The media, as also the politician, has started complaining bitterly about the social media. The gist of its complaint is that the social media is susceptible to manipulation by the vested interests and is even purchasable for the right price. Its findings include the use of internet social media companies by corporate houses to settle scores with their business rivals through the time tested mechanisms of maligning the image of rivals, boosting the prospects of its client politician or political party, morphed videos of indecent liaisons of the target, directing electoral trends including rigging of polls, stoking conflicts of various types such as caste, creed, communal, language, gender, region, farmers, labour, employees etc. But the question is: wasn’t the mainstream media indulging in such techniques till about the arrival of the social media or alongside it? The fact is that journalists in print as well as electronic media had crossed all bounds of fair & objective journalism long ago in lieu of government largesse. They had all the privileges that have been allowed lawfully to the people’s elected representatives and bureaucrats, such as government housing, priority allotment of housing plots or houses constructed by public authorities like the Housing Boards with public funding and ordinary applicants for allotment. They have enjoyed health facilities similar to government officers, foreign visits at the cost of the exchequer, membership of most committees formed by the governments at the central or state level and acquired positions of power, pelf and tremendous influence. They went even beyond it when they freely indulged in shady deals in collusion with liaison offices like Niira Radia firms, or hundreds of such other paid assignments, besides paid news. Without a single exception the press and media are and have always been owned by business houses, which survive with collusive collaboration with the political parties that form, run or survive governments. They contribute significantly to the electoral prospects of political parties and get duly rewarded. It is only the people who are tricked in the process by placing their faith in the objectivity or independence of the press, which has been anointed as the Fourth Estate- one of the strongest and stoutest pillars of democracy. But unfortunately it is the press that disrupts democracy in countries like India.
Nothing epitomizes this incongruity than the bust of the Tehelka magazine and sinking of its Editor-in-Chief, who was placed under arrest by the Goa police on charges of rape and outraging the modesty of one of his junior journalist colleague on 7 & 8 November 2013 in Goa during the THiNK Fest organized by the group, where many international personalities were also invited. Tehelka and its Editor-in-Chief, Tarun Tejpal, shot to fame about a decade ago when they did a sting on the President of the BJP, a political party. Those who are aware of the dirty tricks departments in operation in Delhi had always suspected it to be a paid political assignment of the trounced ruling establishment. It was, however, the fault of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) which could not cope up with the requirements of the fragile situation of rising to power. But that is not important because anybody doing anything wrong must pay for it. What was wrong in the sting was that it had employed the services of prostitutes (I would not like to use the word, but that was used in all media coverage and substituting it would rob it of its relevance) and bribe money offered in the name of political donations. The meanest thing is to exploit for commercial and/or political purposes the helplessness of exploited women by engaging them for such sting operations instead of helping them leave the profession and rehabilitating them. Tehelka and Tejpal rose by the grace of women and so fell by the grace of women !
Offering money as donation to a political party is no aberration in democracy. Accepting such offers is also no aberration. Rather it is normal. Nobody offers it for nothing. The giver and the taker understand it well. Though called donation, it is an offering made in exchange of an immediate or future favour. A politician, much less any party president, would be a confirmed fool to refuse to accept such donations. The mischief lies in first calling it a donation and later terming it as a bribe. Even schools and professional colleges in India collect (rather extort) huge sums of money under the head “donation”! Tradition, however, has it that donation should always be given to the “deserving” (paatra) only. Whether the politician deserves donation is a different matter, since he does not qualify even for alms or charity. Perhaps contribution might appropriately define such money transactions between the seeker of favours and the politician. The damage it causes to a nation, a government, a democracy can prove to be highly disruptive and costly. The chaar din ki chaandni or the four days of moonshine as it is called in the Hindi Language ends up in the dark soon! Tehelka(literally bombshell) and Tarun Tejpal made fast progress, took advantage of their position by establishing their credentials as a dangerous black mail media group to move in to business of hospitality, exclusive club, festivals etc. Their dozens of companies have been exposed. Shares of face value of rupees 10 are reported to have been sold for as much as 1400 or even 3200 or so. Tarun Tejpal is actively associated with the Literary Festival also. As time passes, many more activities of the media group are bound to surface as also its political connections. There are others in the camp who are equally or more guilty than Tarun Tejpal in actively disrupting democratic functioning of the government in India and its federating states, subverting the rule of law (in this case they failed), harming honest officers by carrying malicious propaganda against officers who refused to violate the law to do favours or disfavours, suppressing news in significant cases like the Hawala scam, cash for vote scam etc. They are equally guilty of running vilification campaigns against leaders of other political parties like the Samajwadi Party, Bhartiya Janata Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party. They have demonstrated obnoxious hatred against Mulayam Singh Yadavs, Mayawatis and Narendra Modis. They behave as the licensing authority to dispense certificates of secularism, attach tags of communalism on their targe or transparency, corruption, progressive, revolutionary, terrorist, Americanized etc. It is awfully difficult for an ordinary person to escape the onslaught of such a powerful media, which has rightly been described as the Fifth Column of the ruling Establishment by some people.
However, there being never any possibility of monopoly on the affairs of life anywhere in the world, there still remain inspiring instances of both politicians as well as journalists. In competition with the social media, the regular channels have no other survival mantra than play it fair. The news and views on the social media circulate so fast that the mainstream media has started quoting them while covering the developments in print or television and radio broadcast. Doesn’t it arouse some mirth!