On November 21 we began a three-day Media Conference, one of seven parallel conferences during the Congress. We had been given the privilege of being the opening keynote speech and chose to give a 15-minute talk on Hinduism and yoga in the West, focusing on some of the evolutionary changes we have seen in the last 100 years. Tomorrow we will share some slides from that keynote.
The room was filled with the best and brightest of Hindu journalists, newspaper owners, entertainment and film producers and directors, bloggers and more. We learned some new words from the young bloggers--twitterati, tweeple, and more. One girl, about 30, posted 52,000 tweets in the last 12 months! That's 10 per minute for a 24 hour period. She had much to say about the future of digital communications, as did some bloggers, one of which was a 25-year-old man who is regarded as instrumental in the election of Prime Minister Modi, due to his vast blog following. He later came to our table, introduced himself and asked if hinduism Today would provide his team with constant content. "I saw your magazine. Amazing. We have all of the distribution, but are weak in content. You seem to have that more than most. Could you send me articles weekly?" Yes, I said….and Yes, I will.
We put 200 copies of back issues on the 20 tables where the media sat and by the second day, they were all gone. One man (see the slideshow) came on day two with this story: "At the end of yesterday, I took one of your magazines upstairs to my room, intending to scan it briefly. Three hours later I had read each page. As a devout Hindu, it was the most surprising delight of my journalism career. At 10pm I remembered there were other issues on the table, and dressed, going back down to the conference room to retrieve the others. Why don't you have an Indian Edition of Hinduism Today?" I explained. "Then let me do it. That's what I do, print media. let me do it." I explained we have a team that is not quite performing and perhaps one day I would turn to him.
I was introduced by the organizer, Sunil Pandit, a brilliant scholar and media expert. My Keynote was received with soft applause, making me think it was not all that well received. But later, each one came forward to personally ask questions, share ideas, and such. Yoginathaswami theorized they were stunned by the graphically rich movie I played (and narrated), and that it took them a while to process it all.
Throughout this conference and also the larger Congress subscribers came up to enthusiastically introduce themselves, offer to write for us, etc. It is always amazing to see Gurudeva's vision at work in the wider world. How proud he would be to see the fruition of his hard work and that of his monks. Who would have imagined that from our little island we would be so well known on the other side of the world, so listened to, so appreciated. The new pride that Hindus are experiencing in India seems to be something we have prepared our whole life for! And it is here!
Overall there was a lot of criticism toward the mainstream media that constantly sidelining Hindus in their print and publication. There are loud and emotionally charged voices calling for this to change. India's Hindus want their media to give equal coverage and equal respect to them as to the minority faiths. They seem determined to make this happen in the years ahead. We went on record in defense of using Hinduism as the word for our religion, in India as well as abroad.
There was much about entertainment and its erosive effects on the mind and on the larger culture, much about the tsunami of data and information drowning out comprehension, much about tweeting , much about the oppressive and corrosive attitudes of the Indian press. But there was also much said about hope and possibilities, about the rising youth movement and its special talents, about the natural force and sway of goodness (dharma), much about a better future if we find creative ways to work together.
From Yoginathaswami: "People will stop Paramcharya every few yards in the wide and crowded hallways, asking are you from Hawaii? From Hinduism Today? I know Hinduism Today. I've been to Kauai Temple, I wrote for you some years back, etc. One of the unusual persons among these hallway interrupters was a lady on her way to give a talk about the worldly distractions of modern media. She stopped us and gently asked: "Do you know S. Rajam the artist. He is my uncle and is no longer with us." Paramacharya of course give her a short history on Rajan and his artwork, sharing how he did hundreds of works of art for us over some 20 plus years. She had tears in her eyes, seeing how we appreciated her famous uncle so much. Turned out that she is an actress, with over 100 Tamil movies to her credit. Wish we had known she was a famous Indian film actress. Bummmer…we missed the photo op!"
More on our Keynote in the days ahead...
For those who want to know the excruciating details of the Media Conference and it goals, here is a long summation:
The aim of the Hindu Media Forum is to keep world informed through honest reporting as well as unbiased analysis of events taking place around the globe. To accomplish this goal, HMF will mobilize elements in the traditional as well as the emerging forms of media to come together on one platform.
A satirical quote from the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies sets the tone of the new world order. The power hungry villain in the movie, Elliot Carver, who is a media mogul bent upon world domination, said that "Caesar had his legions, Napoleon had his armies, I have my divisions; TV, news, magazines, and by midnight tonight I'll have reached and influenced more people than anybody in the history of this planet, save God himself." In addition, Carver said in the movie "Words are the new weapons, satellites are the new artillery." While meant as a satire, these lines have increasingly proven perceptive since the power of the media is rapidly replacing military power as the most potent force on the global stage. It is imperative Hindu society understand this changing dynamic, and adapts itself accordingly to this new reality. It is already common wisdom that "He, who controls the media, controls the mind of the people". Expanding this line, many people are now saying that "He who controls the information controls the world". This is supported by a careful analysis of the most powerful countries that reveals that in addition to their existing strengths, those countries have an almost unchallenged hold of the global media as well as the flow of information around the world.
While the Hindu community has established itself in many parts of the media, media institutions remain out of reach of many Hindus. In particular, important developments and issues concerning Hindu society do not get either proper or even the adequate coverage in current media scenario. This lack of coverage combined with the very small presence of voices advocating the interests of the Hindu community has led to the entrenchment of attitudes and mindset that are at very least unsympathetic to Hindu interests, if not downright hostile to Hindus. The active propagation of this adversarial mindset has already had and will further have a detrimental impact on Hindu society in several ways. The first way is that Hindus themselves will act adverse to their own interests based upon the information presented by a compromised media. The second aspect is that forces hostile to Hind society will gain in strength and credibility even within Hindu society, which will allow for the subversion of the Hindu community leading to its decay and downfall.
In order these alarming developments, HMF will devise strategies that will encourage those individuals advocating the interests of Hindu society to establish themselves in the existing media framework along with penetrating entrenched media institutions as well as promote the active creation of new media institutions that will respect the sentiments of the Hindu society and incorporate those sentiments when reporting and analyzing events that impact the Hindu community as a whole. HMF will provide an avenue for established media personalities and other experienced in the dissemination of information to share their expertise and experience with aspiring journalists, reporters, filmmakers, and people who desire to work in all aspects of the media.
The Hindu Media Conference will be conducted by the Hindu Media Forum. The theme of the conference will be "Establishing a robust Hindu presence in all forms of the media". The Conference will specifically focus on devising strategies for the expansion of the presence of Hindus in the existing media as well as the emerging new media. Delegates at the Conference will also deliberate on strategies to encourage Hindus to enter the fields of journalism, filmmaking, publishing, and other professions that are connected with the media. The Hindu Media Conference intends to bring not only journalists and other media personalities together, but also the stakeholders, executives, and important office holders of prominent media institutions along with government and bureaucratic officials connected with the dissemination of information so that they can also provide guidance and direction in charting a new course.
The conference will focus on the role of the print media, primarily in the form of newspapers, newsmagazines, scholarly journals, etc. that cover issues that affect Hindus. The conference will explore ways to establish the voice of the Hindu community in these publications. This will involve actively encouraging Hindus to undergo formal education in the fields of writing, journalism, publishing, etc. at already established colleges and universities as well as create institutions that can impart proper training in these fields. The Conference, while focusing on existing publications, will especially focus on dramatically increasing the number of print publications that cover the issues concerning Hindus as well as providing proper analysis of developments concerning the Hindu community.
The Conference will host a series of deliberations on the role of the electronic media in reporting the developments of Hindu society. Special attention will be devoted to the medium of Television. Television news channels, broadcasting in all languages, have a decisive impact on the public discourse due to its ability to instantaneously report developments that affect Hindus. The Conference will devise strategies in sensitizing Hindus to enter the fields of broadcast journalism, media related technology, and other pursuits concerning broadcasting. In addition to television news reporting, the conference will concentrate on strategies increasing the number televisions programs offering a specialized and more focused perspective of the news, such as in depth television interview programs, programs concerning the discussion and analysis of news events, and eventually the creation of fully fledged television channels that are devoted to broadcasting of policy discussions, in depth coverage of the political process, and a greater focus on developments concerning Hindus beyond the short snippets presented in news programs. The Conference will also focus on encouraging the art of documentary filmmaking, which will focus on issues affecting Hindus similar, which can inform the entire world of historical or contemporaneous events and at the same time instill a sense of pride and confidence in Hindu society.
The Conference will have a particular focus on strengthening the presence of the Hindu society on the alternate forms of media, including the internet, radio, and other emerging forms of media. The internet has since its inception been rapidly emerging as the most prominent means of disseminating information, particularly in developed countries. In developing countries as well, the internet has also been playing an increased role in bringing together dissident and disparate voices, as well as providing access to large amounts of information in very little time. In short, the internet has become part of the popular culture, and will rapidly become the primary source of information. It is vital for Hindus to entrench their presence on this vital medium. The conference will focus on bringing together the many individual elements within the Hindu community who have established themselves on the internet and are disseminating information about the Hindu community to share their experience and acquired expertise in this medium with the younger generation of Hindu activists.