I particularly remember the 2016 Jawaharlal Nehru University issue which had been spiraled into silence. ‘Spiral of silence’ theory states that the minority group has a tendency to remain silent, because the opposition outweighs them in number and power. The reason for this silence is fear of isolation. Media has been living in its own bubble; supporting the views of the elite time and again.
The 2016 JNU issue was spiraled into silence by the media and the government respectively. On February 9, 2016 JNU students held a protest against the death penalty meted out to Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat. Anti-national slogans were also shouted in the JNU campus which led to clash between ABVP and other student bodies. On the following day JNU student union president, Kanhaiya Kumar gave a speech to address the issue however; he was arrested in suspect of promoting these anti-national activities. Unjust behavior was done against the students for which people all over the world condemned the government and Indian Media. JNU students were a hard core group who had enough guts to stand against the elite and be vocal about the issue.
For common men and women it’s extremely difficult to question the status quo and opinions of the elite. Most people fall victim to the spiral of silence due to fear of isolation and hate. I have always been against death penalty but it is something I really do not always speak about in the open. Some people who are against capital punishment have also been shut down by the government and media of the elite. It is really disheartening to see the common people spiraled into silence just out of the fear. I had joined various JNU pages on social media in order to support and talk about the issue. My own family at a point told me to keep out of this as it was becoming controversial each day especially for the students supporting the issue. Initially, I wasn’t hesitated to talk about it but as soon as people around me as well as the media started blaming and portraying us as anti-nationalists I including a lot of students shut down. Eventually, I had to remain silent in the face of opposing opinion however; I still take the previous stance and talk about it occasionally.
I belong to the hard core group that are willing to speak against the majority in face of the opposition regardless of the context or cost and are deviant. Although deviant people face a lot of criticism but it is their firm beliefs that keep them head strong to spread their views. I only see opinion polls that have a credible source. I got my voting ID this year and am really excited to exercise my rights. Media polls do not influence my views to a large extent but definitely we all talk about only what is trending around us.
The emergence of internet has been a boon to all of us. It not only gives a platform for common people to put across their thoughts and opinions but also to the various political parties to propagate their propaganda. For me honestly the internet has given more power and increased my willingness to talk about major issues in the open. Over the last few years I have written, blogged and uploaded various videos on topics like domestic violence against men, period blood, requirement of ambulance at airports, Jan Lokpal Bill, JNU issue and much more. Over time I have realized that I have specifically spoken about issues that minority supported and knew. Media in particular gave me the power to spread my views fearlessly and at a large scale through this platform.
It is the responsibility of media to think rationally and support objectivity only. Facts should not be mingled with to gain good TRP. News reporting has to be for the welfare of the public and not to help the elites. Social media gave more power to the people even in the case of JNU. Various events were spread and voices were raised in particular on social media. This is how the issue spread all over the world. Only NDTV news editor Ravish Kumar changed the whole view and supported the JNU students. Lately, most media channels have disrupted our mindsets. Public is told what to think about rather than to think critically. People who control media content have taken advantage of their power. It disheartening but people in power have not been utilizing their power correctly.
The spiral effect is experienced by all of us and it activates a downward spiral where fears continually build within the minority opinion holder; hence the minority opinion is never voiced. The media plays an important role in this process, especially in dictating or perceptually dictating the majority opinion.
The internet seemingly levels the playing field, where a minority opinion won’t be felt by the individual as a minority opinion and might be voiced in that arena whereas the individual would have not been so vocal in another place of public discourse. Second, the vocal minority – you know these people, they may be the only one who thinks defiantly, but they won’t shut up about it and are seemingly outside of the effects of the Spiral of Silence.
I believe that social media is a tool of liberation and empowerment. That may seem fairly audacious when a good portion of the Western world is using Facebook and Twitter to post pictures of what they had for dinner or take quizzes on what TV character they may be. But the freedom to communicate openly and honestly is not something to be taken for granted. In countries where traditional media is a tool of control, these new and truly social channels have the power to radically alter our world.
In my eyes, social media is one of the most important global leaps forward in recent human history. It provides for self-expression and promotes mutual understanding. It enables rapid formation of networks and demonstrates our common humanity across cultural differences. It connects people, their ideas and values, like never before.