There is certain selectiveness in our reportage. Some aspects are suppressed and some highlighted in order to escort the audience towards a typical point of view. The media is very subtle in its approach and you would never realise this. That is what makes many endorse the media because people think they are indeed, the owners of what they are led to believe.
The germ resides in us too. If we are led by the media, that also means, there is something in us which the media uses as a handle. Any manipulation requires a grip. Our emotions like desires, fears, greed etc. are like grips for exploitation.
Media and Mankind has co-existed for long and mirrored each other. Given a chance, the media always tends to tilt towards sensationalism. Why? Because we love it. And this tilt towards hype is not clearly obvious. We all realise it when the society itself becomes naked, so to say. Suddenly, there is a correction. Good sense comes back into fashion. Unfortunaly, there are certain types of learning which comes too late – almost too late for somebody. But do we really need to care?
There are innumerable instances in which the media and the public both have wreaked havoc. The incident which I am going to highlight is amazing as it is bloody.
This happened in 1916 in Texas, United States, in a town quite rightly named as Wako.
Jesse Washington was young black working in a farmland. Incidentally, the Farm-owner’s wife was found dead. Jesse was suspected, put on trial and condemned to death. Poor Jesse may not have realised that his fate was going to play out a dastardly act.
The local media was reporting the murder and the trial. The type and class of reporting on the murder instigated the population of Wako to a mad frenzy. Before the jury had a chance to carry out the sentence on Jesse, the provoked crowd entered the court, grabbed Jesse from the arms of the law and handed down their own fascinating justice with immaculate style.
Jesse was suspended over a fire and slowly cooked to death. Whenever Jesse tried to escape, his fingers and legs were periodically cut off. Finally the crowd took parts of Jesse as Souvenirs- a memento of the great job done that fateful day in the name of Justice. This incident is well-known as the “Wako Horror”. This was Instant justice through trial by media.
Although there are many such incidents, the “Jesse Barbeque” case shows what happens when the media’s reporting and people’s opinion finds synergy. You see it all around in topics on which we are all aroused.
Now, let’s take another incident. Here the media and people have a synergy but a negative one.
This happened in 1936. Summer Olympics-Berlin. Hitler’s Propaganda Minister- Goebbels had created a frenzy that the Aryan Race is supreme and the Germans shall overrun the Olympics. Nothing was spared to project this. Print or pictures, it was made evident everywhere and the world was waiting impotently for a Reich-sweep.
Comes Jesse Owens, a Black American, and wins Four Gold Medals. Though Germany topped the medals tally but their arrogance was laid to rest by non-other than a man who hailed from a “primitive race”. Jesse, obviously, used the media onslaught as a fulcrum to propel himself. Just remember, this is only 20 years after one Jesse met his gory fortunes.
Media Frenzy, Stock Market Bubble, Crowd Euphoria, any emotions on an over-boil indicates ominous trouble. When our focus aligns with these emotions our results are always dismal.
But when we take the populist by the horn and confront to isolate facts from fiction, human endeavours reach a new height. Populist sentiments are fickle, temporary and arise from base instincts. Discretion, they say, is better part of valour. But actually, Discretion cultivates valour.
In the end- Truth shall prevail. Very well, but what about us!