A Letter To The Worldwide Shock Industry

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The shock, outrage, protest… This Worldwide Shock Industry reacted on expected lines following the Paris attacks by Islamic State. Massive rallies, plodding platitudes of world leaders, the predictable outpouring of online indignation…

In the nasty geo-political quagmire that is middle-east now, everyone stands to benefit. From Islamic State, the world’s most financially strong terrorist organization, to the big powers who play the game of geo-political chess with consummate ease. And the losers are those countless refugees and nameless people who get perished from Beirut to Paris.

No doubt, the attack on France is mindless, cowardly and dastardly. But, equally mindless, cowardly and dastardly are similar acts of killings elsewhere in the world. And the Worldwide Shock Industry is visibly absent when blood is spilled in other parts of the world, i.e. in the black and brown continents. No outpouring of anger and moral protest when, for instance, Boko Haram unleashes its death of dance on a Nigerian town killing 150 or Al Qaeda attacks a Kenyan university killing another 150. Mark Zuckerberg is unfazed so there’s no scope for Facebook profile filtering activism. Neither is any Twitter hashtag. No candlelight vigilante groups or front-page alacrity. No chest-thumping world leader emitting the enemy-at-the-gate cliché. When wretched souls are perished in ‘far-away’ wretched lands, they eminently deserve to be relegated to that tiny World Brief box along with other trivial tidbits like Britney Spears’ going the family way on a one-more-successful-mission. That being the accepted norm practiced by the Worldwide Shock Industry-mass media combine, the concomitant reactions from other quarters, the general public, invariably border on predictable insensitivity and apolitical apathy.

The widely accepted norm is that spilling of blood in third world places (by state as well as well so-called stateless actors elsewhere) doesn’t deserve the crime-against-humanity tag and all the outpourings of anger and moral indignation.

And the Worldwide Shock Industry is single-handedly fuelled by public perceptions which are dictated and shaped by the Western media with its time-tested potion of racial prejudices and colonial superiority. The banality of media’s toxic amnesia is bound to continue as long as the western news agencies and mass media conduct with its rusted racial superiority and elitist colonial mindset, which invariably permeates into the veins of their third-world counterparts, thus unwittingly distorting even their own domestic news agenda and front-page and primetime priorities.

Thus, when Maoists strike at a police convoy in the jungles of Chattisgarh, it becomes an essential fodder for frontpage and primetime debate. Not when a cache of paramilitary troops surrounds a mineral-rich village and forces the tribals to flee with their lives in order to ensure mining rights for an MNC at the behest of the wheeler-dealers sitting in New Delhi. Not when a Dalit girl is raped or murdered. Not when Obama’s pet drones conduct their humanitarian activities in parts of middle-east or northern Africa with clinic-like precision and high-level collateral-damage probability. Not when a ruthelss militia in mineral-rich Congo undertakes its occasional killing and raping spree. But a suicide bomber in a tony neighborhood in a Western country makes blaring front-page headlines and prime-time debates in India, or any other country for that matter.

In the mainstream narrative, greatly dictated by Western news agencies, some lives are more equal. A section is superior and some others inferior in the time-tested business of killing and dying. Death is the proverbial leveler, but there are different sets of rules for different sets of people.

It is a vicious circle and hard to break. What is heartening, however, is the emergence of alternative sources of news dissemination. But will they become potent and powerful enough to change the larger narrative followed by and change the course of the Worldwide Shock Industry?

(The author is a UAE-based journalist. firosbf@gmail.com) 

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