The Curious Case of Alternate Media
The media in India and in America, and probably all the countries over the world, can be divided into two different strata. The first one includes all the powerful and omnipresent sources of information, otherwise benevolently called the ‘mainstream media’. The second one includes all the non-institutionalized and peripheral sources, otherwise grudgingly called (by the mainstream) the ‘alternate media’. The Indian and the American mainstream media aspire to achieve similar goals: to serve those in power. This is almost a truism because these sources rely on those in power to obtain money and to ultimately survive. The Indian alternate media and the American alternate media also aspire to achieve similar targets: to provide eclectic viewpoints about events to those who are not willing to be manipulated by the news sprouting from the mainstream media. The alternate media is an outlet for the hopes and expectations of those independent minded people that are not hoodwinked by the mainstream media.
Because the mainstream media is generally controlled by those in power, the viewpoints expressed on the mainstream media insinuate what the powers that be want the public to believe. Similarly, because the alternate media isn’t dependent on those in power, the viewpoints expressed in these sources express what the digital, eloquent, and independent-minded segment of the general population believes. These viewpoints might still be inaccurate representations of the views of the general society, but in recent times, they have come closer to representing the mood of the general population because of the increasing prominence of alternate media sources.
The American alternate media became especially prominent during the Iraq war (war on terrorism) and the Syrian Crisis (war on chemical weapons). Now, with a new, and more dangerous, crisis ahead, the mainstream media has pulled out its megaphone and begun screaming its propaganda-instilled speech. And this includes all sources of the mainstream media. It doesn’t matter if one of them is ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing’, because in cases of ‘national security’, their agenda becomes one. In fact, some important newspapers have even started saying that ‘War is good for America‘. Other important newspapers have been caught actually fabricating evidence. The propaganda spread by these sources is malignant. The blatant use of power in an attempt to influence minds is stunning. But a good that came of it is that people began to look for other sources of information to find out about events.
The Indian alternate media has become especially prominent during the Indian elections. Those who have been closely following the news coverage of the Indian elections can note the amount of bias and perversion of information that was being carried out by the Indian and international mainstream media. The Indian mainstream media and the international mainstream media were trying to spin a similar line: stop Modi. Even now, despite the futility of the previous attempts, one sided views and biased opinions continue to dominate narratives of the Indian elections, especially in the international mainstream media. In fact, some time ago, Time Magazine crowned Arvind Kejriwal as the most influential person in the world. One can only wonder whether that crowning is credible, and if not, then about the agenda behind the result. As if to boost the importance of that result, the Indian mainstream media quickly picked up the news item and tried to spread it, but I assume that it couldn’t, because in a few days time, the news was not making headlines anymore.
So the reason for alternate media becoming more prominent in recent times is sound. In both America and India, it continues to be an enclave harbouring varying viewpoints amidst hostile surroundings. In fact, some of them, such as ZeroHedge, have a community of users that virtually know each other. The comments under some of the posts hint the level of familiarity that users have with each other.
And yet, despite all these similarities, there exists a stark difference between the Indian and the American alternate media websites. The difference takes the form of the general mood that prevails on the respective sources of information. As an example, the articles on the American alternate media websites are generally denouncing the vehemently potent grip of the corporations on the flow of information in the country. Several articles (on ZeroHedge, Washington’s Blog, Trends Research etc.) aim to highlight the economic and social problems in the country that only seem to be exacerbating as time flies by. The solutions that are offered and the suggestions that are made generally talk of the creation of large-scale social protests and movements. These social movements aim to create instability and topple the current banking system in the least and maybe the entire government at most. On the other hand, the articles on the Indian alternate media websites are generally more positive and hopeful in nature. Hardly any of them talks about creating instability or large-scale social movements to topple the government.
In fact, most of them imply the desire to strengthen the power of the state and institutions in the country by endorsing Modi as the prime minister. And the reason for these stark differences in moods seems obvious. Unlike its American counterpart, which has to fight for an indefinite amount of time to win, the Indian alternate media seems to have come to within a few days of total victory. It has something to be proud of. Despite the potent attempt by the mainstream media to influence the voter’s mind, the alternate media has held its position and in fact managed to spread its view more effectively. The underdog has defeated the giant.
But can the mood and the opinions in these alternate sources of information provide even a nebulous view of the future of the respective countries?
I believe so. The nature of the alternate media websites attracts people that are slightly dissident, honest, and independent-minded. In recent times, especially during the protests in the Arab World and the Occupy movements, dissidents flocked to alternate media sources and used them to organize large-scale movements. These large-scale movements have had an effect on the fabric of the countries they took place in. Thus, as the alternate media sources become prominent, they can serve to give a cloudy view of at least the stability that a country will have.
In America, the mood is that of pessimism and anger. In India, the mood is that of optimism and hope. That can simply be extrapolated to predict an unstable future for America and a relatively stable future for India. Maybe that is a result of the changing global power structure, one that is causing power to shift from the west to the east. In that case, let’s rejoice that shifting ‘east’ doesn’t mean shifting to China. Hopeful times lie ahead.