As a kid whenever I was asked to write an essay on newspaper or on screen news reports, I used to throw in one particular sentence in the mix. It read “Newspaper is the tool that helps a population forming their opinion”. And quite rightfully it was that way for a pretty long time. But then things started changing with the inception of 24/7 news channels, which used to deliver you news throughout the day and serve you mindless astrological shit at night or the very moment they run out of the news. At times, in sheer cases of irony, we saw them organizing a debate panel after a rape case while the sponsor of the segment was some shitty self-proclaimed ayurvedic viagra pills. There were instances when they asked the family of a recently deceased about how they are feeling, just a cheap trick to sensationalize any and all the news. Though those were a major turn off (I stopped watching news channels for a good 4 years now), these were never a threat, not the sort of a threat that can cost someone their life.
But things have changed pretty much recently. Before I blabber furthermore, let me put you in a spot (My favorite thing to do, the other day I asked my friend to place himself in the shoes of a staunch BJP supporter and boy!! he cursed me for that). So, say there is a village which has only one water source that people rely on. Now, what is the easiest way to kill all the villagers? Yeah, if you are thinking of poisoning the water source, then boy! you are right (check your mailbox, you might have received a joining invite from RSS or BJP). Anyway putting the joke aside, now that you know how to efficiently kill a population with minimum effort, think of another scenario, where there is a country of different casts and creeds, and you want people from one certain group to live in the country. How do you instigate a riot that would kill hundreds and thousands of people and further your nefarious political schemes? Keep in mind, you only have 2 hours to instigate the riot. Well, the lackeys of the bearded saffron King found a way for that; pay your pet media to print a news that would cause the population to lose their mind.
Off late, this has been the trend. With 2-3 new 24/7 news channels popping up on your TV screen every other day, there is always a need for new and fresh contents that has not been covered yet, exclusive scoop that will force people to watch your channel or buy your paper. And when politics extended its black hand to hold the shady hand of the media, literally the hell broke loose. And here it’s not only a problem with politics, anyone with some evil schemes and sufficient money to manipulate news started doing this. And in a world where everyone is busy running, we get little to no time to verify the news reports. So what do we do? We believe everything we see. We believe in the fake news that falls in line with our thinking. It’s not just shitty whatsapp share or facebook share, it’s much bigger than that, as they get aired on national televisions or printed in famous newspapers.
One might ask, “We are common people. We are busy with our day to day life. We might not be getting enough time to always background verify the legitimacy of any news. But what about the reporters? Is it not their job to present the news based on actual facts than making up a news based on rumors or false propagandas?”. You are right in your question. But nowadays, topping the most read newspaper or the most viewed news channels means much more to reporters than serving a proper news. The very moment you see a news, you instinctively cover it for your news channel, you don’t verify it. Because the time you might need to verify the news, will see 2-3 more fake news popping up. Now it’s not about your love for journalism but rather making maximum money out of it. With lots of political backup, right amount of fake news in favor of the present government, and a dash of “Nationalist” ideology an average newspaper can become the best, and a below average news channel can turn into the mirror of the society. It’s no more about the art of writing, the need to bring justice that matters to keep your job in the journalism field, but it’s about how well can you lick the bureaucratic boots or for the lack of better words, ass.
And it’s not only the fake news, it’s often misleading. It forces you to believe something that might have happened differently or might not have happened at all. It is often supported by photoshopped images or archived images from some other time. And people are getting paid for that. A tool that once meant to inform people about their surroundings in a right way now has become a tool for politicians to exploit for their own purpose. And we often fall for it and run outside to kill our ‘enemies’, while the real enemy is out there enjoying their stay in Lutyens’ Delhi. But we don’t see it, cause we are busy either making up a false news, or fabricating that one with photoshopped images, or sending it out to gullible primetime audiences or just being too much of a “nationalist”.