Friday, December 28, 2007

Light a Candle - Click and mourn!

"Pay a tribute to Benazir Bhutto by lighting a candle" proclaims this CNN IBN webpage. Seems a very noble thing to do .... Until you realize that the candle you are "lighting" is the result of a few key presses and clicks from your personal computer and some very basic HTML/JavaScript programming - all this while, you sit reclining in your swivel chair, 'mourning' for a woman whom you didn't even know remotely as a person and whose death, while untimely, tragic and politically significant, is not likely to have any noticeable impact on your personal life!

Welcome to the world of online tributes, mostly provided by NEWS corporations who would do whatever it takes[1] to get there! Where you can express your outrage and your anguish at tragic events around the world by lighting a virtual candle, all by clicking a few buttons in the comforts of your small home. Thanks to such services, political tragedies have now become a matter of personal mourning in the lives of every tom, dick and harry.

It seems that the recent trend of a booming economy, soaring stock markets and surging purchasing power, along with a sky-rocketing job scenario, lead us Indians to a state of complacent happiness - we were all contended and relatively happy with the way things were going. The Indian Media, however wasn't happy at all, as their TRPs fell and their creative reserves were quickly drowning up - I mean, there is only so much coverage you can give to stories about Dhongi Baba doing the nanga nach, "kutte ne ajgarh ko khaaya", etc. Plus, as they would want us to believe, the Indian Media portrays itself as the German Shephard - the watchdog - that brings out the grime, crime, slease and corruption in our society with a stated view to trigger a social revolution (and as an afterthought, boost their TRP's).

So, the Indian Media wasn't very happy about all the freaking stability (its no secret that Video NEWS gorges on disasters and tragedies. alas! it only feeds the baser aspect of human nature!) - they were looking for a story that would shakes us, something so sensationalist and yet moving, that it would wake us from our happy reverie and make us mourn and ponder. Bhutto's assassins have, rather unwittingly, done the Indian Media (and the International Media to an extent too) a great favour.

Newspaper editors around the country (and the world) must be smacking their hands with glee at the prospect of the amount of Newsreel this story would cover. In the coming days and weeks, 'analysts' will pore over every small nuance of Bhutto's life and dig out everything there is to dig out. Amidst all this, a new battle emerges - not one against extremism & dictatorship in Pakistan, not one for moderation & democracy - but one to put out the best analysts, the best panelists, the most respected diplomats & politicians & the best show on prime time television. On the bright side though, the dhongi babas & kuttas & ajgarh's will be sidelined atleast for the moment. We shoudn't be very hopeful though - people will get tired of all the analysis & slowly, NEWS broadcasts will contain the latest updates of Saas-Bahu serials and Dhongi Baba's revolutionary cures.

I am not for a minute suggesting that Bhutto should not get her due respects - she was, for all the controversies and alleged misgivings, a shining example of a successful Muslim feminist movement, a moderate voice that could have brought some peace to troubled Pakistan and most definitely, an influential figure in the history of Indian-subcontinental politics. She needs to be mourned and her loss needs to be marked.

But lighting a virtual candle is exactly the kind of marketing gimmick & new-age-click-away -your-mourns crap we shouldn't be buying. And yet, sadly many people do. This afternoon, the sombre newsreader announced on CNN IBN, rather triumphantly of the tremendous response on the "light a candle" campaign (they had done this with the Mumbai 2006 Blasts and chances are, they would do this at Mayawati's death too). While the intent of people responding to such campaigns is appreciated, the means/methods to express their grief is highly questionable. And, most of all, it is indeed highly manipulative for NEWS corporations to offer such trivial platforms for expressing 'grief'.

I would definitely like to hear what you think on this one. Would you, for instance, light a candle for Bhutto on the website? Or do you think that it is a contrived, manipulative device to garner people onto the website? Please do post your comments & feel free to disagree.


Note[1] - "Whatever It Takes" happens to be the slogan of CNN IBN. Naming an Indian NEWS Organization's slogan as that! Amusing opportunity for pun, isn't it?

6 comments:

prashant said...

nice post...nice research.....i swear its booming time for newspapers and newschannels.......really pity her for the way she died.....tragic....though she got to blame herself for this.......now i am sure indian media will do some research to find the culprit....:)

HItesh said...

hey rajiv ... lemme tel u that u hav indeed highlighted a point that everybody hav on their minds ... The so called Indian NEWS channels are not serving NEWS anymore .. they are doin business .. well adding another dimension to your story ... what the channel is doin by "LIGHT a CANDLE" thing is actually increasing their own revenue ... well how ? theres the answer ... every time a theres a visitor on that particular page the website (THE channel) gets some share of revenue ... and if someone clicks on their ads thats even better ... so by advertising this page on their channels they are just doin good to themselves ... but as they say it ... "ITS ALL ABT MONEY HONEY" ...

Anonymous said...

bhutto died ..its sad ... but this virtual candle thing is pretty rubbish ...this is clearly all bout money ....
according to me thers only one decent news channel left ie NDTV ( english ) .... hindi news channel suk big time ...
wat worries me is the kind of mentality Indian ppl hav developed
cause these news channels show all these snake & ghost stories cause ppl of india find it interesting and like to watch ... Its sad ... thers no news in these channels ..they should be labeled entertainment channels and not news channles .
Gr8 post man ..keep it going ...

-Chandan

pavitra said...

hmm...for the record,this has been actually going on for a long time,if you realise.

they are not really to be blamed.
there is no news everyday.
but they have to show something,everytime you switch on the news channel...!;)

so,till they finally get some real news,they adhere to stories like baba and stuff like that.

and mind you,people watch that not because they like it,but, because they really dont have much of a choice...

but,when Bhutto dies,they finally have something.
and now they have to make the most of it! ;)

afterall they aint some government channel here to 'serve' news,its just a business for them.
and thats why,they come up with these stupid polls to earn money...

the point i am trying to make is,this poll thing aint correct morally speaking, but from a businessman's point of view,this may not sound bad afterall.

ahem...
last but not the least,
keep writin! :)

vinay said...

well, so what do you think they should do? just have a broad news announcing the assasination and then get on with the other day to day business of news...

I would differ...its benazir bhutto...its the hope for democracy, peace, stability...its a huge huge blow to that ...and the kind of news this is, it does deserve all the newsreels, all the analysis....else, how do you define "big" ?

the candles are not being lit for just anybody out there...its for benazir bhutto...and for somebody like me ho will light that candle, its is my means of expressing solidarity to all the thousdands of people of pakistan for whom this has come as a tragic tragic loss!!

I regularly react to news , write comments online ...and i see people responding to that ..discussing it further...its just like talking to anyone in the office...only thing its a virtual world...but it helps form opinions, enhance discussions..its a movement and let us all let it roll !

I know it is useless if not followed by an active social participation on the ground...but atleast this is a start...

GGMU said...

hey...jayraj here...i've written a related post in my blog, about pakistan and stuff going on dere...check it out...btw...i totally agreed with the guy who sed dat virtual candles are just a nifty way to make money...