Sunday, 1 February 2009

Showcasing Rabble Rousers

As the print and electronic media continue to fulminate over the Mangalore mayhem, one small questions is getting overshadowed – what role did the media play in the whole affair?

Remember that few people outside the sangh parivar had heard of Pramod Mutalik. No one had heard of the Sri Ram Sene. Now suddenly Mutalik is all over the papers and television news channels. There are fierce debates on television on the pub culture and cultural vigilantism, reams of newsprint have been devoted to the subjects. Given the kind of media mileage both Mutalik and his obscure organisation got, I am unable to shake off the suspicion that this was a carefully orchestrated publicity-seeking event and the media has willingly gone along with it.

How is it that television cameras were able to capture the violence that the Sene members unleashed? Were they at the pub or in the vicinity? Did anyone from the pub or any of the bystanders call them? If that was the case, could they have reached so fast as to record the violence before it ended? Even before the police could reach? Or had someone tipped them off that something was going to happen?

Maybe my suspicions are wrong. For the sake of my profession, I wish they are. But I need answers to these questions. This is not the first time that obscure rabble rousers have been given undue publicity by a sensation-seeking media. Isn’t it time the media sits down and discusses its own role in encouraging such loonies and the impact on society and the country?