During ‘normal times’ media bias is just one of those things that we like to argue about. But in Coronavirus times, this is just not funny any more. Take this example.
Right now, both Mumbai and Ahmedabad are reeling under the virus. But the difference in coverage is stark. The Mumbai Mirror cover story is a heart warming tale of a Shiv Sena worker who is helping an innocent baby. The Ahmedabad Mirror cover story is dark and somber, telling of financial ruin, despair and suicide.
I don’t even care about pointing a finger at media right now. I am much more worried about how the media bias is taking attention away from where it needs to be.
Long ago, a Lutyens patrakar had famously spoken of ‘tyranny of distance’ when it comes to media coverage. The context was the deadly riot of 2012 in (then) Congress ruled Assam. People on social media demanded to know why media ignored the Assam riot, while every little negative story about Gujarat was routinely blown out of proportion. Then, Lutyens patrakar explained that it’s not media bias, just “tyranny of distance” working against the North East.
That was nonsense and we knew it. And it has never been as obvious as in the times of Coronavirus. The media will go wherever it can find a chance to bash the BJP. Big metropolis or tiny village.
Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that the virus made Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru invisible to the media? How did India’s three largest cities disappear into thin air? Delhi and Mumbai disappeared because they were ‘secular’ ruled and doing too badly. Bengaluru disappeared because it was BJP ruled and doing too well.
Like Arjuna, the entire energy of the media has focused on one target : Gujarat.
Let’s forget our partisan loyalties for a moment. The virus is literally threatening our lives. It does not care about who supports BJP and who supports Congress.
So let us think from a practical point of view. Where would you rather be at this moment? If you are in a secular ruled state right now, you are basically screwed. The government can fail miserably as possible. And there will be nobody reporting your plight. You will be running from pillar to post with your friend or family member gasping for breath. Perhaps you will be the one gasping for breath. While you are gasping for breath, media will give a ‘best CM’ award to your state government.
Recently, there was a Khan market intellectual who explained that even though it might appear that ‘best CM’ has failed on multiple fronts, people should give him credit for one big achievement. What is that? Apparently, best CM can speak his mother tongue fluently. I’m not joking. This is 100% real.
Wait! This does not mean you are that much better off if you are in a BJP ruled state. This inherent anti-BJP bias of the media also helps the BJP get away with its own failures! Why? Because enough people already know about this bias!
So when they see a story bashing a BJP ruled state in general or Gujarat in particular, they end up filtering it through a partisan lens. This is basically the story of the boy who cried wolf too often. This media bias actually gives the BJP a shield as well: a chance to act like they are not really in power even where they are. And every political party loves to make excuses.
So on one side, we are stuck with secular ruled states about which media has a “see no evil” policy. So we the people are suffering there. On the other hand, there are BJP ruled states, towards which media has an “everything is evil” policy. So we the people have learned to ignore much of the negative reporting.
This leaves us all blind and at risk in front of the Coronavirus.
I think the lowest of lows was achieved during the migrant worker crisis that played out feverishly across TV screens. See the impact of that media circus.
This was obvious. Even the lowest IQ liberal could have seen it coming. The cities are affected. You shouldn’t move lakhs of people from the affected cities into the rural hinterland. That’s why we have a lockdown.
Who is supposed to take care of the migrant workers? The states where they are living. End of story.
But because so many migrant workers live in Delhi or Mumbai, media just couldn’t blame the secular governments for failing there. They just had to blame Modi sarkar somehow.
And so the drumbeat began: run the trains, send the migrant workers home.
The worse that Mumbai or Delhi failed, the bigger jackpot it was for the media. If there is one thing they teach at journalism school, it is how to produce poverty porn. Abandoned by secular govts, the migrant workers began walking back. Walking where? Mostly to UP and Bihar. That too, Yogi Adityanath is UP Chief Minister. And elections are coming in NDA ruled Bihar.
How could media pass up this juicy opportunity? And so the media screeching began : send them home by train.
And here is something I have been pointing out for a while. In their hatred against UP and Bihar govts, media were fine with throwing Jharkhand and Bengal under the bus as well! They knew returning migrants would cause a crisis in Bengal and Jharkhand as well. But the liberal media running around with microphones on the street just didn’t care.
After all, a few years ago, they used to fly in the Prime Minister’s official jet. They used to fix Cabinet ministries on the phone with lobbyists and business people. Then, Modi happened. Now they are reduced to walking on the street. They want revenge. Even if it means devastating UP and Bihar. Even if it means throwing her own friends in Jharkhand govt and Bengal govt under the bus, along with the people of those states. She just wants the good old times to come back when she could fix Cabinet ministries with a phone call.
As a nation, we will suffer terribly for this. Nobody knows how many thousands of Coronavirus cases have been pushed into the hinterland because of that media fiasco. Nobody knows how many lakh people will get infected because of this. The migrants have been sent to the poorest states with the weakest healthcare systems. How much suffering and death will happen because of this?
If only the spotlight had been put where it should have…
But like Arjuna, media could only see its target. Gujarat. And their long term target of a free trip to America on the Prime Minister’s official plane…