Masses, Media and Mandate

“Money, media and political power are always connected,” said the American journalist Alexander Stille and nothing defines that bond other than influence and codependency. From a small media report causing a politician to resign to Indian political giants controlling the narrative the media portrays towards the public, everything is connected.

If the recent Dominic Cummings political decline and possible resignation (due to allegedly breaking the lockdown law in place in the UK) is anything to go by, the media has a huge role in deciding the political narrative when it comes to the public’s perception towards any situation.

It is one of those formidable tools vital for a decent democracy and an informed society.

When we talk about codependency outside of the psychological sphere, it generally refers to how one variable cannot survive without the other. A free media tends to hold government officials accountable and publicise issues that in its absence may have been squashed or overlooked. Media at the end of the day gives politicians the power that they need to win over the public or to completely blow their chances, as in the case of some American leaders we know today.

We’re all well aware of the power conventional media has over the political vote but as the 2019 Indian elections or the upcoming 2020 American elections would suggest Social Media is the true harbinger of political information to the modern world.

This “new media” as many call it has changed our whole election process in addition to the ways politicians and government institutions communicate. A good example of this can be seen through Twitter and its growing audience who depend on it for up to date information from various powerful institutions, from the Buckingham Palace to BMC in Mumbai, this is the new form of communication. While this is enormously beneficial for all, it can also lead to a more informed and thus at times chaotic atmosphere and its rapid development. May it be a group of hackers allegedly outing documents yet again and leading to the resignation of political figures to the leaked pictures of a politician defying covid-19 lockdown measures, social media sees it first.

The new media has redefined the way political conversations take place and thus providing the society with enormous power in comparison to the conventional media that predated social media. Want an issue to get attention? Make the hashtag trend. Want a politician to be held responsible? Make use of the internet’s cancel culture. Before the advent of social media, the control of media was instrumental in manufacturing public consent and controlling dissent, which now is still possible, however this requires the control of a larger platform or the whole application in question.

Now, the advent of new media and the political power it constitutes has not come about with its own set of challenges and shortcomings. This advent has led to the people moving on from ‘hard news’ as experts call it and have led us to rely on less constructed and researched news instead. When a piece of news surfaces these days which may be incorrect or ill-researched but has a huge following or is outed by a person with a huge fan base, it is immediately accepted as the truth of the matter. This following, is also garnered only at times through scandal coverage and the replacement of serious investigative journalism. This scandalous power anyone holds is also key when it comes to political argument and dialogue, a great example of this being the all the elections held after 2015.

When it comes to politics influencing the media, there is of course no shortage of that present in India. From various data sites showing that 10 of the 15 leading media houses in India are led by political affiliates to certain media houses openly voicing their solidarity through the research and news they choose and don’t choose to provide to their audience. The audience too due to this has become extremely polarised when it comes to Indian politics wherein hardly any conglomerate is ready to deal in the gray area of unbiasedness.

All in all, new media has both enhanced and undercut the roles of conventional media. Media now has made political dialogue occur with even the most disinterested people, as now there’s no way to avoid it. This has also led to further formation of communities far beyond hard news media’s reach and has allowed the common man to contribute to the flow of political information like never before.