Assaults on public figures: Image deterrent or a mere sensationalism tool


A shoe is hurled at George W Bush

The world got its first tryst with the brave encounters of an assault on a big public figure, when an agitated Irani soul attempted to throw an item of footwear at the, then US President, George W Bush. Muntadar Al-Zaidi would have never dreamt of the fame that awaited him, or that he’d be heralded as the pioneer behind such activities. The incident came as a shock to the political world and a treat to the news hungry media, who pounced on it, getting in on their share of the hype. The media ludicrously sensationalized the incident, be it the form of spoofy social media game apps or through a rising number of hate groups; sensationalism appeared in its full form. An embarrassed president had nothing to say except for conveying the size of the shoe on being asked about the happening.

The second incident is that of a rather violent outburst towards the ex Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, back in 2009. This time the politician got a real hard bash from an agitated native, nearly breaking his nose and sending him to the hospital for few days. The media was thrilled with the mishap and cashed in on the negative publicity that the incident had to offer towards the ex PM. No matter how hard Berlusconi tried to pacify the lauding mob, all his efforts went in vain as praises for the assaulter appeared all over social media forums, creating an even bigger furor out of the incident.

The shoe hurling trend got more followers in India, as there are a plenty of incidents in the past two years advocating the same. The melodrama created by Sikh journalist Jarnail Singh of Dainik Jagran, throwing a shoe on the Home Minister, P. Chidambram at a press conference in 2009 turned out to be rather condemnable act on the part of the assailant, as the Indian politicos thought it to be a precursor to the rowdy acts being initiated towards them as well. The HM had no option other option but to keep his composure in such a vulnerable situation. The reaction however, later helped him in sustaining his credible image in the eyes of the people who became indifferent to the incident after a while.

A similar shoe hurling incident encircling Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi by a common man in June this year, created a large political stir. Dwivedi tried to get the media on his side by claiming that the action was premeditated by the opposition party. However, the issue was sidelined once the heat was over.

The most unprecedented and shocking event that took place in the country was that of Sharad Pawar getting a direct hit in the face by a youth at a public gathering last month. The incident was not only condemned by the political fraternity but also had  agitated public protesting in full force in Maharashtra. However the NCP leader could not escape from the clutches of negative publicity as the irresistible clip was shown 50 times consecutively by a news channel.

The underlying motives for all these incidents are different and are not apparently motivated by any political party. They were by sheer disgruntled souls trying to put forth a point. So the only question that crops up in this situation is that how far this trend is going to get stretched. The answer lies with the media, and  how much they are planning on publicizing such issues.

Written by Sana Baig for Image Management.

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