To Boycott Or Not - That Is The Question
To Boycott Or Not - That Is The Question
Boycotting the media is not a sound strategy. Any section of the media. As it all falls in the basket of intimidation that these days includes troll campaigns, FIR’s, arrests, threats and abuse. And lends itself to polarisation that cannot be fought through intimidatory action. More so as such actions set dangerous precedent and open the doors for what could become even more vicious discrimination.
The I.N.D.I.A opposition has published a list of anchors and announced that none of the political parties in the conglomerate will send their representatives to their shows on television. The Opposition has for long been accusing these anchors of spreading hate news and have used the space available to say so repeatedly. Many political parties have not sent their representatives to specific shows citing the same reasons in the past.
By making a public announcement the Opposition has formalised this into a boycott, the word being used by all even though it is not mentioned in the statement. This has created a storm of polarising views, with threats and abuse being hurled across the air in a virtual slugfest that is intended to draw blood.
The point being examined here is whether a public boycott of anchors — regardless of their relationship with news—works to strengthen the institution of democracy? Does it help strengthen the media? Does it weaken the edifice further? Does it become counter productive for the cause it claims to espouse?
The answer to all of the above is, unfortunately, yes. To start with the last, it does become counterproductive as it opens a new door that then can be used by others in the political system with disastrous results. Taken to its logical end such measures can divide the media into a Them and Us category — differing with each political party or conglomeration of such in the business.
There has always been media, of course getting steadily worse, that has indulged in falsehoods, fake news, propaganda and the like. But the decibels have increased to a point where such is being propagated across all platforms without restraint. This has been worrying, and has led to the loss of credibility. The general public however, has found its own solution with some watching the cacophony with delight, and others searching for what they would like to believe are more credible sources of information.
There has also always been a tussle between the media and governments, and media and political parties, as no one in the political spectrum likes to be questioned ceaselessly as all good journalists do. Government uses its powers to muzzle the media, the degree depending on the nature of government at a particular time with matters as pointed earlier getting steadily worse with the rapid escalation of the social media where abuse and threats are allowed with impunity. In polarised political structures both sides get their money's worth. The BJP took a head start when it came to power in 2014 and established early control over the social media space, but gradually the Opposition has moved in with a more organised presence.
By officially publishing a list of anchors whose shows I.N.D.I.A said it will not send representatives the Opposition parties have set into motion another precedent that can be used and misused for further polarisation. Our anchors, your anchors, our journalists your journalists —-the social media is flooded with this with the rants and raves often becoming abuse and intimidation. Such an announcement will not bring down the hate levels but can hasten further polarisation, and that is not a good outcome. It will give a handle to all to wade in and make the waters even more murky.
So before taking action or making any move against the media —good or bad – all political parties would be well advised to see what the impact of such a move would be. Would it strengthen the media, and help democracy be the yardstick, and if not then it should be desisted from. The shows in question in the Opposition statement will continue, and I.N.D.I.A could have decided not to attend these as is the right of every citizen in India, without a formal announcement that takes the decision into another realm altogether.