Systemic change is the need of the hour

Only Systemic Change in our body-mind systems can help us survive as individuals and as a nation, says Minnu Bhonsle

The media

Current scenario
The news channels and media reporters who provide continuous live television coverage, often start talking about a tragic incident like a commentary of a cricket match, using words such as the ‘biggest media event’ and ‘theatres of action’, thus making a tragedy into a voyeuristic experience.
Several budding television journalists and cameramen, find the tragedy as a platform to make their mark and take their careers forward, and try to become television stars by getting nearest to the ‘battle arena’ and flaunt the dangers they are putting themselves through to get the viewer the ‘live footage’.
Information channels tend to sensationalise issues to raise their TRPs. The code words for commando operations like Operation Cyclone or Operation Black Tornado flashing on the screens makes the news more like a computer game like Mortal Combat. This takes away from the real human suffering caused by unfortunate events, and de-focuses from the valuable and more necessary information about immediate help/assistance required for victims and their families.
The minute-to-minute coverage of every angle of the operations may compromise rescue operations. People who want their two minutes of fame on TV engaging in rhetoric, can fuel tempers and cause more local problems, which can create a new law and order situation.
The christening of events such as ”ndia’s 9/11” and broadcasting heightened emotions of citizens on television under giving them voice can only harm the cause of peace in the region.

As the media in their childish, immature, and caffeine-driven excitement, indiscriminately makes heroes out of the terrorists, villains of the politicians, comedians of our intelligence and security services, and helpless victims of our citizens, it also indiscriminately shows up loopholes and gaps in our surveillance and security systems, plays up our own vulnerability as a nation to other nations, and more importantly, exposes us even more to the terrorist outfits, who become bolder and more arrogant as they continue to terrorise a self-proclaimed vulnerable nation.
Unfortunately, many television journalists do not know how to deal with their power and star-status with humility, dignity and responsibility. They do not know how to use their freedom with responsibility. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press can be very ‘heady’, and therefore to quote from the movie ‘Spiderman’ – ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’.

I was appalled to hear a defensive television journalist saying that in the ‘business’ of live news broadcasting, some irresponsible reporting would ‘happen’, and if the security of citizens was in any way compromised it was ‘regrettable’, but that it was the lapse of those disseminating information to the media. Passing the buck just never ends, does it? I wish the immature Indian news channels could take a lesson or two from the BBC which has been doing this live coverage ‘business’ for years, and not only engages in reporting fully verified facts, but also assumes full responsibility for rare lapses, if any, and takes action against those found irresponsible in their investigating or reporting.

An autonomous and adolescent media enjoys beating up those in power, just as a teenager revels in new found autonomy, and engages in parent-bashing. However, an adult media is like a young adult who is done with the new found excitement of autonomy, and is now more interested in reasoning with/negotiating with those in power, to bring about a change, where both can co-exist independently, and in harmony. Moreover, an adolescent media unnecessarily and exaggeratingly hypes oneself or downs oneself as a nation with every event, by ‘claiming’ great success, or ‘blaming’ great failure, for the nation. However, an adult media disconnects events from the worth of the nation. Just as there is great therapeutic value in disconnecting the deed from the person, and not reject ourselves or others for their wrongs, but instead strive for correction while accepting the personhood of a person, similarly, there is great value in privately correcting ourselves as a nation at various levels, without putting ourselves down on air as a nation in the international community, and that is what a responsible and adult media does.

Systemic change scenario
We need a responsible media, that does not put personal profit over public welfare, that does not play up the rhetoric coming from angry people, that does not become voyeurs into the pain of others, that does not publicise the vulnerabilities of our security to the terrorists, that does not turn a tragedy into talk shows, and that does not fuel disharmony between communities and nations by provoking citizens and politicians to make statements on camera.
The role of the media in influencing attitudes and behaviours of the anxious and angry public is immense, and it ‘must’ do its role effectively, with helping the nation move from the shock and anger, to a grieving and then deeply reflective nation as a whole, so that true and lasting systemic change can take place, which can prevent such crimes on humanity in the future.

We need a media that is not ‘adolescent’ but ‘adult’, which non-sensationally mentions only pure facts, which self-censors any fact that can jeopardize national security or create a law and order situation, which gives airtime only to mature voices of reason, which asks only experts to opine in their area of expertise, and which helps our nation to hold its head high as a responsible nation in the international community.

Minnu Bhonsle
Dr Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills. Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle.


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