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Aakar Patel in The News, Pakistan:
An advertisement film was made for the Shri Ram Sene on January 24. It was scripted and directed by Muthalik. It starred the boys that Muthalik had sent (he was not there himself -- clever). It also featured, involuntarily, the young men and women who were thrashed and molested. It was shot by the TV crews and freelance cameramen. Its broadcast, the most expensive part of advertising, was paid for entirely by the news channels. And it still is.
Muthalik set about that day to become a national story. He knew what he had to feed the television stations to become a big story: upper-class women, violence, moralism. And of course he needed to reach his audience. And he did that through a single act.
As they repeat the footage from that day, it is accompanied by high dudgeon from the television anchors, especially India's liberal English news channels. But this is a hypocritical indignation, because they are using the footage of the act, just as Muthalik used them to get the footage. The channels remind the girls, slapped, falling, fondled, of their humiliation every time they broadcast it, but they persist in doing it while insisting that they are on the girls' side.
Muthalik, who has played his cards excellently, comes across as calm. And like dogs being thrown a bone, the television journalists have chased the stories that Muthalik has tossed in the air after that day. Journalism is reactive. The reporter responds to the world and the editor must pick and choose what it is of interest. He must also decide what is compelling.
HT: Navjot Sandhu
L'affaire Mutalik brings us to the issue of how much coverage for incidents like this. Also, is the media willingly or unwittingly turning into a PR wing of such ragtag vigilante groups? Is media's over-enthusiasm proving totally counter-productive? The media, in all sincerity, should come up with a policy prescription for itself to ensure that its coverage does not achieve the exact opposite of what it intends to establish. After all, this year's Valentine's Day was the least colourful in recent times and strangely, the media ensured that it was so. Ironically, the media outdid Mutalik in this endeavour.
There is another deeper media issue involved in the Mangalore pub attack-coverage. Why was the media, the more sedate and supposedly more balanced print media included, utterly disinclined to inform the readers about Ram Sena's antecedents and its running battle with the Sangh Pariwar? Also, the media chose to ignore the fact that there were some local Congressmen among the Ramsena funders. Questions like whether Mutalik was deliberately being modelled into a Hindu Bhindranwale to embarras an unfriendly dispensation at Bengaluru, just as a similar exercise is on to establish Raj Thackeray as the real representative of Maharashtra pride, have never been probed by the media. Ram Sena's run-ins with RSS are only too well-known even to the general public in Mangalore. Why did the media fail to see the obvious? Is there a deeper and hidden agenda?