In recent times, it has become fashionable for media outlets to use ‘research’ to give their garbage opinions the credibility that science provides. We had earlier comprehensively debunked BBC’s research on ‘Fake News’ which was a classic example of ‘Fake News’ itself.
Now, it appears, Leftist propaganda website Scroll has used ‘research’ to claim that the BJP and Prime Minister Modi’s spectacular success in electoral politics in recent times are due to the supposed assistance media has provided.
In the article titled, “How India Votes: The news media is helping BJP win elections – and the public does not mind”, they have used ‘research’ to make spectacular claims that are not evidenced at all by the research they have cited.
One research Scroll has cited only states rising news consumption among Indians. It says, “Data from 20 years of National Election Studies conducted by the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies shows a rising graph of news consumption among Indians through newspapers, TV and the radio. Television remains the most popular source of news for Indians: 46% in the NES sample watched the news on TV every day as opposed to 26% who got their news from newspapers. In the NES study in 2014, the Internet was still a fledgeling source of news, with radio nearly twice as popular.”
Another study that the propaganda outlet has used states that the BJP performs better among voters with more media exposure while Congress performs better among those with low media exposure.
Between all of this, Scroll manages to sneak in its own personal opinions into the article, which is, presumably, not supported by the contents of the research that it cites. It says, “Those with high media exposure also tend to be richer, more urban, upper caste and younger – the quintessential BJP voter, the researchers found.” Exactly who said that the given Demographic is the ‘quintessential BJP voter’? What is the data that supports such a narrative? The report makes no mention.
The article then cites a third study which asserts that Narendra Modi was given more airtime between the first of March and 11th than the next nine top leaders. The coverage of the BJP was also said to be 10 times more than the Congress.
All of this is fine. Now let us evaluate what the research that is cited actually says. Firstly, the consumption of news has increased among the Indian voters during the past 20 years. Secondly, the BJP does better than the Congress among voters with more media exposure. Thirdly, the BJP and Narendra Modi appear to have received more media coverage than their opponents during the run-up to the 2014 General Elections. These are the three pillars on which Scroll goes on to make the fantastical assertion that Media is helping Narendra Modi win.
Interestingly, however, the NES study on the basis of which researchers made the assertion that BJP does better among voters with more media exposure is from 2014. Thus, Scroll made such a fantastical claim on the basis of just one election cycle. Does the pattern hold for elections which the BJP lost? Scroll makes no effort to check the patterns in cases of the Assembly elections in Bihar or Delhi or Punjab or any election since then. It’s extremely malicious to make such grand claims on the basis of only one election cycle, especially one where a variety of other factors were involved.
Real life situations are never uni-variate. There are multiple factors involved and any event is the consequence of a multitude of factors rather than a single one. The first study is cited has nothing to do with the BJP. Consumption of news would have risen due to more accessibility to the cable network and Dish TV connections regardless of who’s in power.
The second study, again, says nothing about the media’s contribution towards Narendra Modi’s rise. The UPA era was riddled with unparalleled corruption and nepotism in the history of Independent India. Anyone with any access to the news would have been aware of the rampant corruption that was perpetuated during the UPA regime and it is no surprise then that such people were averse towards the Congress.
Coming to the third study, it has less to do with the media and more to do with the fact that Narendra Modi organized a stellar campaign in 2014 that benefited him directly. There is no evidence to suggest that the media went out of their way to give him more coverage, he made it lucrative for the media to telecast his views and opinions because the public was clearly buying what he was selling them.
Amusingly enough, Scroll admits that there’s no evidence to suggest that the media helped Prime Minister Modi win. It says quite clearly, “In the years since then, there is no empirical data but plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest the coverage of the BJP and of Modi, in particular, has not only been extensive but also largely fawning.” Dear Scroll, as a wise man once said on Twitter, “Do not bring anecdotes to a data fight.” Anecdotes prove nothing, a couple of departures from the pattern do not nullify the pattern itself.
In short, one of the most fundamental principles taught in research is, “Correlation is not causation.” Scroll appears to have gathered some the findings of some research, which could be very dubious in themselves, to make claims that the research does not support on the basis of mere ‘correlation’.
There are multiple factors involved here. To what extent did the plethora of scams during the UPA regime help Narendra Modi? To what extent did Narendra Modi’s image as a strong leader help him given that the country was tired of the weak leadership of Manmohan Singh? To what extent was the dissatisfaction that prevailed among the populace with regards to the direction the country was heading in help boost Narendra Modi’s popularity? To what extent is the pattern observed in the data pertaining to the 2014 election cycle affected by the fact that the Congress party was in decline and the BJP was on the rise due to factors completely unrelated to mainstream media? The answers to none of these queries are sought by Scroll before making grand claims.
The same fake news and ill-conceived theories were carried by NewsLaundry. Initially, NewsLaundry was meant to be a platform that basically keeps a tab on the incorrect claims of the media. However, NewsLaundry seems to have turned into exactly what they were meant to be against. A sham left-propaganda website that borrows narratives without basic fact-checking.
Every person believes that the profession he or she is pursuing is the most important profession there is. They believe that every major event that has transpired or will transpire can be owed to the contributions of their field. It is nothing but hubris on the part of mainstream media that they believe that they have made any significant contribution to the rise of Narendra Modi and the BJP as a political force. The mainstream media is not powerful enough to generate the extent of passion that Narendra Modi aroused among Indians in 2014. There were numerous other far more important factors involved, mainstream media perhaps would not feature even in the Top 10. The mainstream media overestimate its abilities to a great degree.
Scroll has not come up with a unique perspective into Narendra Modi’s rise if that is what you were thinking. To do that requires a certain level of intelligence. They have merely borrowed the talking points of certain left-wing radicals in the United States of America who claim that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton due to extensive mainstream media coverage. They ignore the fact that the coverage was primarily negative with active collusion between news networks and the Clinton campaign. They ignore the fact that Clinton was one of the most rotten candidates to ever run for Presidency in US history. They ignore the fact that Trump ran a stunning campaign where he was talking about issues that resonated deeply with people. No, forget all that, the media helped Trump!
Scroll, like all liberal intellectuals who just borrow narratives from western society and apply it mindlessly within the Indian context, borrowed the far-left talking point in the USA and applied it to the rise of Narendra Modi without thinking too much about it.