News Media as Warmongering Machines
by Dr. Qaisar Abbas
Corporate media all over the world tend to be more balanced when they cover news within their national boundaries. When it comes to international coverage, however, more often they follow the popular, official and mainstream ideological positions. This biased media coverage further contributes to interstate and international conflicts.
Mass media knowingly or unknowingly develop awarmongering hysteria among the audience against their perceived enemies. In the context of interstate hostility, the process of creating this media madness becomes easier as the nationalistic mindset is already there for most of their audienceagainst the perceived enemy.
I have watched the media coverage of Indian and Pakistani news channels. In both countries, TV news channels were speaking a similar language against the enemy. Symbols of hatred and unimaginable myths were created to reinforce “our” superiority and “their” inferiority. They sensationalized the conflict to gain the popularity of their respective audiences and improve ratings.
It was a typical example of a pseudo-nationalistic, irrational and emotional coverage of the mainstream media to support narrowly defined religious, ethnic, and nationalistic sensitivities.
While the Indian news channels blamed the whole Pakistani nation for the Pulwama attack, the Pakistani coverage tried to prove that the attack was originated in Kashmir.
Some of the newscasters, took the media frenzy to an extreme level of absurdity when they appeared in military uniforms on the screen, jeopardizing their trustworthiness and credibility among the audience, whatever was left.
Not only the news media followed the official and popular ideology of confrontation, but they also failed to examine thecultural, historical, and political complexities of the conflict.
The coverage on both sides of the border missed the issues of domestic and interstate politics, the role of conservative groups in each country, and the innocent Kashmiris who have been suffering for the last 70 year in their homeland.
Although there are voices of conscience in the media, especially the press, the mainstream TV channels contributed a great deal of irresponsible, sensational, and unrealistic coverage which further increased the vast gulf of trust and animosities between the people of two countries.
If this warmongering role of news media is a globalphenomenon, how can we identify media messages and improve the overall coverage? Known media scholar C. J. Hamelinksuggests establishing an International Media Alert System (IMAS) to monitor media contents in the areas of conflict.
In other words, when the mainstream news media tend to manufacture confrontational news coverage that leads to violence and warmongering, analysts and media organizations should establish a monitoring system to avoid this alarming tendency.
Despite the much-trumpeted concept of objectivity in covering news, the media have rarely been objective in covering interstaterelations. The modern mass media with their global reach have a solemn responsibility to promote peace, not war.
(A former higher education administrator and professor in the United States, Dr. Qaisar Abbas is currently working as a mediastrategist and education consultant in Washington DC.).