Question: Is global media creating a set of shared values, or destroying local customs?
Shashi Tharoor: I mean to some degree the fact that global media has the reach that it does means that there is certainly a view of the world emerging from the producers of global media – which are basically rich western countries – that is prevalent far more. I mean anybody sitting in the Fiji Islands or in Mauritius can see Baywatch and . . . and . . . and . . . and see people eating burgers and wearing blue jeans. And that . . . that is certainly something for which . . . which there is no equivalent in reverse. You’re not gonna find, on the average American television screen, people wearing jelabias or lungis and eating masala dosas or . . . or . . . or for that matter monkey brains. The fact is that traffic is largely one way from the global media. And it’s . . . it’s . . . it’s therefore spreading one set of ideas and lifestyles to the rest of the world. Having said which, however, I still think that we exaggerate the power of those things to transform the world. Yes, western clothing is certainly pushing our traditional clothing in many parts of the world. But I still think that in those countries, the daily reality of life that I’ve seen, for example, in India means that people will never entirely lose their connection to their clothings, their food stuffs, their habits in life, their languages and so on partially because global media isn’t the only media there is. There is also local media. There’s also local means of transmitting culture and information – folks songs, dances, whatever. And those cannot simply be wiped off . . . wiped out quite that easily. Art is media. Destroying other people’s values? Well if people are sufficiently influenced by the media to destroy the things that they’ve grown up holding dear, then they are to blame and not the media it seems to me. But on the other hand, we can all do things in our own societies to preserve alternative forms of expression, to permit diversity. I’ve often argued that the 20th century was supposed to be the century in which we made the world safe for democracy. Maybe in the 21st century, as we know more about each other, we have the resources, the technology, the media to see, and depict, and portray each other, we can make the world safe for diversity.
Recorded on: 9/18/07