Journalism in the Post-Truth Era

George Orwell once rightly said that “The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” American writer and humorist Mark Twain said that “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” It shows that a lie has vast market and adequate consumers, whereas, it is vice-versa in the case of a truth. Simultaneously, Journalism in the post-truth era has become profitable as well as questionable profession. It is a universal profession and has a very wide reach; therefore, it needs to be questioned. In the post-truth era it is really hard to know that what is being told /shown to us is actually authentic or not.  A flood of information is being provided to us round the clock that create complexity for readers/viewers in identifying which news is authentic and reliable. In the profit-driven journalism, it is also not easy for the journalists to choose which news should be reported and which should not be. Most of the times, they try to cover the news stories which ‘majority’ endorses as well as like to read/watch or that which suits the agenda of ruling dispensation. Currently, there is an apparent dividing line between the journalists in India; first category consists of those journalists who have become ‘unofficial spokesperson’ of the ruling party and second category consists of those journalists who speak truth to the power. Moreover, second one is frequently questioning the policies and agendas of the governments. These types of journalists are abused, intimidated and threatened day in and day out by those who dislike them. They are easily labeled as ‘Urban Naxals’ or ‘Congress’s spokespersons’ and what not. Now, the ruling dispensation has started a new trend to ‘witch-hunt’ those journalists who are telling/showing those news stories which other journalists don’t dare to show or tell.

Unarguably, the purpose of Journalism is not to cover those news stories which will suit the agenda of ruling parties rather it purpose is to speak out the ‘uncomfortable truth’ which otherwise no one wants to listen. It should be voice of the voiceless and spokesperson of marginalized sections of any society. Unfortunately, journalism in the post-truth era has deviated from its basic purpose. Overtly or covertly, it is adversely affecting the ‘public psyche’. Nowadays, journalists are actually working according to the propaganda which is often attributed to Nazi Joseph Goebbels’ idea of the ‘illusion of truth’. it is based on this law ‘repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth’. Consequently, this all is producing ‘deaf lambs’ and ‘controlled citizens’ rather than ‘argumentative citizens’. This all, doesn’t stop here, actually, journalism in the post-truth era is creating ‘paranoia’ both at individual and societal level. Scapegoating, anxiety, violence, and polarization of the people are the adverse consequences of paranoia which is the by-product of contemporary journalism. In the post-truth era, it is the responsibility of reader/ viewer to cross check the facts and news which are presented to them. It is our responsibility, only ours, to educate and to inform ourselves because it is in the interest of ruling class to keep us ignorant and subservient.   Moreover, reader/viewer should not merely gulp the ready-made ideas and information rather they should research what is being shown or told.

Zulafqar Ahmed is Doctorate Fellow (PhD) at the Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University.