Wild and unabashedly outrageous, a little far out in its brazen attempt to exploit the voter’s sentiment as son of the soil, the BJP’s improbable “Justice for Sushant” campaign, launched ahead of the elections to the Bihar legislative Assembly, invites the media today to a spot of introspection.
The media is guilty of according the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput too much priority. To this end, it has blithely allowed itself to play into the hands of political lobbies that quickly converted the coverage into a running skirmish between the ruling party at the Centre and the Opposition-led Maharashtra government.
Hungry for TRPs, the big media remained oblivious. Rigour, due diligence and facts were tossed to the winds in the course of a media trial, masquerading as an investigation.
As floods raged through the state, alongside the coronavirus and recession, the big media invisibilised the sufferings of the poor and the marginalised. The post-truth media was shy of putting governments on the mat. The social media fostered echo chambers; cancel culture, and trolling and real life stalking of ones with uncomfortable views.
But the cardinal sin committed by the media was trying to reverse-engineer the tastes of its audience and in so doing it underestimated it, badly. The masses are intelligent. They do not enjoy an exact overlap with the classes to which the journalist aspires to belong like every other middle class citizen. But they vote out governments.
They have sections that are semi-literate and they also comprise minds that are not influential but are far more educated than the journalist themselves.
The masses may be entertained by melodrama and kitsch but they know how to distinguish between news and entertainment. Sometimes, they knowingly opt for the latter. At other times, they do so in the former’s absence.
But to perpetrate their particulate frauds, journalists, women and men alike, were encouraged to buy into the toxic middle class culture of misogyny, shame, fear and fascination of “drugs” and various “nobler than thou” tribalisms that coexisted as cognitive dissonances, indeed neuroses, in people’s psyches and milk them no end.
It was surprising how the journalist of a television channel kept steering the conversation away to the topic of drugs even after Rhea Chakraborty dropped repeated clear hints about Sushant Singh being stressed out about the possibility of a “#MeToo-type allegation” prior to his death.
Chakraborty has just been interrogated by the CBI and this adds to her statements new weight. It is also surprising how large sections of the media gave zero currency to the possibility that Sushant Singh’s death might have been the result of a suicide. This behaviour by the media invalidates the needs of people suffering from depression that the death had urgently highlighted.
There is a growing suspicion that the media is instinctively refusing to consider and/or present the actor as having been an overthinking, perfectionist, high-achieving, fallible human, with talent and flaw, and instead placing him on the pedestal of “the wronged genius” that it believes its audience wants him to occupy. Should it be otherwise, the ensuing shame withers its own pet narrative.
All of which is typical of the regressive society that the media aims to cater to and likes to place itself above. The coverage of this case is indeed a study in its midsize history of hypocrisy.