Modernisation theory which originated from the ideas of German sociologist Max Weber and Media theory by Canadian Philosopher Marshall McLuhan has contributed a lot in popularizing the idea that technological advancement has a very powerful linkage with all good things and yes! Democracy and Economic Development. But analysing the workings of technology in the Contemporary World, I do have a contrarian view. Unlike what we have thought technology to do for us, it is making us subservient to the Establishment. Maybe it is the sole purpose technology was invented for – to serve those in power by making us merely passive technical apparatus or machines to serve as a means of interest for them. And those who cheered about technological advancement were not scholars of high intellect but mere propagandists of Technological Elite and Establishment. These so-called intellectuals including Marshall McLuhan were themselves PR inventions by Elites and their ‘Media Affectionists’.
So, how technology actually works in controlling the public and making them function as tech machines for use by elites and how does it market the human tech machines? To answer that let me discuss some of my observations. First, technology is diluting our emotions, it is making us insensitive and less empathic. With the advent of technology and new media, especially social media, we are exposed to so much information and news that we cannot give our proper attention to single news. We are living in a world of instant news and most of the news contains information about criminal activity that has happened across a day. Hearing stories of cruelty and crime in such a huge number, again and again, lead us to a state called Compassion Fatigue in which we reach a point where we become insensitive to such news and less empathetic towards the victims of crime and cruelty.
For instance, when CAA-NRC began to be in the news, I first came across a video by The Quint in which there was a story about a Hindu man who died in Assam Detention Centre after being declared a doubtful voter and possible illegal immigrant because there were some spelling mistakes on his voter id card. This story made me feel pity, scared and insecure. I started searching a lot about similar cases and come across death numbers in Detention centre, suicide cases because of fear of being declared illegal residents and mob lynchings in Assam ( where anti-immigrant sentiments are on its acme) on mere suspicion of someone being an immigrant. Then, I came across so many videos surfacing during JAMIA Violence where students were brutally beaten by security forces inside the library and washrooms. One of the stories claimed that a student who went to study in the library for exams lost one of his eyes in the violence that was unleashed. Visuals made me extremely disturbed.
Then there were stories of Anti-CAA protestors who died during various clashes. There was a story where one of the people died due to bullets hitting him while he was just out to take some milk for his infant child from a nearby shop. Then we have shooters appearing at the spot of Jamia and Shaheen Bagh Protests. Now to this point, I had enough of depressing and unpleasant stories oriented to CAA protests coming to me. And when fresh stories and visuals of Riot victims during deadly clashes between supporters and protestors came to me, I was totally cold and numb to react to it. This is what technology and social media are doing to us! My cold reaction to riots in Delhi is a very perilous thing. Emotionless technology is making us imbibe this trait to ourselves!
Second is that it is preparing us to obey all the commands of those in power. The outreach of Technology is downward vertical direction from those in power to those who are controlled by Power. In other words, the flow of technology is from the rich, powerful and influential section of people to those who are controlled by them. We are in actuality getting manipulated by global capitalists and corporate media through Propaganda to believe that ‘Invention of Technology’ is oriented to progressive changes for all but in actual the use of technology is getting so entrenched in our lives that now we cannot digress ourselves from it.
Noam Chomsky – an American Cognitive Scientist explained the ‘Propaganda Model’ of Corporate Media in his work ‘Manufacturing Consent’. He came up with 5 Propaganda filters to explain how consent is manufactured in Public Mind and how masses are manipulated to believe in social, political and economic positions of the Elite and the Establishment. One of his filters entails Media Sourcing. According to him, to get advertisements from corporations, the media has to run Propaganda for them and has to be uncritical towards their workings that might harm the Public interest. So, because to fund its investment costs, the media in actual aligns with the interest of the corporations rather than with the interest of the public. Unlike the traditional view that the public is consumer, Noam Chomsky sees Public as the Product which is sold to the corporates, manufacturers, rich and establishment. For instance, look at the workings of newspapers. We think that newspapers work for us. But Noam Chomsky explains that the Newspaper works for corporations. Newspapers sell us news and stories with bias aiming to build a good PR image of businesses that might be harmful to our interests. And when we think it is selling us the information and news to us, it is actually selling ‘us as a product’ to these businesses. We are the products which businesses use to gain profit – our hard-earned money through selling their products via advertisements in newspapers. The more a business spends in a newspaper to buy its advertisement space the more product ‘us’ they will get from the newspaper.
The other filter that Noam Chomsky speaks of is ‘Fear’ from a common enemy. He criticises mainstream media for mongering fear in Public Mind to help the position of Establishment and Elite. For example, take the case of Iran, the current regime in Iran is authoritarian and brutal but there is still popular support for this authoritarian regime because of the media. Media in Iran can only be a propaganda tool for its current government. The common enemy created is ‘America’ from which only this current authoritarian regime can save the general public and if this government is challenged by someone then it would mean they are with the enemies of Iranian People – America!
Technology and Media are making us human tech machines by making us lose our emotions, preparing us as a product which obeys the command of Elite and Establishment and maintaining their position making us give manufactured legitimacy to their actions without questioning their authority and power. And the most perilous technological tool by the Establishment is Media! It’s high time we think of ways to save ourselves from evils of technology that is unceasingly controlling and manipulating us for the sole profit of Rich and Elites.
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