People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXVI

No. 44

November 04, 2012

 

ON CERTAIN KERALA EPISODES

 

Media Manoeuverings

for Manufacturing Consent-IV

K K Ragesh

 

THE hugely disproportionate coverage by Kerala media of the murders that were used to malign the CPI(M) was striking. The Malayala Manorama and the Mathrubhumi dailies published hundreds of front page news, editorials and thousands of column news after the murder of T P Chandrasekharan. Most of these news items were published with colour photographs and banner headings. The Malayala Manorama, immediately after the murder from 5th to 31st of May 2012 had published around 197 news items with regard to the murder targeting the CPI(M). The first eight days from May 5th saw the daily filling up its front page, third page and seventh page completely with items accusing the CPI(M) impliedly and explicitly. After that for six months, the 11th page of the daily was completely dedicated for the anti-CPI(M) news and due care was given to ensure not less than one big news item to be printed on the front page. And the Mathrubhumi daily had published around 375 new reports with regard to the murder and also on Fazal murder, all targeting the CPI(M). Almost all pages, especially front page to seventh page and ninth page were filled up with such stories so as to create a notion among the public that the CPI(M) is a party of killers and anti-socials. All other independent media in the state had followed the guidance set by these top two newspapers. All truth seeking independent channel rooms were filled up with the same news for six months targeting the CPI(M).

 

However, when Left activists Aneesh Rajan at Idukki, Vineesh at Sreekrishnapuramm, Palakkad, M Aneesh and Philip John at Kottayam were brutally murdered during the same period, the same media was trimming its wrath with willful silence as they were unworthy victims for them. Aneesh Rajan was killed in the Kamakshyvilasam estate area at Nedumkandam by the Congress goons while he was on his way to visit the injured Tamil workers. The Tamil workers were attacked in Nedungandam, the native place of Aneesh Rajan, by the Congress goons who had unleashed vandalism against Tamil minorities during the Mullaperiyar controversy. At Sreekrishnapuramm, in Palakkad district, both hands of Vineesh were chopped by the RSS criminals to spread terror. The so-called independent media did not cover these brutal killings as statewide news. Even the local news given by these media were qualified with alleged, a practice they consciously avoided when it came to maligning the CPI(M). The brutal killing of the DYFI unit secretary Manoj at Kasaragod becomes a collapsed death and alleged killing in the media rooms. When it comes to the killings or attacks on CPI(M) activists, the media always shows a passive and willful silence. Hence it establishes the fact that while selecting news the media always considers whether the victim is worthy or unworthy, the parameter that makes news into big news or single column news.

 

INDEPENDENT MEDIA, AN

ERRONEOUS CONCEPTION

Noam Chomsky and Edward S Herman in their book Manufacturing Consent -- The Political Economy of the Mass Media establish with numerous examples how the media moulds a propaganda model with targeted and repeated news making so as to suit the elite and capital interests. Victims on some occasions become worthy and on some other occasions unworthy, depending on the purpose it serves to the dominant power. The media coverage given to the murder of Jerzy Popieluszko, a Polish priest killed by the Polish police in October 1984, was astounding. At that time Poland was an enemy State of the US. The New York Times published 78 articles, 3 editorials and 1183 column news items on the murder. And the CBS News had broadcast 48 news programmes and covered 23 times in the peak time evening news. Chomsky argues that, The New York Times highlighted the murder case on its front page on ten different occasions, and the intensity of coverage assured that its readers would know who Popieluszko was, that he had been murdered, and that this sordid violence had occurred in a Communist State.

 

During this same period more than a hundred religious personnel, including clergies and missionaries, were killed in many Latin-American countries by the agents of the US client regimes. In 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero, the highest Catholic Church official in El Salvador, was killed by the US supported military regime. The New York Times published only 7 articles on the killings of scores of clergy and 8 articles on the killing of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The CBS News did not broadcast any news items on the killings of missionaries.   The New York Times that published 78 articles, 3 editorials and 1183 column news items on the murder of Popieluszko found Archbishop Oscar Romero as an unworthy victim and thus published 7 articles 219 column news and was reluctant to publish any editorial. And the CBS News broadcast 13 news programmes and had deliberately blackened it during evening peak time news.

 

The erstwhile Soviet Union was consciously projected as a devil State during the Reagan era in order to support a major arms buildup and more aggressive policy in the Third World and globally. The US, using its propaganda machinery, made all efforts to depict the USSR as an Evil empire and had accused it of sponsoring international terrorism. Chomsky illustrates how the US tactfully used the murder attempt on Pope John Paul II in Rome in May 1981, by Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish fascist and member of a vicious anti-Left party in Turkey. This party had provided the foundation for one of the most effective propaganda campaigns of the Cold War era. After seventeen months of imprisonment in an Italian prison, it was reported that Agca "confessed" that he had been hired by the KGB and Bulgarians. This was excitedly used by the dominant Italian parties to scandalise the powerful Italian Communist party. The Reagan administration's "Evil Empire" campaign also added to this effort. In fact, such propaganda was blatantly erroneous as the revelation was made after 14 months and that too after numerous visits to Agca by representatives of the Italian secret service which is notorious for doctoring evidence and judges, and papal agents, all with a designed political agenda. The mainstream media, while excitedly celebrating this story, had never raised its eyebrows over any of such possibilities and did not ask even for any possible motive of the USSR to assault the Pope hiring a Turkish fascist. Later, the case was lost in the Italian court. And the US mainstream media depicted this as the peculiarities of the Italian system of justice. A decade later, in 1991, after the archives of the Soviet and Bulgaria opened up, no evidence of  Bulgarian KGB involvement could be located even after thoroughly inspecting the Bulgarian Interior Ministry's secret service files. Numerous instances can be cited from the bygone days in the history to establish the fact that how the right wing politics used the media to serve the interests of the dominant elite. In Kerala too the same media-right wing nexus is at work for the last couple of decades.

 

Noam Chomskys above mentioned observation vis--vis how the mass media manufacture big news by filtering through the media filter of anti-communism, literally substantiates the continuing news-making process of the right wing media in Kerala. It is extremely difficult to imitate the subtle flexibility shown to facilitate the ruling elite interests by these media in the state, be it in choosing the news, deciding the size of the title and number of columns used etc. In all these aspects, the media filter of anti-communism seems to be at work vigorously.

 

The media engages in the process of manufacturing consent that corresponds to the interests of the ruling elite. Chomskys observation in this regard assumes extreme significance when he establishes the fact that the elite media are sort of the agenda-setting media. That means The New York Times, The Washington Post, the major television channels, and so on set the general framework. The local media more or less adapts to their structure. It appears that the facial expression and body language exhibited by the news readers in the Malayalam channels seems to be an imitation of those of media channels such as NDTV, CNN-IBN or even BBC News etc. This further establishes the fact of imitation of the agenda-setting media by local channels. It is not just the filtered content of news that is being replicated but even the mannerisms of news presentation of the framework set in the laboratory of the imperialist media tycoons is also being adopted.

 

Hence it is clear that the right-wing media in Kerala too indulges in the task of manufacturing consent in the interests of capitalists by selecting and constructing news originally moulded by the mammoth media empire of tycoons like Rupert Murdoch. The shrewdness demonstrated by the independent media in Kerala is astounding; be it in selecting news, converting them into breaking news etc. The Nadapuram rape story, VIP story in sex scandal incident, corruption of Rs 376 crore in Lavlin case and the invisible palatial house and Kamala Group at Singapore built with corruption money, S- knife controversy in Paul Muthoot murder case, Richard Frankies imperialist connection, - it is very difficult to count and calculate the stories baked in the kitchens of this independent media and how effectively these media produced and directed the scripts so as to target the CPI(M) and its leaders and even their relatives. The magicians trick of producing vibhuti (holy ash) in the air seems to have been adopted well by the media magicians in the state. A research on the hollowness of the anti-CPI(M) news, baked and served by these media, could be a subject of serious study.

(Concluded)