On the big screen, immensely angry and exhausted Vicky Kaushal kills the last terrorist and every spectator develops the feeling of ‘Revenge Fulfilled’. Yes, I am talking about the big hit film URI. The movie we all have seen. The military operation on which this movie is based is famously known to us as ‘Surgical Strike’. Indian government declared the clean and effective surgical strike in POK and a huge wave of pride swept across the nation. Now, just as an experiment, put yourself along the other side of the border and opine about The Surgical Strike. No doubt, the version will change, India will be criticized heavily, and we all have witnessed this in different media reports from Pakistan. The incident was the same but the narratives were different. And why only this case, the entire India-Pak conflict has always been a great example of setting and propagating the narratives. That is what we can call as war of narratives!
Remember the story of the elephant and the blind men? Yes, the same in which every blind touches some part of the elephant and assumes its shape accordingly. Let us put ourselves in the place of those blinds and that tells the story of our situation as Digital Information Consumers (DICs). We think we know a lot, we believe in that and start propagating without any hesitation or second thought. And this behavior of DICs bolster the efforts of creating narratives and help those who are behind it. This is the war of narratives which we all are experiencing and have also become a part of. Just a cyclone of narratives around us!
Ideally, the information must be pure so as the news! The content should be given in a straightforward manner and without adding a pinch of salt to it. As like Doordarshan news or like most print media news. Because, news is sacred! Unfortunately private news channels started serving recipes full of spices and we Indians, who love spice in everything, respond to it. Then came the hurricane of social media; we all whirled in it and still are caught in its snare.
This social media revolution actually gave boost to the process of creating narratives like never before. In fact, there was a clash of narratives in the past too. Apartheid, Hindu-Muslim, India-Pakistan, Aryans-non Aryans, Leftists-rightists, US-Russia, name anything and you would find a variety of narratives attached to everything.
Social media has brought those at our doorstep and moreover it continues doing the same everyday. Things which were the part of imagination or study for limited numbers, have now exploded exponentially. Their impact area has expanded without any limit and so many DICs are getting bombarded with these narratives. Their thought processes are moulded, their behaviours are changed and may be their emotional stability has also been hampered!
US-China verbal war, leftists-rightist clash, Modi Vs Non Modi fight….there are so many examples in which we see that the narratives have been created and floated. Common users of information are buying and responding to those. ‘They’ twist information, make it leading and present it in a variety of manner. We as consumers go on buying those news and views and within a matter of seconds we go on liking, commenting, believing, forwarding, propagating and lot many times fighting. Many of us, if not all, at some point of our digital time, have lost patience, commented without thinking twice, hurt someone and then felt pain for an entire day. All these things are the side effects of that scheme called the war of narratives.
Many of us would have noticed that we have stopped studying topics in detail. We have huge information, less knowledge and have started interpreting things based on this superficial information which is already twisted. We have lost patience which is needed to dig out things, read the piece twice without any bias and then come to conclusions. And again this is not limited to any caste, class, ethnicity or age group. So at least on this parameter we have achieved social equality and integration, isn’t it?
And things have not come to an end yet. With the increasing use of artificial intelligence and use of machines for communication, threats of generating such narratives would go on increasing. Its reach and impact will not be restricted to geographical boundaries. Narratives and messages would be created to spread fear, suspicion, to force certain beliefs and rules on the majority, and this will encompass all walks of life. And obviously the social media will amplify everything. Elements like chatbots, Twitter bots, automated social media accounts will add to the reach and impact. This story is unending if left unchecked.
So, its high time now to become mature DICs and choose things wisely. Let us not go for limited information, limited conceptualization and limited perceptions. One should always try to find the pure news out of spicy dishes served with malicious intent. One might find it boring but we need to regain the art of reading long paragraphs, in-depth information, off-screen information and think twice before making opinions. We should stop considering views as news and should crave for facts. It is not that difficult, its just a matter of practice.
Narratives can create or re-write history, articulate revolutions, can improve work productivity, narratives can craft disciplined society but whether they can create wise human beings, I suspect!