City City Bang Bang, Columns

Manipulating Media – Ten Easy Tips

The stronger media gets, the easier it becomes to manipulate it. For all the screechy aggression, we see particularly on television, it works on some rudimentary principles. Here are some easy ways to use television to your advantage.

1. Use strong language and splutter frequently with contrived rage. This makes for intense television, and gives the audience a vicarious sense of power. Sock it to ’em, vierwers intone with glazed eyes as a panelist rubbishes another. Intemperate language is a must if you want to be on TV. Ask Varun Gandhi. When was he on our screens before or after?

2. Don’t worry about the content of what you say, just speak very loudly and be sure to interrupt the moderator. Remember, his or her primary role is to interrupt the other panelist loudly and frequently and this is war. Nobody will remember what you say in any case, they will only remember how noisy you were. If you do not let others be heard, you win. Of course, the moderator will always win.

3. Use twitter. The same thing said on twitter needs fewer words, little knowledge of grammar, no justification and is for some reason, very cool and new age. You will attract many followers and in the event of the mournful demise of your career because of a twitchy twitter finger, you will be hailed as a new age politician or sports administrator. If you are a celebrity, make sure that the twitter-twatter of your messages includes other celebrities. If you do this, media gets two celebrities for the price of one in a headline.

4. Give television channels something to show. Filling up hours of time is not easy and there are only so many film star spats to cover in slow motion. It helps of course if you are attractive, or a celebrity, but if you are not hang out with those who are. In the worst case, do something that can be shot. Break some windows, if no other ideas spring to mind. Conversely, if you are the subject of a controversy, make sure you give channels nothing interesting to show. Dry up visuals and the story will sooner or later, die.

5. Get outraged easily and publicly. Call yourself an organization, give it a righteous sounding name and launch attacks on cricketers, film stars and any new film. You have to do very little to be on all national channels- maybe rough up a few completely innocent people, file a case in an obscure court thirsting to issue warrants to Sania Mirza, Mandira Bedi or Khushboo or announce a boycott, if you cannot rustle up a fatwa. Don’t waste your time getting outraged about things that actually matter- nobody wants to cover thousands protesting against lack of drinking water, but four people talking about the insult to bhangra make for better television.

6. Say nothing deep on television. In particular, do not appear as if you are thinking about you are going to say. Blurt out the first thing that comes to your head and make sure to speak continuously without any pauses. Thinking is dangerous and has extremely limited visual appeal. Besides, it takes up too much time.

7. Always blame someone. Focus on people not issues. Television is about people, not things. And it is about blame, not understanding. Who is responsible, the moderator will thunder. Thunder back. When someone attacks you for something wrong you have done, do not attempt to respond. Instead attack them for whatever wrong they have done. If they bring up Gujarat, it is foolish to try and reply. Bring up Delhi 1984 instead. The fun thing about this game is that is can go on endlessly. After all, both sides are hardly likely to run out of ammunition.

8. Deny wrongdoing stoutly. It doesn’t matter if you are caught accepting a bribe on camera, or have slapped a junior officer in public, or have described the minority community in inappropriate terms on national television, dismiss it as a conspiracy. Thanks to the rumours about the progress made by digital technology, we no longer believe our eyes or ears. It can all be attributed to technological manipulation. If for some reason, you have to apologise, remember you can get away by saying anything as long as you use the word ‘sorry’ in the sentence.”I am sorry about the way my remarks were misconstrued and I regret the offence caused by any misunderstanding that might have occurred”, for instance is a great way of seemingly apologizing while calling everyone else idiots for not understanding what you said.

9. When attacked, do not defend yourself on the substance of the attack. Seek refuge instead in an emotionally resonant collective identity. This is a good time to remember that you are a dalit, a woman in a man’s world or a Malayali proud of his heritage. An attack on you is an attack on your collective. It works even better if you can use some local word like manoos or asmita.

10. If everything fails, wait. The media gets bored easily. Either offer them tedious explanations or just lie low. You will be forgotten, and even better be remembered only for being once famous. The more brazen you are, the more you will be respected. In this country everybody gets a second chance. You can be captain of your cricket team, fix matches and still get to be fielded successfully as a candidate for the Parliament. Who could I be talking about? Can’t remember.