Friday, 10 July 2009

A Capitalist Media Cannot be a Democratic Media

I find it infuriating that nobody in the media has taken the courage to critique the appointment of right wing capitalists to key positions in the government. In a country where 800 million people live on an income of below 1 dollar a day is it a crime to look for inclusive growth that does not put all power and wealth in the hands of limited few? Does talking about and discussing poverty mean being ostracized? The way the media talks about poverty (or rather does not talk about poverty) seems to prove something.

Iraq is the best example of the dangers of mixing right wing capitalism with governance. Here is a quick recap for our friends in this country who watch the English new channels and think they get the real picture. If you can not force a country to sell its resources, start a war in the name of democracy. Flatten the country with F-16 bombers, call it “shock and awe”, destroy it’s infrastructure and fire everybody in the public sector in the name of “cleansing”. Bring in Bechtel, the oil companies, Halliburton and every other multinational company that likes to make a quick billion in a calamity. Kill about 100,000 civilians and convince the world that the locals are barbarians. Then change the laws to allow only US companies to control wealth and resources. That is how the capitalist machinery works.

The media refers to “capitalism” as “democracy”. They seem to think that they are the one and the same thing. For example, the government in China has many capitalists, but it is a communist state.

The media confuses the two words because they (the media) themselves are critical cogs in the capitalist machinery. Imagine for a second, what would happen to Prannoy Roy, Arnab Goswami or Rajdeep Sardesai if they were to stand-up and criticize Essar for it’s dealings with tribals in Chattisgarh? To get the answer to this question you have to look at who their advertisers are. One channel, had it’s parent publication sell it’s soul (read masthead) to Reliance Communications. I guess this news channel would not mind if it’s anchors had “Reliance” tattooed on their foreheads (in color and not single tone of course).

Indra Nooyi who’s company consumes billions of litres of India’s water resources and denies farmers access to water is on Manmohan Singh’s “panel”. Lakshmi Mittal would give his right arms for a concession to the Iron Ore mines in India’s tribal districts. Both people exploit common property resource for the profits of their share holders who are not even Indian citizens. The media talks about these decisions as amazing sparks of brilliance. Hidden interests?

Why do we insist on packaged drinking water? Should the government not be supplying potable drinking water to every citizen out of the tap? If they did provide potable water – it would put Pepsi Co out of business in India and many farmers back into production. But then again, when the PM feels that he needs Indra’s advice I am sure she will be talking about getting bottled water to the homes of every citizen. The media will, at that juncture, stand on its hind legs, bark and extend a paw to the advertising division at Pepsi after which it will promptly play a game of “fetch”.

Mr Mittal will not hesitate to evict every tribal on land that he feels can get him billions in iron ore. He would readily object to any move to get locals to own the mines and sell the ore in the open market. Ownership by local communities would translate to better education, healthcare, and access to water through their own revenue streams. Overtime they would realize that the foreign direct investment would not have been an investment in their future but an investment for a short-term profit at their long-term expense.

The present government though like the BJP and the CPI (in West Bengal) will sell all our assets to large corporations. These corporations will complete the classic slam-bang-thank you maam routine (without protection) and look at their EPS or EBITDA figures.

The most profitable companies seek a tax waiver. The poorest people are expected to pay VAT on salt? Dandi march anyone? We have an opportunity to lift people out of poverty by nationalizing key sectors such as mining, we have instead been told that we need to “lease” it out. Theft of common property is theft of common property even if you call it a lease.

We need a red-light district dedicated to the media. Here they can walk naked along the streets, selling themselves at any price to any bidder from a PR company. They can be wined, dined, sweet-talked into airing any story. However, unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, most of India still has their head in a place where the sun shines.

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