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Does The Life Of A Soldier Really Matter To Primetime News Anchors?

It’s time to stop treating our soldiers as pawns to boost TRPs.

02/06/2017 7:46 AM IST | Updated 02/06/2017 7:46 AM IST
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Time and again we see news of our soldiers sacrificing their lives for the country. It fills every citizen with sadness as well as pride at their valour and commitment to the nation. But something more disturbing seems to be in play: now more than ever, news channels seem to be leveraging the martyrdom of our soldiers—and the powerful emotions this evokes in the public—to garner TRPs.

News anchors and their loudmouthed guests, sitting in their comfortable air-conditioned studios, who don't know a thing about the life of a soldier, are increasingly trying to project that they are somehow even more patriotic than our defence personnel at the border. These anchors, politicians and even Bollywood personalities are literally shooting from the shoulders of soldiers to further their own agenda.

Now more than ever, news channels seem to be leveraging the martyrdom of our soldiers—and the powerful emotions this evokes in the public—to garner TRPs.

The public discourse on nationalism is a serious matter, yet most news channels eschew calling in credible defence experts and serious academicians to debate these sensitive issues. This is because if they call these experts, then reasonable, sane and meaningful discussions will take place and viewers will be better informed about the ground realities. This is exactly, what news channels don't want.

What they want instead is drama, name-calling, sound and fury... because that's what makes for good TRPs. Why make ratings suffer by actually having an informed debate where the anchor is actually a moderator rather than an instigator? Fact is, most channels have a healthy aversion to anything that is "intellectual." Only emotions, manufactured or not, matter.

Prime time news anchors, for the most part, have no knowledge of foreign policy, conflict resolution or international relations and nor are they interested in filling the gaps in their knowledge. For them, the goal is not to counter extreme positions but to add fuel to the fire. Propaganda, half-truths, false information... it's all par for the course in the ratings game. They foster an environment of fear and paranoia to attract eyeballs, never mind that this goes against the national interest. Sometimes, when there is nothing concrete to focus on and crises are in short supply, they try to create a volatile situation by making mountains out of molehills. It keeps viewers hooked and in some cases is politically expedient.

A homogeneous public discourse is always a dangerous sign and almost necessarily ends up on the path of "might is right." But India needs to understand that might is not always right. Silencing alternative discourses through threats, insults, abuse and physical intimidation are not the signs of mature democracy. Disagreements and debates are desirable in a democracy if they are conducted with intellectual honesty and with the right intentions. However, vitriolic prime time news anchors with dubious agendas are trying to distort the character of public debates. Every time an anchor starts losing a debate, he/she hides behind their usual catchphrase—"the soldier is standing at the border."

Every time an anchor starts losing a debate, he/she hides behind their usual catchphrase—"the soldier is standing at the border."

Yes, the soldier is there but who made these news anchors the custodians of patriotism and nationalism? A journalist is called the gate-keeper of a society, and he/she should remain so. In this vicious environment, both the soldiers and the civilians are losing out—the only winners are the corporate media houses. There is no animosity or feeling of hatred between our army and any group, individual or institution. The army isn't baying for the blood of "libtards."

Indeed, these days even retired army generals and jawans who don't take a particular line of thought are abused on social media and are criticised by prime-time anchors. What does this mean? It means precisely that even soldiers, in general, don't matter to them—the only people who matter are those who take their line of thought. As for everyone else? They're all anti-nationals, what else?

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