Media Invasions

The Holocaust to me always meant the genocide of European Jews during WWII. It was the biggest human tragedy that I knew of and the enormity was due to the large numbers. However yesterday - only yesterday - when I am nearly 47 - did I read about the massacre of the Indigenous Americans  - the number was around 11 million! ( Sharon Johnston, The Genocide of Native Americans: A Sociological View, 1996) The questions that arose after I got over the shock were : How come this had not come to my notice? I am not an aggressive reader but I do read more than an average person. My children argued that my ignorance was a result of not being part of the environment in any way. By that logic I should not have known about the Nazi atrocities either. So after mulling over it, I think the questions is one about 'media' and not my personal engagement or oblivion. Maybe the Native Americans were not spreading their story as aggressively as others. Maybe effort and time and money were more needed to do other things than to publicise their story. Another instance: Hurricane Katrina and the Mumbai floods happened within the same month. About 1000 people died in each location. Within a fortnight, the people had 'adjusted' to the situation and the media had moved on. As a result the Mumbai floods dropped out of the radar of the world media. But Katrina remained a tragedy that was talked about for a whole year! Was one group of 1000 less significant than the other? Were the 11 million dead less noteworthy than the 6 million that all school children learn about? In an ideal world all news about everything would reach everybody and we'd all the the capacity to absorb it all. But since this is far from possible, our minds are fed with stimuli in two ways : what we select for ourselves and what is forced into our environment without our active consent or seeking out. And in small infinitesimal amounts we get influenced by everything we read, see, hear and experience until vague (at first) and then eventually definite opinions are formed about this and that. We think.  We process. And our logic is our own. But the background factors that feed that logic are only those things that are within our experience. So ought we to modulate the media that reach us to ensure that views from all the various groups receive an equal audience with each indvidual? Otherwise one is likely to be influenced by just the ones that talk the most or the loudest. There's a cute little poem :

The codfish lays ten thousand eggs, The homely hen lays one. The codfish never cackles To tell you what she’s done. And so we scorn the codfish, While the humble hen we prize, Which only goes to show you That it pays to advertise.

How does one solve this and do justice to ourselves by ensuring that we also know about the codfish?

How does one stop life from becoming similar to "The Truman Show" which of course is an extreme case but the parallel is not hard to see.

jm

June 2012




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