India and Pakistan should JOIN FORCES and AGREE.
The USA and western world are the winners of their disputes,
and actively fan the flames
How the Indian media often misses the Cointelpro angle
Jawed Naqvi Monday, 25 Oct, 2010
Delhi's Outlook magazine has published a special edition to mark its 15th anniversary. Articles by a range of media specialists provide plenty of food for thought. A telephone interview with Prof Noam Chomsky is exceptionally interesting. He discusses the global media situation but appears to hold the view that Pakistani media is more vibrant than their Indian counterpart.
Let me not interfere with Chomsky's words. "I spent three weeks in India and a week in Pakistan. A friend of mine here, (the late) Eqbal Ahmed, told me that I would be surprised to find that the media in Pakistan is more open, free and vibrant than that in India.
"In Pakistan, I read the English language media which go to a tiny part of the population. Apparently, the government, no matter how repressive it is, is willing to say to them that you have your fun, we are not going to bother you. So they don't interfere with it.
"The media in India is free, the government doesn't have the power to control it. But what I saw was that it was pretty restricted, very narrow and provincial and not very informative, leaving out lots of things. What I saw was a small sample. There are very good things in the Indian media, specially the Hindu and a couple of others. But this picture (in India) doesn't surprise me. In fact, the media situation is not very different in many other countries."
Many will agree with Chomsky that the media in Pakistan is more vibrant. In fact it is more openly defiant of authority than in many countries. You can't imagine an Indian channel defying the government's version of, say, Ajmal Kasab, of the Mumbai terror nightmare, as Pakistani journalists did.
They exposed their government's lie and made it difficult for Islamabad to deny that Kasab was in fact a Pakistani. However, Chomsky can't be unaware of the nightmare that equally befalls 'erring' Pakistani journalists.
Remember the senior editor's plight, for example, when the then Islamabad envoy in Delhi did not approve of the journalist's criticism of his government during the Pakistani scribe's trip to Delhi. On the other hand, Chomsky unwittingly fails to consider a key factor - which he always cajoles us to observe - while describing the Indian media scene. It is provincial, as he observes, but it is also heavily corporatised. The latter governs what makes news and what has to be hidden from public view.
A piece of news in Delhi - manufactured or otherwise - moves like a Mexican wave of a football stadium with almost every paper and TV channel pandering to the ubiquitous "national interest".
Take the recent Commonwealth Games. The media first went to town with stories of cracks in the roof of an indoor stadium here, a collapsing footbridge there, dirty living conditions for athletes, snakes in their compounds, stray dogs, dengue threat and so forth. Suddenly, as if on cue, on the eve of the Games' opening, TV channels and newspapers without exception were singing paeans to the skills of the organisers. They even praised or perhaps mildly criticised an Oscar winning music director for dishing out rubbish for an anthem. An exorbitantly expensive and gaudy helium balloon that went up to mark the opening was discussed ad nauseum for its aesthetic appeal.
Since there has been apparently a huge financial scandal in staging the "costliest games" ever, media attention is now riveted to Suresh Kalmadi, head of the organising committee, who every journalist's neighbour accuses of graft. To keep the familiar and soon-to-become-tedious story warm a regular news bulletin is issued. Kalmadi snubbed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Again he was snubbed by Sonia Gandhi, who too didn't ask him over to her party. And finally the weekend papers uniformly echoed the big snub by the cabinet secretary too. So Kalmadi was not invited to yet another party. Is this news?
If we seriously want to know where the corruption started in the Delhi Commonwealth Games, the media has to do some reverse engineering. We should at least start with the parliament. Has anybody ever managed to find out what Dr Manmohan Singh's reaction was as a foremost member of Narasimha Rao's cabinet when he was finance minister and the prime minister bribed Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's tribal MPs to pass a key trust vote? The MPs were jailed but only after the government completed its five-year tenure that made Dr Singh a corporate hero. That could be a fountainhead of corruption.
Wads of currency notes were displayed in the Lok Sabha by MPs claiming that Dr Singh's UPA government had tried to bribe them to push a civil nuclear bill. This contrived success has become crucial to the visit of US President Barrack Obama next month.
Who put Kalmadi in charge of the organising committee? Oh he was elected unencumbered by politics, we are told. Piffle. The latest Outlook carries an innocent but amazing photograph from May 18, 2004. It shows Sonia Gandhi in the Central Hall of the Parliament House announcing her resignation - the media billed it as a sacrifice - from the race for the prime minister's job. Sitting on the podium were a select group of five or six leaders including Dr Singh and guess who? - Suresh Kalmadi. Trace the links. The opposition BJP was making a big noise about corruption in the games till one of its leaders was raided by anti-corruption sleuths in a great political equaliser of sorts.
We also distinctly remember that Sonia Gandhi's resignation followed a mysterious nosedive at the Mumbai bourse. It was believed then that the markets had been manipulated to pressurise the middle classes to abandon their faith in Ms Gandhi. Someone wanted Manmohan Singh instead. There was a promise at the start of his government to probe the alleged manipulation. Was anyone held accountable much less sent to jail? And now the government is pondering a bill to discourage corruption in judiciary. That's irony for you. Examples of political-financial corruption are legion, the last one being seen swirling over Bangalore, where the BJP government magically won a trust vote for which it did not have the numbers.
In his interview to Outlook, Noam Chomsky was asked whether the Indian media, usually owned by family concerns, had a better chance to do a Katherine Graham who took risks by featuring the Watergate scandal in The Washington Post. His reply offered a universe of insights.
"The Watergate scandal was just a cover-up," he replied. "It was almost nothing. Right at the same time as the Watergate exposure - and this tells you a lot of about the media and the culture - a state terrorist government operation was exposed in the courts. It was called Cointelpro, it was essentially an FBI programme that ran through the Johnson, Kennedy and Nixon administrations. It began with targeting the Communist party, Puerto Ricans, the anti-war movement, the women's movements, the entire new Left....It was a very serious thing, going all the way to political assassination, literally.
"That was exposed at the very same time as Watergate. No attention was paid to it; it was too serious. Cointelpro really told you something about the government. Therefore, it was basically suppressed; it is still suppressed so that people don't know anything about it. Watergate, on the other hand, was a minor scandal. The main scandal about the Watergate was that Nixon went after the relatively rich and powerful people."
I suppose going by Chomsky's insights in the matter, the question to ask is what is the Cointelpro that the Indian media is trying to hide in its pursuit of the Commonwealth Games scandal? Is it the operation in Chhatisgarh or false flag terror attacks blamed on innocent people? In any case I would give Kalmadi the benefit of doubt. He is at best a very small fish in the web of corruption. Usually when something related to religious strife or any other parochial mess hogs the headlights, we should keep an eye peeled for a bill to curb civil rights that is going to be surreptitiously pushed through parliament, or a commerical deal that is signed away from public gaze. Who knows, had the BJP not agreed to a rushed state-guarantee for the now discredited US Enron deal during its controversial 13-day rule in 1996, it might never have been enabled to form a majority again. Such is the corporate prowess in India today. But that still does not quite add up to an Indian Cointelpro. Or does it?
Hopefully time, if not the Indian media, will tell some time soon.
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