a new kind of media culture, they have sides
A novel argument is being adduced in
some quarters to justify the impending American invasion of Iraq.
I will not tell you which newspaper it is, but a columnist in a South
East Asian country's popular English daily said that the Iraqi people
are sad people because they are awaiting an American incursion in
country wants war, or to be invaded - but the Iraqi people want
that," he says. This is to take the sovereignty versus human
rights conundrum to its hilarious extreme.
But these days
such arguments are being adduced, because the global media is being
built up into a one large 'we are together in this' monolith. There
are arguments appearing in Australian newspapers (reproduced elsewhere
in this newspaper), which say for instance that the latest global
threat to the world is 'Islamic-fascism'
In South East
Asia and Australia, it is perhaps not necessary to 'buy' journalists
to manufacture such viewpoints. I remember reading somewhere recently
about a person who thought that capitalism is not an 'ism' at all,
that it is not an ideology, but that it is present in human interaction,
the way water flows wherever there is human habitation.
and South East Asia, pro American sentiment need not be manufactured.
It is there, and is natural the way the writer quoted above says
capitalism is not an 'ism' but a truism.
But the danger
is the stridency with which the rest of the world media is slowly
being built into a monolith that favours the prevailing currents
of opinion in places such as Australia and South East Asia.
There is tremendous
pressure on the media to conform, and this disease of conformism
is catching on in this country for instance, even though journalists
are not necessarily interested in any direct way, in what happens
who go against the prevailing neo-liberal orthodoxy (basically the
orthodoxy of markets markets, more markets and globalization) will
find themselves being increasingly marginalized from the mainstream.
Those who have the guts and the gumption will march on.
will find it difficult to fight the orthodoxy, which says for instance
that if you are not a 'peace' journalist, you are not a journalist
You are asked
to humanize the other side - the enemy or the opposition.
(This is from
the media diversity checklist from one of the organizations that
want to build a certain monolithic media culture in this country.)
As far as I
am concerned for instance, I did not think of an enemy in the first
place to attempt to humanize him. Enemies are for armies; enemies
are not for newspaper people. This is elemental. But it escapes
the thought processes of those who would want to see the media in
black and white, just like their television programs, which are
also in black and white - and do not reflect any logic except linear
one dimensional logic.
The media orthodoxy
that is being built up, does not believe in the maverick. Basically,
it wants to make all journalists clones of Reuter journalists, who
rarely if ever have an opinion.
But it is not
just opinion that the media orthodoxy seeks to stifle. It is also
I have an initiative to tell the truth. But the media orthodoxy
that the others want to build for me says 'hang the truth - - but
humanize the enemy'
But, I have
never had an enemy, certainly not in the Tamil community, certainly
not in the Muslim community and certainly not anywhere in Sri Lanka.
But often the enemy of the modern day media monolith, is the truth.
those who say that America should invade Iraq because the Iraqi
people want it, ignore the truth that no intervention or incursion
is possible unless it has the approval of the international community
But when you
are building media orthodoxies, it is a little bit like playing
god. God according to all texts built man in his own image. The
media orthodoxy wants everybody in the media to be in their own
And they want
all their readers to be in their own image too. Apart from the fact
that this is boring conformism, this goes against all the fundamentals
of good journalism which demands a curiosity spirit. As another
South African journalist said at seminar in Sri Lanka many years
back ( when the peace media orthodoxy had still not been built up)
all journalists need to be mischievous to be good journalists."
But the only
mischief that a journalist in the current orthodoxy can get to is
to go for a peace seminar and blow his nose - if that too is not
considered rude. This is the new kind of journalism in which if
you are built in the image of the current political orthodoxy -
you are a good journalist. God help you if you are not built in
that image. Journalists who concoct a thesis to say that there is
Islamic fascism building up, are not in fact peddling opinion, but
they are demonizing the CORRECT enemy of the day.
an enemy is allright, if that enemy happens to be the enemy of those
who call the shots in the global orthodoxy of thought.
In other words,
it is allright to have an enemy if that enemy is the enemy of the
orthodoxy. It is allright to see the world in terms of 'your side'
and 'our side' as long as you get the consequent equation right.
Which is that if the other side is Iraqi, you can demonize the other
side. You will even perhaps win awards for doing so.
But, if the
other side is Tamil, or Eastern province Muslim, you need to 'humanize'
For your information,
to all those who subscribe to this orthodoxy, I say loud and clear,
that there is no 'enemy' in the kind of mischievous journalism that
I practice for instance.
When you don't
have an enemy you don't need to make that weighty decision on whether
to humanize or demonize him. You don't need to go to seminars and
make checklists. You do not have to go through that whole circus
Pity that now
they tell us after all these years that we need to 'humanize' the
other side. We are a little more primitive than all these enlightened
people who want to build a colour-blind and odourless media culture.In
our journalism, we never had 'another side.' Instead of that, we
just liked to have the truth on our side