ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Media and the Left: Manufacturing abuse

The mainstream English media has, barring the rare exception, never been willing to accept the fact that the parliamentary left parties have a role in the formulation of the policies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. From the time of the 2004 election results, when the left agreed to support the UPA government from outside and it was clear that the government could not do without the backing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India, the English media – the TV channels in particular – have lost no opportunity to caricaturise and attack the left. Of course, there is much in the left’s politics – at the centre and in the states where it is in power – that a responsible and independent media needs to dissect and criticise, but the extent of antipathy that the newspapers, magazines and TV channels are demonstrating towards the two communist parties is showing up the media at some of its worst in both reporting and analysis. The lowest levels of bias and motivated criticism have been witnessed in recent weeks in the manner in which the media has gone after the left for its position on the Indo-US nuclear agreement. Ironically, the nature of this criticism and how it has been presented says more about the media and those who run it than the left itself.

Immediately after the left parties came out strongly against the 123 bilateral agreement between India and the US and it was clear that the government was in trouble, the media went on a frontal attack against the CPI(M) in particular. Instead of attempting to critique the left position on its merits, the TV channels along with the dailies decided to pillory the left parties on various fronts. There were some pet themes which the media never fails to flog whenever it has the left in its sights– for example, the role of the communists in 1942 during the Quit India movement. But there were other more virulent and at times more ludicrous charges. Initially, the left was panned for not understanding the need for nuclear energy, which was termed a must for the growing economy. When it was clear that the much touted increment to energy supply was not quite substantial, the media decided to find a new avenue of attack. Critics of the deal were now termed traitors and as being beholden to the interests of neighbouring China, which, it was claimed, would gain if India did not consummate the pact with the US. Mainstream magazines and newspapers breathlessly proclaimed that the Indian left was acting on orders from Beijing. The debate on whether strategic concerns of allying with the US are problematic, was termed by one mass media personality as fit only “for a college campus”. Yet another mass media anchor called the usage of terms such as “hegemony” (to describe American strategic interests) as having “been pulled out from a cobweb-laden trunk from the attic of history”.

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