The Media is tasked with the responsibility of making people aware. Besides being the watchdog of democracy, it should also conscientiously serve as the watchdog of upholdment of Constitutional values and directives enshrined in the constitution such as the Fundamental Duties. Acting on this lines, journalists in developing countries, as the creme-de-la-creme educated intelligentsia also act as diligent instruments of change who help dispel superstition, backward mentality and ignominy. Even if the media does not take active initiative of its own accord, factualness, objectivity, scientific temperament, rational discretion, scepticism, progressive outlook, social responsibility, and logical analysis are its defining traits – prerequisites and essentialities rather than gold-standard ideals.

The resurgence in the regressive Hindu Right-Wing has led to a semblance of jingoism, exaggerated cultural pride, exceptionalism and rewriting of history. There has been dangerous conflation of history and mythology, mysticism and science and other noxious intermingling. The general public progressive temperament has dwindled to an all-time low, as interest in narrowly-defined traditional spiritualism and superstition has been reinvigorated.

The Indian Mainstream Media, long-notorious for appeasement, opportunism, populism, sensationalism, cronyism, lobbying, sycophancy catering to whims of TRP, and lending succour to conspiracy has begun to chart new benthos, as of late. The Indian MSM’s coverage of the latest astronomical spectacle – the last Solar Eclipse of the decade prominently illustrates this outrageous departure from, or rather neglect of journalistic standards. It speaks volumes about the Indian media’s true conviction, interests, guiding principles (if any), intent, agenda (if any) and motives.

The line of distinction between Astronomy and Astrology dissolved, and there were full-scale televised and anchored debates featuring saffron-clad priests, self-christened holymen and pious preachers vis-a-vis Logicians, Skeptics and Scientists. These heated discussions were moderated (fuelled would be more apt) by reputed News Presenters and Anchors, aired on prime-time and telecast nationwide. More often than not, the partisan moderators would side with one party rather than arbitrate. Their skewed allegiance frequently led them to defend the Hindu apologists and become party to the debate itself.

The world’s second most-circulated English daily and India’s 4th most-circulated newspaper The Times of India, a 182-year old publication writes, “the medical science and even Indian mythology say that one should avoid food during the eclipse. As a preventive measure, it is suggested to add tulsi (basil) leaves to protect the food from dangerous bacteria.”

Under the header “Harmful effects of eating during Grahan (Eclipse)”, it further adds “When the moon, comes between sun and earth, it releases radiations which are not good for the human body. These radiations badly affect the food and give birth to bacteria, which when consumed may cause disorder and lead to different diseases too. If experts are to be believed, these radiations are so powerful that they may after-effects in the next birth too.”

The piece also suggests, nay “cites” research claiming that it is ‘researched’, that the solar eclipse radiation causes indigestion, “It is believed that the rays of solar eclipse can affect cooked food, which when consumed during the eclipse period may cause indigestion and stomach upset as well. A few researchers have accepted the fact that eating during the eclipse period causes indigestion.”

“If you have large amounts of cooked food and you do not want to waste it, add a few tulsi leaves in it before the grahan begins. Tulsi has anti- bacterial properties that prevents the growth of bacteria.”, it concludes.

A Screen-Snip of the first page of a Google Search Result pertaining to the Solar Eclipse – The third result is navbharat times, a subsidiary of the BCCL Group, which also owns The Times of India. “Don’t ever eat these food items during the Solar Eclipse, even by mistake”, the headline reads.

Yet another article by the Times of India is titled “Food tips for pregnant women during Surya Grahan”. We are not going to delve deep into the content of the article or the tips themselves, lest we end up reinforcing rather than exposing them, but somehow the article again correlates the eclipse with bacterial-growth in food.

Still another article by the Times is titled, “Christmas Eclipse 2019: 4 Zodiac signs that will benefit from the last solar eclipse of 2019”.

A Screen-snip of the first page of a Google Search Result for Articles by Hindustan on dietary restrictions during Solar Eclipse (Surya Grahan)

Hindustan, one of the most popular Hindi dailies of the country published multiple articles forewarning of the purported ill-effects of eating or venturing out during the Solar Eclipse.

While NDTV is one of the most progressive of the mainstream media outlets out there, and its English website debunked popular myths pertaining to the astronomical event, its Hindi website could not resist the tempt of joining the sheep-herd. Embarking about the merry-bandwagon of fellow outlets, NDTV’s Hindi Website went on to delineate the process of fasting during the Eclipse, and spell out the same vague and baseless radiation-bacteria correlational proposition.

AajTak, one of India’s Big 5 News Channels, and part of the media behemoth The India Today Group, pondered over the potential pan-globe consequences of the event. The doomsaying in the form of a pictorial Slide-Show can be read in its entirety here. Another of its slideshows offered Zodiac-sign wise tips and remedies.

When media begins to cater to the social whims, beliefs and zealous idiosyncrasies, and shies away from taking head-on the established faith and practises, the safety valve of a progressive, liberal, democracy gets clogged and individual judgements get clouded. Superstition and blind faith are contiguous, and media sycophancy and conformance are great deterrents to the march of reform, rationality and advancement of scientific attitude.

Pitamber Kaushik is a columnist, journalist, writer and researcher, having previously written in over 40 newspapers and outlets in 22 countries.


SIGN UP FOR COUNTERCURRENTS DAILY NEWS LETTER


 

Comments are closed.