Manufacturing Discourse

Zamir  Ahmad

Noam Chomsky (born 1928) is an American linguist, philosopher, and author of more than one hundred books. He is widely known and respected for his criticism of contemporary capitalism. One of his books co-authored with Edward S Herman,is ‘Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.’

This book, though published in 1988, is still considered an epic because it analytically deconstructs the popular perception about media being reliable and authentic source of news. The book argues that “Editorial distortion is aggravated by the news media’s dependence upon private and governmental news sources.

If a given newspaper, television station, magazine, etc., incurs governmental disfavor, it is subtly excluded from access to information. Consequently, it loses readers or viewers, and ultimately, advertisers.” In order to overcome such predicament, Chomsky argues that, “news media businesses editorially distort their reporting to favor government and corporate policies in order to stay in business.”

In other words it is actually the governments that decide what information to disseminate to general masses, and when.  It also means that a news item of no intrinsic value can become a “breaking news” if the government wishes so as also really important news item can be conveniently hidden from the public if it adversely disturbs the status quo for the authorities. More importantly and seriously, news can be plantedto subvert a discourse that is developing in a society.

All of us saw this happening in 2011. Even though the year was, by and large, peaceful from a law and order perspective, the narratives that started developing post 2010 were directionless. Whenever factual consolidation of an important issue got underway, it was bulldozed by a stream of news about another issue.

And so on and so forth. While the year started with a cry for justice for last years killings, it was subdued by ‘discovery of unidentified graves’ which was conveniently buried under the din of AFSPA removal. And when the going got tough with AFSPA, apostasy and conversions took centre stage in the discussions. The apostasy issue, in turn, got drowned in the Liquor debate and that debate has already died down in the “funds for madrasas’ controversy. It is quite evident that the agenda for our discourses is set not by the claimants to the narrative but by those whose only stake in the narrative is to distort and subvert it. It is ironical that the leadership, intellectuals and columnists in us instead of steering the thought processes act like drift wood and spend all their energies and intellect in reactionary activism. And that too for a short span of time. We collectively are more often lured into play fields, which are neither of our choice nor of any significant consequence.

One is reminded of a similar situation a couple of years back when the infamous sex scandal took our society by storm. Apart from the usual sloganeering, an outfit by the name of Forum Against Social Evils was created with much fanfare. What happened to that forum after the initial frenzy is no mystery. Similarly, the issue of conversions was debated earlier also and the renewed focus on the issue again set our Ulema hobnobbing to form yet another outfit. The grandstanding leadership appealed the public to form “BaitulMals” in each locality without even hinting how that would be implemented.

For the Hurriyat being proactive would mean setting the agenda for some positive news themselves for once.


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