(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If you were a Rajdeep Sardesai or Shekhar Gupta or Barkha Dutt, you would wish for a return of pre-2014 days. You could write or broadcast what you wanted, unchallenged, unquestioned; behemoth of India’s media, sought by global media outlets; prime ministers and presidents, kings and queens, knocking at your door for interviews; film stars lining up as if for auditions. You were firmly in your ivory tower, never seen in grocery shops or bookstores, metros or airports, malls or traffic stops.
Then winds changed. India’s right-wingers took hold in Centre. Websites, such as OpIndia and Swarajyamag among others, began nicking the bubble. The lies were exposed, bigotry was unmasked, anti-Hindu stance was bared in public. History began breaking free from the narrative of glorious Mughals, valiant Tipu Sultan, soothing Amir Khusru and pacifist Ashoka. One began viewing a Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Audrey Truschke, Sheldon Pollock in the light they deserved. Amartya Sen and Raghuram Rajan lost their halo. The benign mask of neutrality dropped like shame around our film stars and directors. Writers and academicians were revealed to be peddlers. Jurists and legal luminaries were found to be men of straw.
An avalanche was thus set in motion. The ecosystem began drowning in the outrage of the masses. Narendra Modi won over the poor; the intelligent found the counter-narrative on social media. Eco-system upped the game, terming every threat as trolls or bhakts. Internet warriors, on their part, found new converts. Eco-system termed the rivals as fake news peddlers. Lutyens Media began organizing debates and seminars to save their turf. Anyone or anything which didn’t agree with them was “fake news”. The entire game was one of credibility – and they were losing it. The 2019 Elections confirmed their worst fears.
Now a new round of conflict has been set in motion. The eco-system has realized they have been outnumbered. Social Media platforms are rallying such mass to grow in size. The “fake news” narrative hasn’t helped. So they have now launched a new initiative. This initiative doesn’t just have newspapers and news agencies, it has also roped in biggies like the Google, Facebook and Twitter. “Fake News” has been given a new name of “misinformation.” What was seen as “local” divide in Indian context, now has acquired “global” dimension. We might just have stumbled upon the global network which feeds and breeds this “eco-system” to disrupt India.
The Hindu has a front-page anchor today where it has grandiosely announced that it is partnering BBC and other global media outlets to fight the “misinformation” in public domain. That it wants to protect its audience. That BBC set it in motion through a “Trusted News Summit” earlier this year. That those in it together include European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Facebook, Financial Times, Google, AFP, Microsoft, Reuters, Twitter, BBC and of course The Hindu. That,they would alert each other when a “misinformation” is to be fought.
It’s a new challenge to India’s internet warriors. So far, we knew the bias of, say Twitter, which suspended accounts (e.g of True Indology, Sonam Mahajan etc) made twitterati remove tweets (Paresh Rawal) while those with similar offence (Shehla Rashid etc) kept flourishing. Netizens were able to dig up the dirt on Raheel Khursheed, CEO of Twitter (2014-2018), on his pro-Pakistan bias. Parliamentarians were outraged enough to summon twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. The clamour against Twitter’s alleged bias has only grown bigger in our times. Dorsey has admitted his staff could be overwhelmingly Left-leaning.
So how should internet warriors respond to this openly-aligned forces against them? First, it must leverage its numbers. Every sixth of twitter’s worldwide users is from India. Is has grown in leaps and bounds in last two years. This collective might must be leveraged by netizens, hopefully under the benevolent gaze of the government.
The time perhaps has also come for India to come up with their own micro-blogging platform such as one of Sina Weibo which China has. It’s a mix of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. India could thus also protect its own data. The internet giants would have no option but to fall in line.
Importantly, The eco-system is getting ready to bite you—what’s your response?
Hindus need to look at how they address the forces against them in India.
It’s alright to be outraged that a Kathua has politicians, actors and presstitutes creating a sustained surround sound while reducing a similar rape in a madarsa akin to a weather bulletin.
You see a Shekhar Gupta plaster his twitter’s wall page with the image of Kathua lawyer; Bollywood bimbos hold placards in protest; Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose convulse through dozens of tweets on Kathua but the Madarsa rape doesn’t interest these clergies of morality.
The same on Biplab Das. The cabal has woken up to Tripura and are hounding a young politician who was central to a tectonic shift in North East in a truly historic election of independent India. Das is used as an excuse to parody the Hindu gods; there is a silent acquiescing to a profane Western historian calling Rama a “pig”. Neither “Janeudhari” Rahul Gandhi nor “Why-I-Am-A-Hindu” Shashi Tharoor are offended.
This cabal would hammer away at a Biplab Das but the constant blabbering and lies of a Rahul Gandhi is met with “his-speech-is-improving” innuendo.
There is a forceful counterpoint—I would term them as “Lone Rangers” henceforth–from OpIndia and SwarajyaMag; Postcard News and PGurus; a few TV news networks stand up to the shameless; erudite voices such as David Frawley, Rakesh Sinha and firebrand Shefali Vaidya rip open this Zanus-faced cabal. Yet it all appears a mine-blast compared to the guided munitions which rain from the sky.
What’s the trick outraged Hindus are missing?
Social Media: The Left-Liberal cabal has only 8-10 voices which it has created and promoted into brands (It has to be a “creation” for they never ever take a critical look as Christo-Islamic forces). The “nexus” works with everyone promoting and shielding each other. Those voices are picked by a similar network abroad. Stray voices, similar themes and a lie is easily brushed into a truth.
Our “Lone Rangers” on the other hand rarely form a formation. At the most a retweet and a shelf-life of a few hours. Mostly, each to his own. There is no method. There is no understanding that a sum is bigger than the parts.
Television: Most of us remember a harebrained Saba Naqvi; a mangy John Dayal or a scruffy Kumar Ketkar from TV debates on Prime Time. Could you name any independent neutral voice you remember? There are dime-a-dozen forceful presences on twitter (What the heck, let me bite my own bullet and name my favourite Dirty Dozen: @mediacrooks, @nesenag, @shefvaidya @unsubtledesi @rahulroushan, @rajivmessage, @davidfrawleyved, @madhukishwar, @mvmeet, @SreeIyer1 @thejaggi and @ARanganathan72). Not all are right-wing voices; some could be overtly critical too of NDA government (like @mediacrooks, @ARanganathan and @thejaggi). Yet, either they shy away or TV networks keep them out. This must change. TV news are very stale and badly needs fresh voices. Social Media must bring out a sustained pressure on them to “open up” TV studios.
Print media: This is the difficult part. Mainstream media, especially English, is already controlled by Left-Liberal cabal. Regional media have a huge role as a counteracting force. They must seek out above independent voices and give them space.
A tactics which we could learn from Lutyens Media is how they create a narrative and then sustain it. They pick up a subject, sustain it with old and new information, new angles, helpful interviews, columns in edits and even anniversaries! And what “Lone Rangers” have done with Madarsa Rape? A customary objection and little else. Haven’t we shifted our focus away from Audrey Truschke too soon? (And don’t give me the BS that it would only make her a star).
It’s all about rallying to a cause. It alone sustains passion and reverses the narrative.
Bollywood: It has long been controlled by dubious funds and Muslim-centric ethos. A “pujari” is always shown lecherous (e.g Kanhaiya Lal or a Shakti Kapoor) while a “Muslim” character is invariably depicted as paanch-time namazi (viz a A.K. Hangal). All the right-minded Indians could do is to expose their duplicity–regularly.
The above four forces–to go with the fifth of school texts and academia–control the narrative. “Lone Rangers” need to grow muscles to counter it. Own ivory towers won’t help. As long as heart is in the right place, differences in IQs, fan-following, language quality, status must not matter. IT MUST NOT MATTER.
“Lone Rangers” clearly suffer from resources. But for their toil and time, sweat and passion, there is little in support. Most of them sacrifice their working hours or leisure time with family to do what they feel is necessary for India’s future. They need be supported, not judged through prejudicial, hierarchical lenses.
These voices need be sustained; be called over to seminars and panel discussions; be invited to educational institutions for lectures; be part of alternative litfests. I have been a journalist all my life and trust me, voices mentioned about talk more sense than my own discredited professional community.
Lack of time ought not to be any excuse. Hit the road in protests on your temples, education and religion. Don’t back off. Only those who assert their identity, retain their identity.
A call must go out to corporate houses. Look at how The Wire gets its funds. They are given funds by a foundation which has trustees such as Aamir Khan, Azim Premji, Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, TN Ninan. If you can’t spare time to write or debate, at least spare change from your pockets, big or small, and make a difference. Or remain deluded with the story that a hard-working tortoise wins race in the end.