Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Media's influence on our minds - the Aarushi case

The Aarushi case has been a real pot-boiler. This one is the one that has thrown up so many different sensational, exciting possibilities. And the reason its so news-worthy is because of the characters who are involved. A wealthy doctor couple with influential clients; both good looking, modern, English-speaking individuals. Especially the mother who comes out as  hard working and now shattered (notice her fragile looks). A young daughter (notice her pretty eyes) who studied in a reputed school in Noida. Just like the Jessica case, this one had a lot to generate interest in the media. And in our minds.

The Aarush case is an ideal case study to understand the strong influence media has on our minds. How we form perceptions about people and events. Broadly, there are two types of perceptions we create in our minds when high-profile people are suspected of involvement in a crime. The predominant perception we have is that the rich get away; they can manipulate the cops and the courts; they can destroy evidence; even buy out witnesses; etc etc. The other is that the rich actually get more harsher treatment because of the media attention and hence have to face even more torturous procedures than ordinary people would have to. By and large, media likes to take the role of "lets dock the rich" .....for obvious reasons. It leads to good TRPs and it gives media the image of being pro-people and anti powerful people. With the help of such cases, media builds its credibility. People start believing in media. And then at a later point in time, media exploits this belief that we have built.

The Aarushi case throws up quite a few interesting points which help us analyze our own thinking process:
1) Its an extremely smart doctor couple who have demonstrated tremendous savvy in handling media and crafting a public opinion for themselves. They have smartly positioned themselves as the aggrieved spite of the fact that they were the only ones in the house before and after the crime occured....They succeeded to a very large extent. Media bought into their game plan. Media portrayed them exactly as they wanted them to. And all of us lapped it up. Just for a moment imagine if media had portrayed them as the key suspects from the, most of us would have carried that belief in our minds.
2) Media had very little interest in the case except for its value in building viewership and readership. Hence the focus on the daughter Aarushi and not on the domestic help Hemraj. Frankly, would you have even bothered about the case if it had been only Hemraj?
3) The sex angle. That was what made the case so compelling. Millions would have played out the crime scene in their minds and taken it to what they vicariously would have enjoyed. Then the connected revelation that the parents tried to change the postmortem report and remove any mention of a rape. The fact that the parents cleaned up the private parts of the daughter. This was the turning point. From this point on, people assumed that the parents were involved. After all can there be any bigger motive for any parent to murder than the sight of their domestic help romping along with their daughter? Media played its role. The sex angle helped them too!
4) The CBI: Its clear now that our opinion of the CBI is based on whether their investigation agrees with our opinions or not. In the Aarushi case, our opinion largely is that they botched up initially.....but they have come back pretty good. Today, when they accuse the parents, we believe their case. But in several other high profile cases, we believe CBI has acted clumsily. Or has been motivated by other considerations. And if we ask ourselves on what basis we formed this opinion, the truth is that our opinions have been almost totally shaped by media. If media had portrayed the two docs to be guilty from the beginning, we would have felt that way. Here, media was initially conned into believing that the parents were innocent; hence most people had sympathies for the parents initially. Notice the power of media on our minds.

The Jessica Lall case was no different. Here was an upmarket model moving around in the top circles of Delhi.....murdered by a politician's son. Bound to attract attention. Media played its role and helped us make up our minds that the politician's son was the perpetrator. Yet in a similar case in Bombay (when a model committed suicide apparently), the model's rich boyfriend (or ex) was shown in a much better light by media. Interestingly, most of us believed that it was a suicide.

Then there's also this "conditioning factor" that comes into play in influencing our perceptions. Centuries of conditioning make us believe that all politicians are murderous, corrupt, power hungry demons. And hence we hate ALL politicians. The truth is that at least half of the MPs are good people....they have worked for their people; they are poor; but we never give them a chance. Conditioning also makes us believe that the model could have committed suicide. Our conditioned minds believe that models do drugs; they drink and party; they sleep around with strange men; they get high and they get depressed; so they can commit suicide. Many times, media just panders to this conditioning of our minds. It plays along. And in doing so, it positions itself as being "right". Their own brand imagery improves. Their following improves. And the advertising dollars follow!

So lets be very very conscious of the fact that we the people are prone to manipulation by media. Media sometimes itself is a victim; sometimes it panders to our conditioning; but mostly, media has an agenda. They want us to form a certain type of opinion. In a democracy, its public opinion that counts. And by wiedling influence on our minds, media becomes powerful. Have you heard of a strong media in a dictatorial or monarchical society? In fact, the first thing that dictators and monarchs do is to defang media.

The real truth is that in the Aarushi case also, our opinions have been shaped by media. Till today, media had got itself got conned. The savvy doctor couple successfully built this "we lost our precious child" image. To the extent that they led all of us - with help from media - to believe in them. Today, when the parents have been made the accused, we are in double minds. Is it possible that the parents could have ever done this to their child? (this is because of our media influenced thinking). Alternatively: they should have always thought the parents were involved (this is because of our centuries-old conditioning that parents that girl children often fall prey to the lust of men and that domestic helps have no morals anyway). Till the time media portrayed the first view, we tended to believe in that possibility. When media is now saying that the parents could be involved, we are tending towards that possibility. Lets recognize this truism. Media shapes our minds. But if we want our sanity intact, lets somehow learn to make our own decisions by gathering different viewpoints. Lets not form opinions based on media stories alone. At the very minimum, lets ready multiples newspapers, watch multiple channels. Who wants to be a puppet in the hands of others? At least I dont!


  1. If I were to believe you, I would be a puppet of yours, wouldn't I?

  2. You are missing the whole point. He is not a part of the media who by the way are supposed to be informing us about the truth of situations, not idle gossip. This is a blog. It is an opinion. He didn't write this to make you "believe" something.

    I think this blog was great.

  3. So, whats the truth according to you. If you feel that the evidence here are all cooked up, what is the real motive. I feel that there is another angle to this which is missing. I feel Hemraj is being framed. How can he rape when her parents are in house, he could have done it when they are gone and she is alone. Also, why was Arushi murdered if she was being raped. If it was consensual sex then they could have dealt it differently.
    How about his father raping her and putting it on Hemraj. Or his fathers friend raping her. Think of all possibilities. Don't forget this case is of high society.

  4. Good one!!!!!!!!!:-)

  5. "How about his father raping her and putting it on Hemraj. Or his fathers friend raping her. Think of all possibilities. Don't forget this case is of high society."

    It's just sad if that happened, though I believe no Mother will ever let this happen. And if at all it happened, she would not be saving that bastard.

    There's a possibility of consensual sex between Hemraj and Aarushi, and this seems to be the only logical explanation on why they both were killed.