The Power of Media
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 18 Dec , 2014

It is ironic that television channels and print media, the world over, have taken, what can only be described as vicarious pleasure, at providing live coverage of the recent hostage crisis in Sydney that ended with the tragic death of two hostages and the Iranian origin gunman, while completely ignoring the killing of five people in Pennsylvania by another “nut job” who is still on the loose. The reason for such biased coverage is not far to seek as one covered up his nuttiness in vapid and vague ideology while the other has just let it flow.

Indian media that has the ability to take things to even more ludicrous lengths spared no effort to establish the “Indian connection” to the attack, by emphasizing on the fact that two Indians were among the fifteen odd hostages.

Indian media that has the ability to take things to even more ludicrous lengths spared no effort to establish the “Indian connection” to the attack, by emphasizing on the fact that two Indians were among the fifteen odd hostages. Let’s face it; with one in seven being Indian in the world it was just a statistical probability that two out of the fifteen odd hostages would be Indian. One channel even went on to discuss the preparedness our security establishment to handle “lone wolf” attacks now that the threat of the Islamic State was at our very doorstep, what with the arrest of twitter fan Mehdi, return of the prodigal Arif and now, off course, the Australian episode.

As if all this were not enough, our intelligence agencies were also reported to have asked the Delhi Police to beef up security around “western- origin” coffee houses and eateries along with those owned by Indian firms! While the reaction of the intelligence agencies appears par for the course, why only Delhi or for that matter only coffee shops should be the cynosure of their attention beats me as police from Mumbai to Bokharo and Ahmedabad to Imphal would surely see their cities as vulnerable as well.

While “copy- cat attacks” are a well- known terrorist phenomena, especially during the late 1960’s-1970’s, when the Palestinian liberation groups and other disruptive elements such as the Red Brigade and the Baader Meinhoff Gang were at their destructive best but to give the term “lone wolf attacks” credibility of any kind makes little sense and only provides propaganda value to the organizations they purportedly represent. While murderers kill for any number of reasons it would be foolish to give any such individual even a semblance of a fig leaf to justify violence. In this particular case a malcontent who was unable to get his act together committed a violent crime and got his just desserts.

After all, to demand a flag or express support on social media canhardly make one an ideologue or a fanatic for a cause, but can definitely be seen as just another pathetic stunt to gain publicity, similar  to what we sometimes witness in Bollywood. In this context Mehdi Biswas, our Twitterati publicist, while facing the wrath of the Indian legal system must not be allowed to become a martyr to the cause of the Islamic State by inflating his impact on social media. Seventeen thousand followers in a population of seven billion is not even a peanut and there is a world of a difference between words and deeds.

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The fact of the matter is that the Indian state faces enough grave threats from armed groups in the North East, the Maoists in our heartland and in Kashmir from terrorists located in Pakistan which all contribute in making us vulnerable to attacks against our soft under belly. The media must focus on these issues and while undoubtedly these have seen regular coverage verging on the routine, attempts to increase ratings and get more “eye-balls” by raising the bogey of the “Islamic State” will be counter-productive.

We actually need to remember that despite Islam having been in India for over a thousand years, a fair amount of that as the ruling elite, we are still a majoritarian Hindu state that is completely secular in its outlook. Neither Talibinization of Afghanistan nor the spread of the Islamic State in the Middle-East is going to change that reality any time soon. Therefore, creating a fear psychosis does a disservice to us all and does not automatically lead to a better or more effective security environment but can certainly, like some advertising, lead to creating a demand where none existed earlier. It is time to stop creating mountains out of mole-hills.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig Deepak Sinha

is a second generation para trooper and author of “Beyond the Bayonet: Indian Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century.” He is currently a consultant with the Observer Research Foundation.

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2 thoughts on “The Power of Media

  1. Well Deepak just a few days back the media went whole hog relaying live for about an hour the funeral of an Australian cricketer. Well how does that effect life in India that our media went to that extent. Are they so hard up that they are on a space filling spree. Just two day before 14 CRPF personal were killed in an ambush in Jharkhand. Nothing much on that. Most of the time their reporters dont know what they are talking about. Now they stand at the gate of a school and say how unprotected the school is. Well thats us!!

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