Plato banished the poets and writers from his ‘ideal’ world of the Republic because they were ‘liars’. But the ‘orators’ – who turned out to be the politicians and parliamentarians – were allowed an entry. We wonder what Plato’s stand would be today in the 21st century ‘republic’.
In the 21st century world of the social media, everybody is a writer, everybody is a journalist. But ‘lies’ and fake infor-mation have proliferated to such an extent that if Plato’s dictum is accepted, perhaps his ‘ideal’ world would remain permanently empty. Both writer/journalist and orator/politician are part of the game.
It needed an Aristotle to restore the poet/writer back into the ideal world of the Republic on the argument that the poet is virtually a foreseer; through his creation, the writer-poet writes about what “may be”. Through the sieving of facts, he can enter into the world of probability or predictive science.
“What man has madeof man” – perhaps, that would be the sigh of both these thinkers of yesteryear in the context
of the present day world. Plato would be further shocked
to see a television channel named after his visionary book,
with an ideal far from what he desired. It is supposed to promote a ‘banana’ Republic.
It is easy to criticise the mess that we are in today but what is the remedy? To stem the rot, the change has to begin at the grassroots. We need a new kind of journalism. Stop sharing fake news – in whatsapp or in any kind of media platform. Rumours need to be strictly curbed. Let’s get into the habit of checking and rechecking, before we circulate any information, if at all we have to. Since we have all turned into writers/journalists in the age of the social media, let us not leave the fact-checking to the professionals alone. Let the people demand facts – no propaganda, no lies, no falsities - and it will come.
Let’s force the professional journalists to do a rethink of the subjects they usually cover as ‘news’. A short and quick
online search through the archives of any responsible newspaper over a fixed period of time will reveal very few ‘development’ stories written; whereas there will be hundreds of stories on political clashes, crime, fashion and cricket. This lop-sided coverage has to go. “We write what our reader wants” - is a false excuse. With greater accessibility, the reader now chooses his/her subjects and the existing variety in the coverage has to expand.
A journalist, for a change, started writing a series about the small towns – and one of his first write-ups was Mughalsarai, a station town which is proposed to be renamed after Pandit Dindayal. The story touched upon politics, but there was no element of propaganda – just the mundane facts of everyday life - how it’s changing with the new rules of retail trade and how its life is very different from its twin town - Benares, just across the river. The story was picked up by Flipkart, a symbol of new retail trade, for its internal circulation.
The content – its value and relevance – will be decided by the journalist/writer; not dictated by politics or business. They will help; but maintain equidistance. Then only will the writer/journalist regain his status of pre-science and credibility. A republic can survive this way only.