What Edward Mahama, former presidential candidate of Ghana’s People’s National Convention (African Nation) had said about the media is very well applicable to the Indian media. He said: “Media is fond of misquoting. I’ve become quiet because those who have the voices, those who’ve the radio and those who sell the newspapers are not looking for truth but looking of means to sell their papers. So, whatever you say, they skew it to mean one thing or the other.”
Misquoting is one of the best techniques media has adopted to create confusion, distort the facts and defame, malign or cause damage to reputation of individuals, organisations and parties in public domain. This is done by the reporters who take liberty to “rephrase” the statements or attribute the words to an individual without quoting the context.
The usual practice is to change the premise to something else and then use that premise to prove an argument that is not true with the original quote. Most often than not defending in such cases is not very easy because once a lie is said and it makes sense to someone that is not aware of the misquote, the damage is done. Though this is a lie, it is effective. Once the seed is planted into a non-critical thinker’s mind, they will blindly believe it to be true. It is bad enough when individuals do it in their everyday life, but more so when the news reporters or mediamen indulge in this, there is a problem.
Misquoting public figures in public domain is a global phenomenon. The dictionary meaning of misquoting is to repeat something someone has said in a way that is not accurate. This technique was most effectively used by Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in the 20th century. Today Goebbels is no more but his followers abound, especially in the ‘secular’ Indian media world. And their most popular whipping boy is none other than the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) the most patriotic, nationalist organisation.
Right from the days of the RSS founder Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar to the present Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat, the much biased Indian media hardly leave any chance to spread canards against the RSS and malign its image in the public domain. That they did not get the desired results after their repeated attempts is another story.
The latest case in point is the admonition of leading Hindi daily Rajasthan Patrika, published from Jaipur in Rajasthan.
The Press Council of India (PCI) admonished Rajasthan Patrika for making damaging editorial comments on the opinion expressed by RSS chief Shri Mohan Bhagwat at Indore which were ‘misquoted’ by the media. The opinion expressed by Shri Bhagwat while explaining his point of view on western and Indian philosophies was ‘misquoted’ by the media which conveyed a wrong meaning and damaged the reputation of Shri Bhagwat and the RSS in the public domain.
Rajasthan Patrika was not alone in this episode. The same speech of RSS chief was presented in the most distorted manner by leading television news channels and the ‘so-called’ national daily newspapers. The clarification issued by the RSS spokesman was published but not as prominently as the ‘misquoted’ news was published.
This practice of unethical reporting aimed at defaming the RSS and projecting it as ‘anti-Muslims, anti-Christians, anti-secularism’ etc. is followed unhindered by the ‘mainstream media’ since long. Every now and then they go on ‘misquoting and misrepresenting’ the RSS and its leaders without facing any action. It is another story that the common public perception about the RSS and its leaders has remained unaffected in spite of this malicious propaganda.
Besides the statements of RSS leaders, the media also frequently indulge in distorting and misquoting opinionated articles published in periodicals subscribing to RSS ideology. They are not necessarily the official mouthpieces of RSS but they are portrayed in this manner. So whatever is published in these periodicals becomes easy cannon fodder for them. Any explanation in this regard would not remove their doctored misconception about these periodicals however authoritative they may be.
A recent case can be pointed to explain this point. There is an organisation called Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) which works for bridging the emotional gap between the Hindus and Muslims and initiating social reforms amongst the Muslims. The MRM had just organised an All India Ulema Conference in Lucknow which elucidated massive response from the Muslim clergy from all over the country. But this was projected in the media as an event organised by RSS to woo Muslims in view of the ensuing Bihar Assembly elections. The television news channels and newspapers were full of reports attributing this event to RSS when the organisation had no role in it.
I vividly remember how the Leftist dominated media used to slam the RSS with expletives like ‘obscurantist’, ‘traditionalist’, ‘communalist’ and so on in the past decades. The RSS hardly indulged in countering them in the media for it believed in reaching out to the masses through its thousands of workers and sympathisers. The statements of former RSS chief MS Golwalkar were ‘misquoted and misrepresented’ umpteen times to portray the RSS as ‘the most dreaded enemy of Muslims and Christians. This was when Glowalkarji was not very ‘media-savvy’. He almost kept the media at bay, often avoided them and insulated the RSS from publicity.
His successor Balasaheb Deoras was relatively more media-friendly and answered to their every question in the most free and frank manner. Even his statements were misreported. I recall here how a Bhopal-based correspondent of a news agency, who did not attend the press conference of the RSS Chief, attributed a statement to him which said ‘RSS would come to power in this country in next ten years’. This was immediately after the Janata Party government had assumed power at the Centre after the dark episode of internal Emergency in the Indian democracy.
The Congress, Communist and some of their fellow-travellers in the secular train have kept this tradition alive even today. Any number of admonition, reprimanding, reproach by the judiciary or statutory bodies like the Press Council of India, various High Courts and even the Supreme Court would not deter them from their avowed mission of ‘misquoting and misrepresenting’ to malign and tarnish the image of RSS. Old practices die hard, and this is true in case of biased Indian media. Virag Pachpore