Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mass Media mush, News & Saas-bahu saga- The quest to find a connection...

We are being injected with millions of sharp little needles every single second we see television, read newspapers, listen to the radio or surf online. Without an 'aah' or 'ouch' even, in fact, so much so that we all happily get ourselves pierced again and again with generous dozes of thoughts, ideas, aspirations and longings.

That's what the Hypodermic Needle Theory, or The Magic Bullet Theory, or the Almacht van de media-theorie is expected to do to us: to directly influence the masses via the mass media.

Just like a doze of injection pierces under your skin and in no time reaches the recesses of your tissue and cells, a doze of media, however small or big it may be, is potent enough to remain in your psyche and influence to levels even you yourself cannot imagine.

Today, the audience is assumed to be far more active in churning out meaning and symbols out of the creative products thrust on its face. And though new research coupled with aggressive market surveys says that the audience is not as dumb as thought to be earlier, I feel the Hypodermic theory still has a huge fan following. In fact, the needle theory seems to be the underlying driving principle of any mass media campaign, be it advertising, politics or PR.

What is it, but the conviction of the media barons that the audience is so dumb, and so much of a puppet, that it will gulp down anything, absolutely anything that is coaxed down their throats? And we, as an audience, have proved their boardroom theories right time and again with a maniacal reverence.

Take immortal Saas-Bahu sagas for example. Though generations after generations face scandals of different social complexities and varieties of extra-marital affairs, these Saas-bahu dramas still have an ardent fan following.

In case of pure entertainment, given films and serials, even these statistics could be implemented straightaway to churn out profit and get high TRP. For entertainment wears no masks of reality or morality in most cases. At worst, even if it were downright vulgar, the audience knows what to expect and makes a conscious choice when he chooses to see serial X instead of serial Y.

The real problem is with the pollution of the media that disseminate news. There's a horrible, and very dangerous mix of 'reports' and features' in the current media fashion.

A report is meant to state what happened, as verbatim as possible, without any leading verbs, adverbs or adjectives that may lend the reporter's personal stance on the matter. A feature, on the other hand, is that powerful tool of the same reporter where he is free to pen his opinions as harshly as he may want and associate those opinions with his byline.

A news reader today does not have the privilege, least of all an opportunity, to make opinions of his own based on a news report. This is because the 'report' that reaches his hands has already been doctored, consciously or unconsciously, by opinions and leading language. Such a carefully toned piece of information hits the psyche so effectively and so stealthily, that it rules out any remote possibility of an unbiased, objective decoding of information.

Newspaper articles today are laced with preconceived moral, ethical and political stances than ever before. This brutal penmanship, in effect, kills the right of the reader to chaff out information from opinion, just as it denies the reader to form an opinion based on unbiased information.

The unfortunate thing is, media today, especially the traditional print and broadcast media, have achieved a God-man status and a large majority still looks up to the media to validate any piece of information. We are influenced by the media more than we may want to acknowledge.

We are still injected with opinions and ideals, we are still driven to think what the media or political conglomerates want us to think, and we are still slaves to the Hypodermic Needle Theory...

-Gauri Gharpure

Read about the Hypodermic Needle Theory


feddabonn said...

"A news reader today does not have the privilege, least of all an opportunity, to make opinions of his own based on a news report."

because we are organisms who base our understanding of the environment based on our perceptions, be they sensory or intellectual, there are few 'facts' that have not been influenced by perception.

for example-> when pre-copernican humans said "the sun rises and sets", they were influenced by a perception called 'common sense'. at that time, this was a 'fact'. a modern human, however, knows that the sun does no such thing at all, and the earth revolves around the sun. so the 'fact' has changed, based on new perception called 'science'. we STILL say, however, that the sun rises and sets. the perception we use now, however, is not 'common sense', because we know the sun doesn't actually do that, but rather, a perception called 'language'.

the point i am trying to make is that the only way to increase the quality of my understanding is to increase the number/amount of perceptions i am exposed to. if i am concious that all 'facts' are really based on 'perceptions', i will look for many (as possible) perceptions before i make an opinion (laziness not factored in).

so the increase in mass communication media available to us actually gives us a chance to form better quality opinions. that is, of course, if we want to!


suren said...

i can think of 2 statements to sum up everything

if religion is to opiate masses for Marx, television is to opiate the masses in the modern era and accordingly things are manipulated.

that which cannot be done by the person, if done on screen by a fictitious character, it is always appreciated by the helpless viewer -- the rationale behind so many TV serials' success in spite of having the same story line and same set of actors

Internation Musing said...

Very nice posting.
Going to add you to Internations.

Gauri Gharpure said...

@ baruk...

'if i am concious that all 'facts' are really based on 'perceptions'...

and this is a major IF... how many people are conscious today, like you correctly explained here, tht facts are based on perceptions, and in the end, any kind of information takes birth or spreads due to the perceptions associated with it.

i wrote this post assuming there are many many people who either don't have the time or inclination to put in good thoughts of their own after reading a news paper report, a debate on TV or a 'view' put forth by an expert called on a channel... it is at such times when we let off our guard, or are too lazy to probe a little further in our own minds to know what we actually think as an individual, tht the needle theory works at its best... and then, given the information excess we are witness to, we are more likely to take in news at face value in our hush and hurry or daily life than to try and accumulate different perspectives for a balanced brooding on later on...

the thing is, a majority of us are fine tuned to jump to a conclusion.. our mental and moral system is nervous and ill at ease with a set of abstract / pending or un-set ideas. and news present the easiest remedy to the information hungry and judgemental psyche. tht's why news reporting is such a serious responsibility, tht's why the emphasis on the difference b/w reports and features..

and thnks, i guess u commented only a few minutes after i put the post on. i always look fwd to know wht u think! :)

@ suren... yes.. television is a strong tool for setting opinions, or for that matter, even for nuturing and grooming a definite style of thought and behaviour... with fiction, as u correctly pointed out, the creative liberty makes it all the more easier to push in expensive lifestyles and outdated sermons in the minds of people..

@ Hans-- thnks for reading the post... And! it wud be a grt pleasure and honour, if so happens.. thnks again...

Fictitioustruth said...

to understand how it all works and why it is done the way it is done, i would recommend "unspeak" by Steven Poole.

you can also visit for some more scary examples.

phish said...

hmmm. being a part of the industry, (well, somewhat, my line of work is more akin to prostitution) i have shunned the medium completely.

strange as i need to watch (nee track) commercials as part of my job, i still don't. switching the infernal contraption on only during sport. or some major event (in this case raj thakeray's arrest - purely because somehow taxis seem to go on strike right before)

and the needle analogy couldn't be further from the truth, no puns intended. news has become a race for trps to convince grassroots clients from remote parts upcountry. and news itself has become a mere shadow of what its supposed to do.

as far as programming is concerned the lesser said the better. i am ashamed to be in advertising. and i stay concerned about the health of the media. and their smug faces.

oh. i do watch pogo a lot but.

Anil P said...

Long ago someone said 'don't shoot the messenger' because he only carries the message.

Things changed, the messenger makes the message now!

Gauri Gharpure said...

@ fictionous truth-- thnks..i went to the site, but i guess i need to be there a few more times to know wht it exactly is.. at a glance, the site seemed a bit bland and designed for people who already know wht 'unspeak' is all abt...

@ phish--- i take it tht u ve said so in a sudden burst of emotions for to say tht u hate, or are ashamed of the industry tht gets u ur bread or butter doesn't quite seem to fit in my head :). .. i for one, in spite of the post abt needle theory, believe tht the ad world is still the safest bet.. at least we know we are 'selling' a product, and so, however exaggerated the propoganda may be, we have a fair idea and so do the customers, that this is a commercial exhange of thoughts and products, and nothing disguised under deceiting masks.

it's the news media- both print and visual, tht gives me the shivers particularly... the kind of propoganda tht is covertly happening in every other para is fearsome...

@ anil- so so true... so much said in a small statement.. and thnks for dropping by the blog..