomacy.
Mind Control – a Tool of Imperialism
"To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a wilderness, they call it peace." – Tacitus.
Wikileaks is a general revolt around the world including in USA against the imposition of what Orwell’s described ‘1984’ over freedom of speech and press in USA, UK and elsewhere. (Watch this space)
Indian Media and Opinion Makers
Like other elements of the Indian polity, in post -independent India journalists had integrity and were by and large honest and professional. Many were trained in the national media and others by departing English professionals. They maintained editorial independence and acted as a watchdog. The media owners also respected editorial freedom. Yes barring editors, the journalists were paid very little, the new entrants as much as the compositors of the newspaper sheets, literally.To become a stringer of some obscure Western paper was very lucrative proposition.
But now a days, the profit seeking Baniya media owners dismiss journalists to please some politician or political party, many a times while the poor editor is about to reach his office. Most editors have mostly become obedient servants of the media owner. India is perhaps the only country where so many businessmen start a newspaper and then leverage it to enter parliament and promote their businesses. So have business men who leverage their bags of money to buy seats in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) thus totally negating its Constitutional objectives. The current rate to win a seat by bribing is now allegedly around 50 crores (500 million) Rupees.
Led by politicians, the whole polity has degenerated, especially in the last few decades. The corrupt political elite have co-opted watchdogs like the judiciary and the media. In the states chief ministers establish housing colonies or grant land to journalists and judiciary from their discretionary quota and subvert their independence. Over the years criminal elements have entered politics in large numbers. There is almost little chance of any punishment in reality (take the case of Sukh Ram, Lalu Yadav and others). In the wake of the liberalization of the economy since 1990s, the corporate houses have entered in a big way to subvert political parties and loot public by public-private joint enterprise called ‘Bhagidari’ - sharing the ill-gotten gains. Massive amounts are kept out in foreign banks and sometimes brought in as investment. The nexus involving corrupt political elite, corporate houses, public servants, media men and other wheeler dealers has been clearly bought out by Radia tapes, of which only some have been released.
How the nexus members are crying foul. Misusing power of secrecy as by the Brahmins (a few years ago one Shankaracharya even declared that women be not allowed to learn Sanskrit). Verily, India has become a country of banana plantations.
Prakash Karat is quite right when he says that with "liberalization and deregulation, the entire policy itself is put up for sale".
He explained, "Both foreign and Indian big business houses are free to make the highest bid for policies for an entire industry. Such policies can be changed overnight, if the price is right. This has happened most blatantly in the case of the telecom sector and is continuing with the liberalized policies in the power, oil and other major sectors."
Karat alleged that Congress is steeped in this corrupt nexus with big business. "The PM presides over a Cabinet in which some are advocates of certain business interests and some are businessmen themselves. A few are lawyers who have represented the very corporates with whom they have to deal with in the portfolios they look after, “he said.
Almost all political parties in India are part of some nexus or the other and indulge in this Bhagidari .In the vacuous debates nobody has suggested that political parties be state funded. Or to grant constitutional independence to the central vigilance commissioner and CBI, which is being misused by all parties when in power. It is a crying shame that in spite of discussing since decades creating an Ombudsman to investigate charges against people holding high office, there has been little progress. In many ways India is becoming a poor copy of USA, where the rule of law exists. A political or corporate bigwig if found guilty is punished quickly enough.
The author who maintained close relations with a swathe the honest media professionals all over the world during his diplomatic career and even now feels great pain and anguish at the turn of events. USA’s corporate media has led the way and subverted media in other countries too. Washington has created in India dalals (trumpets or pimps) in media, civil and military bureaucracy, academics and political parties to promote its policies at India’s expense.
Indian Express, (1st Feb, 2003) .Welcoming the imminent illegal US led invasion, named, operation Iraqi freedom, Gupta wrote under title ‘Saddam, Snookers’ first frame” – for the Bush team – process of change (is) – to modernize and democratize and restructure the Islamic world – into Saudi Arabia and then every other part of the region where militant Islam breeds -Musharraf is not laughing – does that work to our benefit or detriment? This war will not be about oil but about militant Islam and everybody’s future. This is the bigger picture –“
In other ministries too, say of Industry, Commerce, even Agriculture, all officers, joined highly paid jobs in UNDP, UNIDO, FAO and other international organisations with hefty pensions and other benefits. Thus an important cadre of Washington Consensus followers was formed and based inside the steel frame of Indian bureaucracy. It is there for all to see and their proclivity to promote US interests at the cost of India is crystal clear. They behave like well-trained circus dogs and automatically implement the (US) master’s wish.
From Uncivilised Americans
Below is an article from ‘The Hindu’ of 13 December, 2010. by Rahul Bedi
Patronage as a U.S. Force Multiplier
From scholarships and training programmes for officers to promises of Green Cards and jobs for family members, America is doing whatever it takes to build a lobby for itself in India.
The loquacious charm employed by United States President Barack Obama during his India trip is merely one of the many force multipliers exercised by an economically beleaguered Washington seeking to sell New Delhi varied military equipment for billions of dollars, and affirming bilateral strategic ties as a hedge against a resurgent China.
So blatant, widespread and generous is Washington's largesse to the students — facilitating and financing, as it does, their pursuit of eclectic disciplines like the liberal arts, English literature and, even, art and history in leading U.S. institutions — that it is worth asking to what extent Indian policy on a range of issues of interest to America remains ‘hostage' to the children of a growing number of Delhi's powerful decision-makers. The scholarship recipients' list is embarrassingly revelatory.
It is also not unknown for senior Indian intelligence, security and military officials travelling to Washington to negotiate sensitive bilateral issues and agreements to ask their obliging hosts, who by now have a measure of their Delhi counterparts, for favours like Green Cards, extension of student visas and even employment prospects for their brood in the U.S.
Needless to say, negotiations the following morning become significantly compromised by the promises of the night before.
Leading Indian journalists too have been asked to write their own itinerary on either whistle stop lecture tours of U.S. universities and think tanks — all paid for, of course, or alternately to opt for study curricula which were fully facilitated. Many have been known to frequently avail themselves of this bounty by a patron that does not believe in free lunches and admits as much.
The IMET programme under which Washington organises visits to the U.S. and training courses for Indian military personnel inside it for periods varying from a few weeks to several months or more is yet another subtle effective force multiplier with regard to Delhi's materiel procurement decisions.
As the U.S. State Department clearly enunciates on its website, the IMET programme is an “instrument of national security and foreign policy and a key component of U.S. security assistance to personnel from allied and friendly nations,” a euphemism for trying to profitably expand American areas of influence and win over important friends who can influence lucrative decisions.
In essence, the IMET, whose estimated allocation for India was $1.2 million in 2010, allows its personnel to attend courses from the 2000 offered annually at some 150 U.S. military schools, receive observer or on-the-job training in addition to orientation tours.
In comparison, Pakistan's IMET allocation has more than doubled from $2.03 million in 2006 to $5 million in 2010. It is, of course, no secret that till the Soviet army's ignominious retreat from Afghanistan in 1989, the U.S. defence and security establishment liberally patronised top Pakistani generals to the extent that even before the omnipotent corps commanders' periodic conferences ended, their minutes were faxed to the American embassy.
Under the IMET, ‘fast track' mid-level Indian military officers — almost certain to reach higher rank and hence decision-making positions and selected by the three Services — are provided a wide exposure to the U.S. military and its thinking. In many instances, their tactical and strategic opinions, based on their operational experiences, were avidly sought by senior American officers — an ego massaging indulgence they were rarely, if at all, accorded by their superiors back home and one which eventually in many instances does reportedly translate into influencing important military procurements the U.S.' way. In short, Washington's patronage extended to the Pakistani and other militaries around the world is now being avidly extended to India.
But as far as the Indian military and the throng of strategic thinkers is concerned, the U.S. is preaching to the converted. Two analyses — “Indo-U.S. military relationship: Expectations and Perceptions,” sponsored by the Director, Net Assessment from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and executed by private consultants Booz, Allen, Hamilton first in 2002 and then again in November 2008 indicate the growing proximity between the two defence establishments.
The initial 130-page report, produced after interviewing 82 senior American and Indian officials, largely serving and retired military personnel, views the strategic relationship with India as a “hedge” against losing out significant allies such as Japan and South Korea. American interviewees argued that with India as a strategic partner, the future Asian environment might be less threatening and more easily managed.
In the document, the U.S. acknowledges the Indian Navy as a “stabilising force” in the Indian Ocean Region and wants a closer working relationship with it as it straddles the strongest area of strategic convergence — sea lane protection. According to senior, unnamed U.S. officials, naval cooperation is perhaps one of the more promising and “non-threatening” areas of service-to-service cooperation for the U.S. and India. Naval cooperation can occur without causing political anxieties in India as American officials maintain that the U.S. Navy leaves no ‘footprints' in the country, the report declares.
The analysis also envisages India as capable of providing new training opportunities and ultimately “basing [facilities] and access for U.S. power projection.” India has already allowed the U.S. army admittance to its counter insurgency jungle warfare school at Virangte in the northeast but is still considering opening up the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) at Gulmarg to American soldiers.
But despite disallowing the U.S. access to HAWS, its Special Forces (SF) conducted high altitude exercises in Ladakh in September 2003 with the Indian SF to augment “inter-operability” between the two armies. These exercises, conducted a year after similar manoeuvres at Agra, marked the first time India permitted foreign troops into the geographically strategic region. Force multipliers invested in a few years earlier seemed to be paying off.
(Rahul Bedi is New Delhi-based defence analyst.)
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12/18/2010 11:57 AM