On Sunday, 7th of April the Pakistani Foreign Minister expressed concerns over intelligence reports about an expected offensive from India. Relations between the two countries have soared post a suicide attack on Indian security forces in the disputed territory of Kashmir that the Indian media and government conveniently blamed on a banned militant outfit from Pakistan, Jaish-e-Mohammad. The attack gave Indian media a chance to beat the trumpets of war and it beat them with such zeal that no sound of logic could be heard through their clamor.
Many eyebrows were raised and concerns were voiced about the Indian media’s coverage of the situation. The phenomenon is not new; the pattern has been repeated many a time, in many different situation, in many a different state; all in favour of war.
When Eisenhower coined the term military-industrial complex, the warning was not just instinctive but as the following cases would show, far-sighted. Eisenhower categorically warned that ‘an immense military establishment and a large arms industry’ had emerged as a hidden force in US politics and that Americans ‘must not fail to comprehend its grave implications’. The alliance between the war industry and political forces in the US has emerged simultaneously to the role of media in strengthening the political agendas of the two ‘forces to reckon’.
The alliance between the war industry and political forces in the US has emerged simultaneously to the role of media in strengthening the political agendas of the two ‘forces to reckon’.
It is no coincidence that the US conglomerate General Electric that owns the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Universal media, is also the manufacturer of aircraft parts and missiles that were extensively used by the US Air Force in the Gulf war and later in Iraq. Neither was it a coincidence that for the 2004 US Presidential elections, persons and political committees associated to the arms industry made significant contributions to the campaign of George W. Bush.
Halliburton, the world’s largest oil services firm that former US Vice President Dick Cheney was associated with as their Chief Executive, has in John Kerry’s words ‘profited from the mess in Iraq at the expense of American troops and tax payers’. Halliburton is one of the pentagon contractors. It has made billions of dollars’ in revenue and has stakes in multiple industries within and outside the US, a position strong enough to influence policies, governments and media narratives. Raytheon another major US defence contractor in its own words explains; that it ‘participates in the US political process to ensure that the Company’s interests as a leading member of the aerospace and defense industry, and as a significant employer and taxpayer, are appropriately represented.’
Media houses are not essentially owned by conglomerates that also run the war industry but the latter thrives on advertisements and financing that may come from all and any sources including the industries involved in war manufacturing or reaping benefits from the afore mentioned.
In various instances from recent history, media has been used to manipulate the masses and cheer for wars that these corporations and politicians have reaped benefits from, whether it was the Gulf war, war on Dominican Republic, Vietnam, US’s siege on Iraq, or the NATO forces’ 78-day war on Yugoslavia. The 78 days bombing of Kosovo and Yugoslavia that included the demolition of civilian water and electric supply settlements commenced with announcements including such that not a single US life was lost during the entirety of war irrespective of 150,000 Serbs who were forced to leave their houses.
The news media justified the importance of the invasion as to not let another Hitler emerge in Europe and in the words of Norman Solomon; ‘We have had a lot of Hitler’s over the years in US media’. Saddam Hussain, apart from the fact that he was supported for years by the US in many of his endeavors was made out to be a ‘Hitler’ once his purpose was served. In between it all, none of his atrocities were worth bating an eye by the US media or administration and in fact were clearly and deliberately ignored.
In various instances from recent history, media has been used to manipulate the masses and cheer for wars that these corporations and politicians have reaped benefits from, whether it was the Gulf war, war on Dominican Republic, Vietnam, US’s siege on Iraq, or the NATO forces’ 78-day war on Yugoslavia.
Though all those examples come from the US, India has learnt better but to follow in the footsteps. In June 2018, Cobra Post’s sting operation exposed many an Indian media personnel and corporations who would disseminate propaganda news for money; ‘chequebook journalism’ as The Listening Post described the trend. The operation exposed how a number of prominent media groups ‘would give an advertiser an editorial command to shape the narrative’. In similar fashion in 2000, Annirudha Bahal, the Cobra Post’s Editor In-Chief exposed the solicitation of bribes by the Indian Member Parliaments for defence contracts. It is thus no secret where the jingoism in the guise of nationalism roots from.
One of India’s biggest conglomerate, the Reliance Industries which owns businesses across India ventured into diverse sectors including energy, construction, petrochemicals, textiles, natural resources, retail, telecommunications, entertainment media and only recently and most controversially, as Reliance Defense Ltd. In 2015 the French government of François Hollande came under much fire when it was reported that the Assault – Reliance Rafale aircraft deal was signed under suspicious circumstances amid Reliance’s funding for Hollande’s partner actress Julie Gayet’s film that was completed around the same time.
With its extensive network of industries, Reliance is one of the biggest contributors of advertisements to media outlets.
The Indian National Congress took to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s office to demand an investigation of the Rafale deal and accused the Modi government of ‘favoritism’ towards Reliance Industry by allegedly ensuring that the agreement benefit Ambani’s Reliance Group. The allegations were strengthened by Hollande’s statement that it was the Indian government that proposed the services of Reliance. But this is not all to the story. With its extensive network of industries, Reliance is one of the biggest contributors of advertisements to media outlets. The same Reliance group of industry owns CNN-IBN and Network 18 regional channels in almost all languages across the country. It benefits from an investment in India TV, News Nation and the News 24 group of channels. Additionally, the group has 51% shares in New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV). Apart from that, Reliance is also the largest player in broadband, cable TV and the ‘Direct to Home market’.
Last year, pictures of Bollywood celebrities serving food to the guests at the wedding reception of Isha Ambani made circles around social media and spurred rage in the masses who have, ‘idol-ized’ rather than idealized these celebrities. One was made to wonder whether the Bollywood giants actually took over waiting the guests willingly for money. How far could they go with the deal was more recently exposed through their open support of neo-nationalist ideas propagated by the Narendra Modi’s lead Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, that attracted much criticism from liberal circles. However, one connects the dots, you can in simple and clear terms conclude that if you have to sustain relevance in the Indian media, do as Ambani says. And Ambani says that Modi be seen as the savior of India for in Modi, he and proprietors of hate see the rise of private empires built on the blood of the Indian commons and troops.
Ayesha Ilyas has completed her M.Phil in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. She is currently working as an intern at the CSCR.