The Media and A Thousand Mutinees

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

Mainstream media outlets have a strong influence on people’s mind and may contribute, in some cases, to propagate wrong ideas and distorted views, which are taken up in a chorus of complaints and wails. Mimicry is having a field day, a convenient way to put critical minds in sleeping mode. It is trendy for some Western media to peddle ‘progressist’ views on almost every issue with a partial vision that hides multiple facets of sensitive topics.

One such example is the demonization of a few political figures that aims to run down their image in public opinion. By now, the Indian Prime Minister has grown familiar with the caricature that is propagated about him and the reasons for his re-election, the latest one being in TIME magazine in May shortly before the results of the last general election, and aired by an Indian citizen himself, Aatish Taseer, a writer and essayist. The latter mediatizes the same views as Arundhati Roy and a few spokespersons in the English-written papers in India, and which the international press feels entitled to replicate. Infiltration of Western press by a few elements hailing from various countries sharing a common worldview through the prism of particular interests is no secret.

In 2017, the American media managed to convince citizens to cope with the election of President Trump as a personal tragedy. Without even waiting for their President’s action to start and letting the public analyze his policies in different areas. The President’s personal grudge against Obama and the pledge to undo whatever his predecessor had done is also no secret. However, the image of a capricious blond baby toying with his country and the world according to his whims and fancies may not fit in the reality of what is happening. This sort of ‘freedom’ free societies enjoy is widely abused in total disrespect and lack of restraint in expressing opposition and hostility.

So far, there has been no sign of any war-mongering policy anticipated by opponents and media despite impulsive tweets sometimes in undiplomatic language which characterize the President’s style. In one instance though, he surprised everyone by wasting no time to reduce the Syrian airport to smithereens after news of chemical weapons being used by the Syrian President came out. Reportedly, his teams of security advisors are much more prone to resort to armed conflict than he himself. He managed to break the thaw with North Korea by engaging with its President, and even stepping into his territory as a sign of positive political will – an exceptional diplomatic move in relations between the two countries. A major change in the confrontational attitude adopted for decades. Further development is largely dependent on the influence of Russia and China on North Korea’s President. The coming weeks will show how threats to Afghanistan and Iran might translate into.

It is also trendy for the media to promote a self-flagellation attitude on sensitive issues and randomly use phrases to create sensation rather than resort to thought-provoking analysis. Allegations of racism flow easily at the least provocative presidential tweet. Such emotional response is largely meant to flatter the ego of minority groups. Not everyone gulps down the media’s one-sided views.

The four women from the Democratic Party, a Somalian, a Palestinian, a Mexican and an African-American claim they are as American as President Trump. Only the African-American member is a native. The three others amply use the freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution to lash out against opponents and defend their views on migration, etc. It is also obvious that they are using a political platform to defend the interests of their respective ethnic groups, and the emotional tearful outbursts in Congress to plead for an opening of frontiers to admit more migrants shows a poor political performance which the young ladies will have to work hard on for years to acquire the mettle of seasoned politicians. The Somalian Democrat MP has given evidence of her real intention in anti-Jew racist statements, which was shoved under the carpet by the media.

Sure, they are quite American judging from the aggressive tone they adopt in imitating their white colleagues, a privilege that may not be taken for granted in the masochistic male-dominated political arena in their native countries where they are likely to be jailed for their opinion.

A passport holder gives equal rights as citizens to descendants of migrant stock in Western countries and other parts of the world which have adopted a liberal stance on granting citizenship to foreigners. A passport gives a political identity to newcomers in host countries. It does not erase or change family lineage and history, ethnic origin, religious background or the history of one’s native country. There is more to people’s identity worldwide than citizenship. Being Japanese or American encompasses various factors such as collective history and shared memory, culture, ethnicity, colour (not a taboo), language, religion, its philosophy, a country’s achievements, its ideals, qualities and flaws which run in the cellular memory of the people of a country. So it does not make sense to shout on rooftops that ‘I am as American as you are!’ Simply because it does not reflect reality.

The other instance is the French media peddling randomly allegations of racism against anyone who alludes to opponents’ foreign origin. It follows the same simplistic binary vision of oppressor and victim, good and bad, an inane black and white picture of every sensitive polemic. Nadine Morano, a right-wing Republican member, is finger pointed as racist for her remark on the dress code and physical appearance of the government’s spokesperson of Senegalese origin.

For the past months, not only her dress code but her blunt official statements have been drawing criticisms from various quarters because French people expect some degree of elegance in style and tone, which reflect their culture. Wearing flip-flops, jeans and an awkward hairstyle to address the public in a blunt tone is bound to arouse comments.

Similarly, Indian Parliament expects young female MPs to wear traditional sarees as elected representatives of the people in Parliament. The argument ‘It is my choice’ to wear Western clothes of the new recruits is questionable, and reflects disregard for the country’s customs.

Mediapart, another press outlet, has been overzealous in revealing excessive expenses in diners given by outgoing Minister François de Rugy and works carried out in an apartment allotted by the State. News of more than 500 euros per bottle of wine in official diners shoots up the adrenalin level of a fiery Gallic temperament, especially among the far-left communist crowd, deeply imbibed with anti-rich sentiments, and spares no time in sending angry threats to the accused. Official reports put things in their right perspective, but the damage is already done.

Strangely, millions of euros which public funds have to pour out following the destruction spree unleashed by segments of Yellow Vest demonstrations arouse scarce outrage in the press. However, the political class in all countries will have to adopt strict principles in the management of public funds and not be tempted to take advantage of their position to make electors foot the bill for their expenses. They earn a monthly salary and should learn to withdraw money from their bank accounts. Conversely, Mauritius needs Mediapart style journalism to break the opacity in the use of public funds and donation by foreign countries.

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Political correctness, imitation and mimicry of a few spokespersons’ worldviews have a created a sheep mindset which spreads like an epidemic and allows a distorted view of reality to propagate, unimpeded. It is a matter of honesty for journalists to provide a more balanced view of things rather than release some emotional outbursts to create sensation, misinform and mislead the public.

The danger of political correctness is that it forbids pluralism of views, documented arguments based on reason, stifles free speech, silences honest people who can enlighten the public.

Are mainstream world media outlets running out of ideas to draw public attention? When it comes to brandish selected politicians and world leaders as villains, it looks as if some television and press outlets had signed an agreement to parrot one another’s statements, however erroneous they might be. Carrying an independent investigation or publishing an in-depth analysis may require some effort which some journalists shun out of laziness or for lack of intellectual honesty, and very often, for ideological reasons. It is easier to join the chorus singing the same refrain than coming out with your own tune. Politics is a serious matter, not an entertainment to keep the public glued to press reports and television screens, which the corporate media have to constantly supply to maintain profitable levels of monthly turnover.

Partial media interpretation of key topics, issues and official standpoints often provide a misleading and simplistic version of complex information. Hence the importance for the public to be sufficiently enlightened and informed through reliable sources on topics of major interest so as not to react impulsively and irrationally to events and news items, and avoid flooding social media with erratic emotional responses.

In becoming the rallying point for a thousand mutinees, social media networks, at least, allow the public to express themselves and unload the weight on their minds and hearts. But impassioned outbursts have to be tempered with right information and adequate knowledge on a wide range of topics. Not an easy task in an age of swift development in every field of knowledge, and the learning of world history takes the back seat in the set of priorities most people deal with on a daily basis to meet their material needs.

Fortunately though, there will always be a class of citizens who will stand up to give a more balanced view of things based on facts, reality, culture and history, and shed light on matters of concern to the general public.

* Published in print edition on 26 July 2019

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