Thursday, May 05, 2005

Why Blogs Matter

This past Sunday, we had dinner with a leading Indian advocate for economic liberalism.

We brought up the recent blog-protest against Musharraf's visit. Why wasn't there even one similar protesting view expressed in our traditional media, we asked? Surely other Indians, besides the protesting bloggers, disagreed with India's outreach to the Pakistani dictator? If so, where were their voices?

We then suggested that traditional media, particularly on foreign policy issues, smothers all opinion that dissents from the Government view. Thus, our media is hardly a place for reasoned debate; rather, it's a means for the Government, and its proxies, to shape public opinion. Perhaps blogs could fill this intellectual void, we speculated.

Our guest disagreed. The commercial media caters to the market, he argued, and prints/broadcasts content that sells. His implication was that our kind of hawkishness likely has no market in today's India. As for blogs becoming a place for debate, well, they have so little readership that they don't really matter.

He's likely right. Then, should serious bloggers just give up? We think not.

We hate to quote from a movie, much less a movie we've recently dismissed as being terrible(!), but there's a nugget of good in all things. In The Interpreter's climactic scene, the vicious dictator reads, at gunpoint, the following from his autobiography (written when he was still an honorable man):

It's hard to hear among the gunfire...But even the softest whisper can be heard when it tells the truth.

We think this is a pretty important point. Blogs may not (yet) have the megaphone the traditional media has, but as long as they have integrity, their whisper will find receptive ears.


Nitin said...

Could good old commercial interests be a reason why Indian media companies want to be nice to Musharraf's Pakistan?

After writing so many nice things about Musharraf, they asked permission to publish in Pakistan. (Just denied)

While business interests in general promote rapprochement and peace, I'm beginning to be concerned that the corporate interests of Indian media groups can swing public opinion to India's detriment. For example, there was scarcely any critical examination of India's current Pakistan policy at all. If the media does not ask these questions (instead worries about Shakti Kapoor's casting couch) while lionising Musharraf, there sure will be trouble down the road.

Laks said...

Some related thoughts here:
Please end this hagiography

Dilip D'Souza said...

Primary Red,

Blogs may not (yet) have the megaphone the traditional media has, but as long as they have integrity, their whisper will find receptive ears.

But do they have integrity? Or let me put this better: is it advisable to assume that because you have integrity, other blogs have it too?

No implications meant, just asking.

Primary Red said...

Great question, Dilip.

While we don't know others' motivations, we can certainly remind them that integrity matters. This allows us to focus away from counting readership.

The only flag bloggers should salute is that of our core beliefs, not their transient relative popularity.

We think Indian newspapers have regrettably sold out in this regard.

Best regards.

swami said...

Wow! This is glorification of blogs at its best!

The protest against Musharraf was silly - to put it very mildly. And to claim that, blogs did that because they had integrity and the commercial media did not because it didnt have integrity is to take it to the sillyness extreme.

Primary Red said...

Actually, Swami, we're OK with disagreement and debate -- regrettably, this is whats missing in our media. Regardless of who is right on a given matter, shouldn't all disagreements be aired publicly so people can better understand the nature of our disagreements? Or should we simply accept bhed-chaal as democracy?

If you think absence of debate marks a vibrant media, thats your prerogative. We ourselves were brought up to think a little more analytically than that.

As for our gratuitous remarks, they warrant little comment.

Best regards.

swami said...

Do you consider Rajdeep Sardesai part of popular media??

swami said...

And for a cautious, yet positive view on the whole issue, read -


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