Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: Media Issues

Some thoughts after another round of discussions.

1) In the old days, Indian corporate groups owned the media houses. The main interest was to ensure a vehicle for advertizing and publicity for their products. These media houses made a show of courting political opinion as this would attract customers, but eventually the advertizing and publicity function took precedence. Occasionally the Indian corporate world would support a particular political choice and the media houses would be used to conduct a psy-ops campaign on the Indian voters. The media largely took its editorial guidance from the corporate groups that owned it. The corporate group was mostly in agreement with the Govt.'s protective trade practices and thus the media followed a straight and narrow path.

2) The government held a monopoly on media means. It controlled the price of newsprint, it controlled access to the airwaves and it controlled the licencing and import of all media
technology. In major decisions the Government actively courted the editors of major media outlets and the state controlled media conducted an aggressive pre-publicity campaign that
brought people into line. All these incentivized an atmosphere of cooperation with the government. The peneration of the population was low and the circulations of major media houses was also poor. There was little capital available for autonomous media to arise. A relatively small source of capital existed in the country among members of the traditional banking community who felt that the government's investment strategy - involving huge long term investments did not provide enough of a return. The traditional banking community was lso denied access to the same kind of markets they had earlier and they did occasionally finance news media and subvert editors in the hope of conducting psy-ops of their own, but the sheer size of the government's presence in the media obscured their efforts. The result was an extremely controlled media environment. This drove them towards the unorganized sector - low credibility tabloids and movies. Most of these businesses had ties to the Mumbai Mafia.

3) As the population of the country grew, the number of people that had something to say about something grew. The Mumbai Mafia played a great role in this, its aggressive management of investments in Bollywood and this strengthened the popularity and penetration of audio-visual media. This success drew a number of people from the traditional banking sector, and the Mumbai Mafias promised a good return on investment by promising access to non-resident markets in the Gulf and the West. As more capital became availble to fund the creation of private electronic media houses and the Mumbai Mafia ensured access to the means of dissemination. The population which long felt repressed by the control over the media by the Government readily flew into the Mafia's arms little realizing the price it would pay on sunny friday morning in the March of 1993.

4) The "liberalization period" of the 90s saw the emergence of private news houses and channels built up with funds from foreign investors. Due to a relaxation of import curbs, these private channels were able to field superior production technology and seize a very important chunk of the market with their round-the-clock coverage. So intense and aggressive was the attitude of the channels that several retired Indian intelligence officers began to voice their concern that the news channels were fast replacing the Intelligence Bureau as the Government's primary source of information. These retired officials opined that the seductive presentation style with its emphasis on graphic imagery was more attractive to most viewers even those within government and especially among the political class and this left them vulnerable to foreign psy-ops. The large media presence in the corridors of power also made it possible for people posing as journalists to talent spot politicians and bureaucrats - vastly increasing the vulnerability of the entire operation of government. Additionally several media groups extensively invested in psychological monitoring operations which carefully studied the population and identified psychological vulnerablities. This careful targetting yeilded fruit in the form of improved psephological models in the private sector. Prior to this, the activity was solely the preserve of the intelligence community in India. Awareness of these facts remained low among the general population - viewing the media as some form of entertainment, most failed to understand that the media was no different from the intelligence community it sought to replace - with the exception of the fact that unlike the intelligence officers of the Government of India - the media was completely unaccountable.

5) By the late 90s it was clear that the news media had access to raw news from the location but they had not developed a good analytical component. To fill in this gap retired government officers stepped in to project the government's point of view without prejudicing the policy structure itself. This helped damp out most of the information management problems. However with the entry of new media into the country after Kargil, channels began to compete for analysis space. Today we see a flood experts and talking heads. In many cases there is no real expertise in the matter at hand. A case study of this kind of behavior may be obtained by viewing Barkha Dutt's show on NDTV. By 2002 it was clear that there was "expert-proliferation" and this was limiting the Government's ability to convey its views in the media.

6) The internet access in the country has grown. This has contributed to the proliferation of website that cater to an Indian audience. Most internet surfers do not pay attention to a site's credentials or do bother to find out who owns the site and posts the information. A distrubing trend noticed among younger reporters is a tendency to lift material off the internet and plaster it into mainstream media items. Also a number of journalists and editors have attended institutions in the West and tend to make editorial judgements based on what their instructors in the West deem accurate information. This is at its heart no different from using what some Mullah in Madina has to say about an event to guide your judgement and sensibility. Ofcourse in the West too Mullahs are accorded high degrees and sit inside "educational" establishments. A direct representation of this is the extent to which people like Steven Philip Cohen influence the editorial slant in certain media houses.

7) Most Indians associate media control with the USSR and other dictatorial regimes. Most Indians especially netizens, tend to react very strongly to any attempt to curtain news media
activity. As an elite the Indians seem to lack an awareness of the damaging potential of information. Most Indians are still under the lure of highly successful Western psy-ops which exploited the so-called Indian "Middle Class"'s problem with the Govt. of India's economic policies. What most of these people do not realize is that the United States itself has practiced a very rigid and brutal form of media control. It may be worthwhile to examine the US approach and understand how it is possible to hide a propaganda machinery in plain sight.

8) During the Cold War the US found itself locked into a battle for ideological space with the Soviet Union. The first battleground for this activity was post-war Europe. In order to systematize the process of ideological warfare (or "cultural war") the US government initially set up the Psychological Strategy Board. This entity was comprised of the highest ranking and most influential voices in government and industry. The PSB had two sub-entities, the Office of Program Management (OPM) and the Information Control Department (ICD). Both of these reported to highly senior government officials. The PSB drew on an essentially limitless supply of funds for its operations. The funds came partly from CIA budgets and from private groups who raised funds in a variety of ways. With the help of these funds the PSB and its sub-division carefully targeted every link the information management chain, from the reporter, to the viewer and devised a series of ingenious ways to carry out perception management. Some say that the PSB outlived the Cold War and still functions as a part of government, albeit under a different name, others claim that it is no longer beholden to the US government at all and functions in the twilight zone between the government and the corporate sector in the US. The existance of the PSB itself was a closely guarded secret which emerged only in the late 90s whe the Clinton adminstration found itself locked in a media war with conservative groups. You may recall that in this period the Clinton presidency was subject to barrage of publicty surrounding President Clinton's sexual lifestyle and but other startling revalations about the participation of high ranking US officials in the drug trade never made it to the mainstream media.

9) In conclusion I would like to point out that despite the anger and negative opinion gathering in the halls about the poor behavior of the press, a strategy to control the press will likely require an extremely large amount of investment and manpower as the problem being managed is very diverse and complicated. There is considerable focus on the way in which the media irresponsibly relayed information directly from the blast sites. I just want to say this is not necessarily a bad thing, it seems that the journalists are very keen to get into the heat of the situation to get a few images. So they are not confined by same sense of caution that a trained police officer might be prone to. Bearing in mind that TV news crews are expendible and police officers are not, one cannot take an excessively negative view of the live-coverage teams.

13 Comments:

At 4:54 PM, Blogger mp said...

Hola Maverick:

Interesting month this July has been, and the bloody thing has not yet ended. And towards the fag end Jassu comes with further entertainment:
http://in.news.yahoo.com/060725/211/665zo.html

Some quickies to understand what you said:
1) By Mumbai mafia do you mean to Benette and colemen, ambani etc?

2) Examples of banking folks?

3) What is this??
The large media presence in the corridors of power also made it possible for
people posing as journalists to talent spot politicians and bureaucrats Rajiv Shukla etc?

4) Astute observation. This is at its heart no different from using what some Mullah in Madina has to say about an event to guide your judgement and sensibility.

5) BD et. al. give an ample display of depth in understanding. You remember Omelette-slurping breakfast meeting at NDTV aired from Agra. I understand all those things, that is why asked what is Indian media doing now that they did not do during NDA's regime.

6) thanks for the heads up on PSG. I has no clue about it. I though info war was executed through NSA and FBI psy-war divisions within US.

7) Do you think competitive journalism can be leveraged by security forces? I mean cut-throat competition among the media houses. The ad. revenue is critically dependent on entertainment value in short run and credibility in the long run. Can security people control it. Look at what is happening in Mumbai. That said they would definitely need people on the edit desks of these 24x7 entertainment channels.

8) Most of what you said it seems apply to english language media. Is your analysis valid for regional language media too?

 
At 10:58 AM, Blogger maverick said...

mp,

The mumbai mafia is a group of people that used to carry out illegal businesses in the city and the port. In WW2 they used to do profiteering, after that there was Gold and drugs etc...

I don't want to name names. The Hawala sector as comprises financial groups that have been active in traditional banking sector for centuries now.

A number of journalists are being given access to the politicians and government officers. There is no telling what they are doing with the information they are collecting.

In Agra some media people attempted to interpose themselves between Musharraf and ABV. These people were most likely operating on the instruction of the US which was keen on showing Musharraf as a major player in the region. These people were acting in this fashion though there was no specific request to act otherwise from Goi. The difference now is that some editors actually refused to honor a request from cabinet ministers.

Psywar in the US is a very complicated affair.

The government can identify a major private media partner but then there has to be an atmosphere of trust. For example in the US the Bush government has chosen CBN, Fox and some others as major media partners. In Italy Berlusconi actually owned a media channel that acted as his mouthpiece.

These problems exist in the regional media also. I chose the english media as an example because they are now in the spotlight.

The main problem is that journalists today are being brought into a very deideologized world. This is making them extremely difficult to control and so arbitrary levels of money are required to buy off a journalist's loyalty. Also the media is binding together, there is an unspoken, unwritten understanding among the editors that they are not to target each other in media campaigns.

Audiences have to be sensitized to the fact that the news is a manufactured product with an embedded spin.

 
At 11:08 PM, Blogger mp said...

maverick:

A new disruption: http://ia.rediff.com/news/2006/jul/27ndeal5.htm
Senate is yet to clear it.

KS asked: "Do we know our national interests? Do we know why america is interested in this deal? Do we know why we are interested in this deal?" Good questions but only fuzzy answers available.

So the question is "At what cost?"
Besides the tangible, what did we give?
What are the present and future costs?
Degrees of freedom in pursuing our foreign policy.
KGoan thinks we are entering into strategic partnership. How different is it from poodle-massa relationship that unkil has with others?

 
At 4:30 AM, Anonymous IndraSen said...

Combine:

1)babus (IAS and its various derivatives) with too much ego but lack a vision for country. Nothing has hurt India in last 58 years more than IAS babus.

2)banal/uneducated politicians appeasing minorities (Mulayam, Sonia, Left).

3)corrupt, underpaid, untrained police unable to provide respectable life to ordinary occupants of India.

4)slow and timid judiciary (bloated and constipated elites).

5)environmental factors, unpredictable mansoons, droughts, floods, lack of technical advancements in agriculture methods.

6)hostile undemocratic anti-hindu neighbours.

7)40% poor, uneducated, unconcerned population (bihar, UP, north-east, orrisa) susceptible to exploitation, conversions, brain-washing by foreign agents with loads of money.

8)self-defeating mindset, demise of self-preservation attitude and ability to strike back due to past 1000 years of slavery, invasions and attacks on Indian peninsula.

9) false sense of pride and security planted due to pseudo-secular education system.

10) extremely heterogeneous population with too many sub-religious-subsects, castes, languages and related in-fighting.


I am sorry to say, Hindus, Bharatdesh won't last longer than another 200-400 years. Take my word. Take long hard look at the human history, civilisations evolved over last 10000 years. We hindus in India don’t stand a chance of a survival. There is no hope.

The pseudo-seculars think, if we survived last 1000 years we will survive in future and attribute it to hindu-tolerance!! (instead of giving credit to Pruthviraj, Shivaji, Zhashi, Bhakti-movement, Subhaschandra etc). This is in realistic sense most twisted interpretation of our history ever.

 
At 6:37 AM, Blogger maverick said...

mp,

you can't have arbitrary degrees of freedom. there are realistic trade offs.

In any case we have to beat this media thing into submission. Without control over that we are never going to get a grip over the national psychological space.

Indrasen,

A victimology is useful only in countering the psychological potential of another victimology.

For example, if a Muslim claims that his revanchist islam is the result of years of "Hindu caste based oppression", then a Hindu might feel compelled to remind the Muslim that there have been so many centuries of "Hindu slavery" etc...

This kind of thinking loses its utility when it comes making realistic choices.

I choose a descriptive process and I reject a normative world view.

Too many years of training at work here.

Call me corrupt, call me callous, call me cruel if you'd like.. but I am what I am.. I am an Indian.

Nothing can change that.

 
At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This kind of thinking loses its utility when it comes making realistic choices.

I choose a descriptive process and I reject a normative world view."

Ha ha ha ha

That sounds like something straight from a little red book.

Sorry to be so rude, but that was such pretentious pyscho babble I had to laugh;-x

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Anonymous,

There is no need to apologize. I was hardly expecting you to be polite.

"Pretentious psychobabble" if you could look that up in a dictionary I guess you would be able to look up words like "normative" and "descriptive" in a dictionary also.

"Normative" means I am presenting things as I want them to be. I am viewing the world in terms of my notions of right and wrong.

"Descriptive" means I am describing things as they are - without bringing my personal view of right and wrong.

To borrow the words of Werner Von Braun, "I am apolitical".

 
At 2:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do apologise for my rudeness..

But!

" To borrow the words of Werner Von Braun, "I am apolitical".

Wasnt this better to say? :-)
And more simple too?

" To borrow the words of Werner Von Braun, "I am apolitical"."

We also are..or at least most of people here are.. all we want is a safe India, where our way of life, our religion is respected, and its not constantly attacked by jihadis or politicians or whoever wants to divide and rule and kill and be happy.

It does not matter whether its BJP or C-I, who does the job.

But sorry to say, the present Government is C-I and they have been horrible, becoz of their votebank issues..it is pretty simple..

I dont hate them. Just pointing out the emperor has no clothes.

 
At 7:06 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Anonymous,

"We also are..or at least most of people here are.. all we want is a safe India, where our way of life, our religion is respected, and its not constantly attacked by jihadis or politicians or whoever wants to divide and rule and kill and be happy."

Yes and while we are on this, my daughter wants a pony.

 
At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maverick,

I am glad that your daughter wants a pony. Perhaps she will get one, when you get off your rear and earn enough money to buy her one, not sit and cry about the traitor media which shows images of pony, and does not understand poor Government, which in socialist wisdom ensures that everyone is poor.

Etc.

I hope you get the parallel. You are a master in excusing inaction and babucracy. Surely, the pony too is a media plant, by the "FOREIGN HAND" (Trademark).

 
At 8:29 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Anonymous,

I don't think you actually understand what someone is saying when they say,

"If wishes were horses..."

You are obsessed with the idea that the government is not doing anything about the situation.


I have never justified inaction.

All through out my posts I have simply stated that the government must identify at the microscopic level the exact offenders and *then* act against them.

I have also indicated that at the present time the government is moving to carefully sort through all the evidence at hand and determine who exactly in Pakistan gave the "go"-order. And all this is being done without causing a major communal upheaval or a major international crisis with Pakistan.

You seem to insist that is inaction on part of the government!

The railways restored service on all tracks in under four hours!
The ATS brought in additional detectives and processed close to a few thousands suspects from a dozen villages in ten states in the country. To you that is simply "inaction".

The intelligence machinery is systematically going over every little scrap of information it has on Pakistani groups. We have a few dozen people in Saudi Arabia and Africa under the scanner, but to you this is still "inaction".

The foreign affairs people have been doing the rounds conveying the country's view point in major capitals of the world despite American opposition at every step. To you that is also "inaction".

The Finance ministry moved to protect Indian economic interests, but I think you see that "inaction" also.

Either your idea of action is extremely limited or you are completely besotted by the idea of
screaming "government inaction" that you are ignoring visible facts.

I really don't know which it is, but frankly it is quite tiresome.

 
At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

have also indicated that at the present time the government is moving to carefully sort through all the evidence at hand and determine who exactly in Pakistan gave the "go"-order. And all this is being done without causing a major communal upheaval or a major international crisis with Pakistan.

Yup, same as always, till the next attack

You seem to insist that is inaction on part of the government!

Most certainly!
Govts job is to prevent attacks, not bolt the door after the horses have run off!

The railways restored service on all tracks in under four hours!

Railways credit, not the Govts


The ATS brought in additional detectives and processed close to a few thousands suspects from a dozen villages in ten states in the country. To you that is simply "inaction".

Thats part of their job. After they failed to prevent the attack n the first place

The intelligence machinery is systematically going over every little scrap of information it has on Pakistani groups. We have a few dozen people in Saudi Arabia and Africa under the scanner, but to you this is still "inaction".

Like always...and this sterling information will be passed to some babu to ruminate over and appear in rediff under shri ramans tagline..thats the limit of action taken.

The foreign affairs people have been doing the rounds conveying the country's view point in major capitals of the world despite American opposition at every step. To you that is also "inaction".

Thats again their job. Second, India should be an expert at crying wolf by now. After all, after every attack we beseech every other guvermint to be our mai-baap and help us.

The Finance ministry moved to protect Indian economic interests, but I think you see that "inaction" also.

Again, doing their job, after the horses bolted,

Either your idea of action is extremely limited or you are completely besotted by the idea of
screaming "government inaction" that you are ignoring visible facts.


The Govt action is too limited to have any longterm value and is more of the usual that follows every attack.
Meanwhile the attacks will continue.

I really don't know which it is, but frankly it is quite tiresome.

The truth is often painful and tiresome.

 
At 7:30 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Anonymous,

The Railway ministry is very much a part of the government.

Given the international nature of these criminal groups, you have to have canvas for the support of foreign governments. That is the reality of the day.

The only truth here is that you have absurd expectations from the government and all you want to do is complain about the governments "inaction". Whether it does anything or not is completely irrelevant to your desire to scream "inaction". An yes, this truth is quite tiresome.

No government can prevent all attacks.

 

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