THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN OUR SOCIETY

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses” said Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, an American black militant leader who articulated concepts of race pride and black nationalism in the early 1960s; considered by many to have been one of the most influential and charismatic African-Americans the world has ever seen. But that was before Obama of course.

“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level” said William Bernbach, an American advertising executive. What these individuals have said perfectly sums up what power the media has in its hands these days.

The Fourth Estate holds in its ever-capricious hands the ability to move hoi polloi in a way never dreamed of before. “With great power comes great responsibility” said uncle Ben of Spiderman fame. While our world is quite a different one from the web-filled one of the everfamous Marvel Comics superhero, the media would do well to keep this sentence in their minds while they go about their duty, as did our athletic hero. The media, television especially, contains the ability to produce multimedia content and thus has the immense power to change an individual's perception of reality.

It has long been thought that the raison d’etre of the media is to bring to the knowledge of the masses events which took place around the world. Steven Stark, author of Glued to the Set has been quoted as saying, "the local newscast has replaced the network news and the newspaper alike as the average American's main source of news." However, this feeling has now become passé. We now look for more from the media. We look to the media to educate us on various aspects of life. The media has become a weapon to be used by people to force the government to follow the right path, the democratic path.

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Several examples can be given. Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika may have resulted in the fall of the Soviet Union government, but it certainly helped the upliftment of the standards of living in Russia. Remembering that a democracy is, in the words of that giant of American politics, Abraham Lincoln, “of the people, by the people, for the people” we can be sure that the press indeed can do quite a lot of good.

Closer home, it was the media that shed light on the case of poor Ruchika Girhotra and wrecked up a storm to bring a semblance of justice to the whole proceedings; some thing that might have proved impossible without the intervention of the media. If the media could bring about such a change in just one case, one can imagine what the media can do if it puts its mind to it.

Another important use of the media, mainly of television, is of course to bring entertainment to the lives of India’s millions. Be it cricket or Bollywood, the media provides happiness and joy to people after their long, and often tough day. The pleasure that the media gives to people cannot be measured by conventional methods, but is certainly both substantial and important. The words “light at the end of the tunnel” can be ascribed to the media in some ways. The long and often vilified ‘idiot box’ does have benefits after all.

These days criticism has often been directed towards the media for the phenomenon which goes by the name of “sensationalism”. People feel that they have no respect for the sentiments and ethics of the people and land whom they serve to, with their immense power to influence the masses they just make judgment like a true dictator rather than a good advice of a true friend as they previously used to do. This is some thing that has itself been brought to light by the media. The media thus acts as a self-healing body as this shows.

In other words, the media spares no one who has done wrong from its grasp. It is a manyarmed, ever-growing conglomerate of people who at their best can bring down unlawful governments and enterprises. International journalism can bring about changes in policies of governments and question acts of commission and omission by entities all around the world. The true potential of the media I believe has not yet been seen.

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When globalization reaches higher levels than has been reached now, the media may become nearly omniscient and omnipresent. An extremely powerful, ineradicable ‘force’ one can say. And such a large organisation cannot be fully made corrupt. As a wise man once said, “one can fool some people all the time, or all the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time”. With the growing interconnections in the world, I believe that the media will have to play an ever-expanding role uncovering the truth and proclaiming it to the world.

With technological advancements taking place every day, the media will certainly become more and more powerful and will certainly control every part of our future. The media may become as strong as to be the suprema lex of the world. In India especially, the media holds all the cards. They are able to praise and vilify people at their own discretion. This is mainly because India’s millions (or rather billions I must say!) are some of the poorest people in the world. The media is able to run riot on the minds of the people of India and able to thus influence public opinion in a way that propaganda experts like Herr Hitler’s Joseph Goebbels can only which at.

Well, talking about Hitler and his Third Reich, this is one of the biggest examples of how powerful the media can be if given a free rein on the minds of the people in a country. Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister moulded the opinion of the Germans so that the Germans believed every thing that Hitler threw at that them. This was possible due to Hitler’s undoubted and unrivalled oratorical skills in no small measure, but nevertheless, Goebbels was responsible to make the Germans fight another World War only a few decades after devastatingly lose a huge World War.

The impact of media over the last few years has been enormous indeed. The flow of information from one geographical location to another has increased in speed considerably with the advent in digitally enabled communication devices. Different network channels over cable or satellite TV, newspapers and radio channels are emerging at a very rapid pace providing the people with a medium to connect themselves with the outside world. Print media has always been a dominant medium throughout the decades in the western civilization, but it is the emergence of the television which has become the backbone of the global commercial development. Pictures affect

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people more than mere words can. And as a humongous number of homes in India have televisions, we can imagine the potential of the media to mould minds.

To conclude, the media can tackle humanitarian issues and bring it to the notice of people around the world who have the power to change things. It can weed out corruption by bringing to light corrupt politicians and businessmen. It can educate people on the policies of political parties and help them to choose just governments, though some people might say this is a very tough job. There has been criticism that the media has been more than helpful while covering certain candidates in elections. However, such incidents are isolated and the fact that these incidents were brought to light by the media shows how the media can annihilate tumors in itself. This is the biggest way that it can change things in society and bring justice to the poorest of the poor. The media in this way can become sine qua non to justice and build a bright, healthy future not only for itself, but also the rest of the world, being a panpharmacon for all kinds of evil.
PRATHEEK PRAVEEN KUMAR

prytheek@yahoo.com

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