Living with Big Brother
At the LitLive Fest in Bombay last week, an interesting session on news in real time brought home to the audience what our politicians and even some journalists are still not able to come to terms with – the mobile phone is a very powerful weapon in the hands of the most commonest of citizens today. So beware of what you say or do, because Big Brother is now watching you all the time!
No longer do you have to be part of the Bigg Boss show with 85 cameras swinging around you to capture your every moment live and even while sleeping. The Burmese monks’ uprising, the use of chemical weapons in Syria , a terrorist attack in Tiananmen square that was quickly covered up by the Chinese authorities all became part of recorded history simply because of smart phones in the pockets of common citizens and the speed of the internet in circulating these worldwide.
But when these are combined with other forms of technology these days, the effect could be devastating for politicians – as Narendra Modi is discovering over the Saheb tapes, as even the Aam Aadmi Party has had to explain away after the sting that exposed their top leaders as scamsters and potential goons.
Closer home, a college principal in Bombay was recorded surreptitiously in while she was letting off steam against Aditya Thackeray, son of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and had to give in to students’ blackmail for fear of the consequences otherwise.
Everything in this world has a good side and a bad side and, sure, there can also be misuse of such technology but while I might wish for the old order of things where one can feel safe and secure at least in one’s home or office, it might not be such a bad thing really if technology helps to expose double-facedness or insincerity and dishonesty as has happened in the recent cases, including that of Tarun Tejpal’s alleged molestation of a colleague which has become a criminal offence entirely on the basis of the footage from the CCTV cameras in the elevators of the five star hotel where he was supposed to have indulged in this major violation of the law.
This week and the last have been particularly revealing in terms of various technology-driven exposes by different organisations and instititutions against people of all hues, and I must say they have been startling as well as interesting. In any case, all the stings (or just technology trappings) reveal the hyprocritical nature of those in the public eye (and I do not exclude Tehelka which employs virtually the same tactics for its investigative reports which have been rather exemplary nonetheless).
When the monks uprising of Myanmar first got out to the world, the Burmese government described it as a ’skyful of lies: Tsunami of lies’ was the expression used by the Syrian government to deny the chemical weapons attack on its own citizens. But seeing is believing. And millions of people who saw those videos across the world were not to be convinced otherwise.
I am surprised that even after nearly two decades of television news our politicians have still not understood how completely they incriminate themselves with their indiscretions. Their defence of having been selectively quoted or misinterpreted, even if true, somehow tends not to be believed and does enormous damage to their reputations.
I do not know how this week’s exposes will pan out in the future – everyone but Tarun Tejpal seems to have a defence of their involvement in illegitimate activities, official or otherwise.
But it cannot be a bad thing that technology is cleaning up public life and might soon bring in more prudence and probity among those in the glare,
Very soon the world will be a different place from what we have so far lived in, I guess.