(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
It’s happening in the United States but it concerns all of us. President Donald Trump has passed an executive order to “censor” Social Media. If it passes the legal test, the current immunity enjoyed by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp etc would be stripped bare. If they lose freedom, what chances you and I have on our “freedom of expression?”
A background is in order. Trump showed his contempt for mail-in ballots in case the due November 3 Presidential election keeps the voters indoors due to Corona Virus. He tweeted: “no way…mail-in ballots will be anything less than substantial fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be robbed, ballots will be forged and even illegally printed out and fraudulently signed…” He followed it up with another tweet, mentioning it would be “rigged elections.” Twitter censored it, stating “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud.”
Trump was livid. He termed it selective censorship. Twitter, the president said, was making “editorial decisions.” In essence, it doesn’t make Social Media a neutral platform. They are publishers, like other media houses and must come under regulations.
“They’ve had unchecked power to censure, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences…We cannot allow that to happen…in these moments, Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform – they become an editor with a viewpoint,” said Trump, adding his comments don’t exclude other media platforms such as Facebook, Google etc.
Is Trump wrong? Probably not. What Twitter censors by Trump would look extremely scandalous if Twitter was owned, say by a Chinese company. How can Social Media censor views on local election process, that too of the US president, when there are legitimate grounds for his comments? The New York Times in 2012 had reported “fraud” in postal ballots. Washington Post is on record for stating that “no one questions the mail-in ballots have much higher rates of not being counted.” Twitter’s action does curtail “freedom of expression”. Social Media today has the power to shape truth in the image they want. Democracy won’t have the diversity it preens upon.
Trump’s order aims to turn Social Media platforms as regular publishers. It means they could be bogged down by lawsuits. It could, and should, flag down racial and religious bigotry; terrorism and pornography etc. But Social Media giants ought to have no role in censoring people’s opinion. More so, political opinions. Trump has accused twitter of “doing nothing about all of the lies and propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democratic Party (i.e. his rival Joe Biden).”
It could well be that Trump’s executive order falls flat on legal count. But Social Media giants can’t have unbridled freedom. They are being hauled up, for instance, in Europe and Australia; the latter quite close to labelling Social Media platforms as media outlets. They derive commercial benefits on disseminating news content. Their usage of people’s data has long been in regulators’ crosshairs. There are wide-ranging antitrust probes against them. They are no innocent bystanders.
Twitter presently is asserting its power to “curate” the content So, tomorrow, if the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was to say that Congress can’t hold a candle to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS); or that Mamata Banerjee is supporting Jihadi elements in Bengal; or that he is worried about attacks on Sadhus; or that he is surprised to learn that below Babri Masjid remains of a temple has been found, could Twitter “fact-checks” and blocks those tweets? Is Twitter now the new “arbiters” of truth? And if they think they are, shouldn’t they be deemed as media houses and suitably brought under legal purview? Who is to say they are being neutral and not biased?
In the Indian context, just imagine the size we’re talking about. Between Facebook and WhatsApp, there are 700 million users. YouTube has 265 million users: twitter 14 million. It’s an enormous power to wield if the Social Media giants choose to be the arbiters of truth as they see it. If tomorrow, the Indian government follows Trump’s example, how would we react? In the name of “freedom of internet” would we be helping or breaking the India we know?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
It’s the last time readers you would hear about it. So I want you to be serious. Ranjan Gogoi, former Chief Justice of India and now a member of the Rajya Sabha, has said that there is a “Lobby of Six” which controls our judiciary by maligning them. You could make it a fun exercise. Or if you are serious, reflect how our system is compromised.
Three names immediately spring to my mind as suspects: Prashant Bhushan, Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Singhvi. They opposed tooth and nail matters of national importance, such as Rafale, Ram Temple, Article 370, EVM, Loya judge case etc in varying degrees, individually or collectively. Remember the names who wanted an “impeachment” motion against then CJI Deepak Misra? A few judges too cross my mind for some strange verdicts. But I better not spell out my hunch.
( Or it could be that Gogoi might be hinting at a completely different set who work behind the scenes. So folks, send in your choice of “Lobby of Six” on my twitter or facebook handle. Let this issue hang in our public discourse. For your newspapers are unlikely to give it wind. They have already dug up trenches to bury Gogoi’s views. I would follow up this pieces with due credit to your credible hunches).
Gogoi says that this “Lobby of Six” took recourse to “maligning” to control judiciary. You only “malign” through propaganda. And propaganda is best managed by media. This is rather easy. I remember a piece I wrote when a “sexual harassment” case was popped up against Gogoi last year. Three websites with Leftist bent–The Wire, Scroll and Caravan—made a coordinated attack. They appeared hand-in-gloves with the forces who wanted to malign our judiciary. My piece then had tried to connect the dots. Read it and see if you agree with my deductions.
The Indian Express and The Hindu are two other national dailies which are more than suspects, in my humble opinion. The judges and advocates they have in their rosters as guest columnists/rent-a-byte individuals, all have a bent towards a particular ideology. Refer to the pages of these two newspapers when a “sexual impropriety” charge was made against Gogoi last April. Or the recent spate of articles they have had against Gogoi’s nomination in Rajya Sabha. That Gogoi has now chosen to speak to Times of India, and not Express and The Hindu, carries its own message. Or it could be that Express and the Hindu didn’t approach Gogoi in the first place. The latter is worse: for the gold-standard in journalism is to hear both sides of story. Don’t pronounce someone guilty unless you’ve heard him.
Be that as it may, do read Gogoi’s interview in Times of India. He makes some pertinent points which deserve to be a part of the collective memory of we the citizens who unfortunately are also readers of a few disgraceful newspapers. As per the supposed perks on being a Rajya Sabha member, Gogoi puts forth the same arguments I had questioned Left-Liberals on in recent days.
Gogoi says that Ayodhya was a unanimous verdict by a bench of five judges. So all other were compromised? Rafale too was a unanimous verdict. So the other sitting judges were also compromised? Isn’t it a slur on their integrity? Gogoi also took on his critics who said he practiced “sealed cover” jurisprudence. “Should I have made public details on Rafale”? Pakistan would’ve laughed its guts out. Why was this bunch silent when the judiciary asked for sealed cover report on “2G scam”. Or when now the Supreme Court has asked for “sealed cover” report on Shaheen Bagh?
Strong words. And a bit of humour from his ex-Lordship: “I never was, never am and never will be afraid of anyone’s opinion, except my wife.”
Hopefully, Gogoi’s interview would give teeth to “independent” voices within the judiciary. There is no reason to buckle down to this “Lobby of Six” or anyone else. You have nobody but your conscience to be answerable to.
(Post script: As to how our judiciary functions, listen to the voice of a fearless amongst us, legal hawk Vibhor Anand, who had penned for us a few pieces in the past).
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
First, the bitter truth.
You are fed lies by the mainstream media.
They told you Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
They lied you about reasons to invade Libya.
That the revolution in Ukraine was people’s movement as it is in Hong Kong and Venezuela.
That Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is despotic but Saudi Arabia is benign enough to be heading the UN Human Rights Commission!( This when Saudi Arabia in 2015 beheaded more people than ISIS)
That North Korea is a terror to the world even though it hasn’t attacked a single country all these years.
Iran is an eyesore even though it was faithful to the pact it had with the West and now millions of its citizen face starvation because of the US-inflicted sanctions which are ot UN-mandated.
You never come to read the macabre truth of Africa where regimes are overturned and humanity is butchered every day as imperialists eye their land, labour and resources.
Russia is certified aggressor even though it’s NATO which is encircling the beleaguered land.
The truth on terrorism which US claims to be in fight against would make you lose faith in humanity.
Closer home, a miniature version is Lutyens Media, wholly deceitful and corrupt.
They would never question why PoK was never an agenda in the Congress hegemony; they would never report on the gruesome murders and brutal rapes on Kashmiri Pandits; millions of infiltrators in our East don’t prick their journalism of courage; tens of thousands of soldiers killed by naxals and terrorists are not martyrs in their eyes but only a brutal face of a repressive regime; their umbrella of protection is big enough to shelter Congress, TMC, SP, BSP, RJD, Left and what have you. Lynchings are for Muslims; religious persecution is for minorities only. Why bother that an Ankit or Gudiya have also paid with their lives and that a temple was vandalized in the very heart of the Indian Capital not long ago.
Don’t for a second think that Western and Lutyens Media are unrelated. They are part of a network: sharing scoops (e,g Panama Papers), editorial pages and a clutch of celebrities and personalities who are agents of Liberal Order, implying in the garb of protecting freedom, human rights and democracy, they cause defiant societies to implode from within. They work on the faultlines: Like in India, the Lutyens Media loses no opportunity to blow up any terrible incident against a Muslim or a Dalit; work on the gender and North-South divide; scare minority against the majority; preach their own brand of secularism – all of which of course takes flight in States where Hindus are in minority and repressed; gender-divide which doesn’t include Muslim women and secularism which doesn’t extend for example to Kashmiri Pandits. They subvert India’s history and heritage; culture and legacy; where mausoleums are celebrated and sublime temples are ignored. Ghar-Wapsi is a calamity but thousands of conversions in the countryside are a matter of celebration.
This network feeds each other into a size of a behemoth. Lutyens Media din a BBC, New York Times, CNN or Time into your ears and vice versa; the news agencies such as AFP, AP and Reuters are the feeding pipes as are social media giants Google, Facebook and Twitter who dump searches, bury voices or slap bans against all those which run contrary to Liberal Order.
How do you arrive at truth? The “base camp” of course is the voices which never reach you. In India, you could look at following websites and reason out yourself which could be closer to truth:
Abroad, I can suggest a handful which are puncturing the mainstream narrative with facts, logic and reason:
Clearly the above voices are in the wilderness. They don’t reach you till you look for them. The biggest disadvantage is they are not mainstream.
What’s mainstream? Mainstream is the narrative which seamlessly weaves into your daily life. You accept the news beamed in your drawing rooms or the ones dropped in the morning in your frontyard is credible. They are credible because they speak of freedom, equality, liberty which appeals to human senses. (George Orwell had predicted long ago that good words would covey exactly the opposite meaning by ruling classes). They are credible because everyone else finds them credible. You don’t want to be the odd man out. Lies constantly drummed become truth in due course.
How a sample of alternative media I have mentioned above could become mainstream? First admit the tall order because you are talking of dismantling the very narrative which you have been fed since you started walking. From your kindergarten schools to higher education to job, mainstream narrative becomes you. To unlearn what you’ve learnt all your life is difficult.
But truth like light has a way of shining through the pall of darkness. As 99% of the world become more dispossessed than they were in the 60s, they intuitively feel that Democrats or Republicans (US), Congress (India), Conservative or Labour (United Kingdom), use the tool of Liberal Order to bond and feed on each other. Their goal is hegemony of the world, of our minds. Alternative views are systematically put out of sight.
It’s unlikely the alternative media could become mainstream. For that to happen, you first need to have a system (government, universities, academia, media) in place. That is mostly unlikely to happen. Liberal Order has monopolized lexicons of Liberty, Equality, Freedom and Democracy. You exposure on lies would be seen as conspiracy theorists; your flashing of mirror in face would be dubbed whataboutery; you assertion of your culture and legacy would be labeled as one of a fundamentalist.
Narratives, however, do change when anti-mainstream opinions come to power, as it has in India (Narendra Modi), United States (Donald Trump) and Russia (Vladimir Putin) for example. They have been hoisted to power by millions of dispossessed and faceless citizens. Mainstream narrative willfully ignores them and they end up consolidating the alternative forces. It gives rise to foot soldiers–the websites I have mentioned above—to yank open the door further. There is a need to support these websites with funds and footfalls; provide a structure to what till now is an organic growth; organize seminars, institute awards, hold public dialogue vigorously. Have your own Nobel or Magsaysay Awards which are manipulated; Pulitzer or Booker prize which never gives space to alternative views.
Social Media is a good start but not a conclusive one as the Big Brother sooner than later would come back to bite you. So hold hands, spare time and money, and let the good word spread.
(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?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Should we start with the message or the messenger?
Let’s begin with the messenger first. I bet none of you know who are 49 signatories who have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on minority lynchings. It’s not in your newspapers nor in established magazines such as Outlook and India Today.
Just a coincidence? Or a plot?
I somehow dug up the list of 49 eminent personalities. Over 40 are from the state of West Bengal, including Aparna Sen and Goutam Ghose who have been questioned by CBI on Ponzi schemes. The rest, such as Shobha Mudgal, Ramachandra Guha, Adoori Gopalakrishnan, Anurag Kashyap and Mani Ratnam are known Leftists. Madam Mamata Banerjee has come out in support of this letter though your newspaper wouldn’t have mentioned it. Telegraph India? The known Leftist rag from Kolkata? Oh, you must look for its Epaper today. Or curl up your lips by looking at this image of their front page below.
I am not “rubbishing” the messenger to “kill” the message. Human lives are above ideology. Blood has no religion. Not for these worthies though. They could only see Muslim blood. Or they would have followed Anand Ranganathan or Swati Goel Sharma and known of hundreds of cases against Hindus and Dalits; or educated themselves on the pieces from OpIndia which lists 50 hate-crimes by Muslims in recent times; and a dozen “incidents” against Muslims which turned out to be fake.
Yet, they are quoting factcheker.in as their source when the website is epitome of lies, mischief and propaganda. They have a problem with the word “urban naxals” (made famous by Vivek Ranjan Aghinotri) who they view as “dissenter” but the nation as “subversive” and a threat to India’s sovereignty. They view “Jai Shri Ram” as a “war cry” but Islamic terrorists blowing themselves up with “Allah O Akbar” on the lips is our sheer imagination.
Yet, these worthies deserve our time. Just to exhibit how the “Deep State” works. Let me list 10 questions which must prod the conscience of neutral Indian citizens:
- Why we don’t have the list of 49 in public domain?
- Why the headlines have tried to give it a Pan-Indian intellectual “uprising” hiding its essentially Bengali flavour?
- Why this discourse omits crimes against the Hindus?
- Why known Hindu intellectuals—Rajiv Malhotra, Subhash Kak, David Frawley, Dr Koenrad Elst, Francois Gautier–are never invited in Express Adda or TV debates?
- Could you remember anyone of them reacting to vandalizing of Durga Maa Temple in the heart of Capital recently?
- Why politicians such as Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, Mamata Banerjee or Yadavs are never outraged at the crimes against the Hindus
- Are NGOs a part of this nexus? At 31 lakhs, the NGOs in our counry are double the number of schools; 250 times the number of government hospitals. We have one NGO for 400 people as against one policeman for 709 persons.
- Where were these intellectuals, newspapers and politicians and NGOs when crimes against Muslims and Dalits were far worse in UPA’s 10 years than it has been in Modi’s five-plus?
- And if these intellectuals, newspapers, politicians and NGOs are working in complete sync, ensuring what we read and what we don’t; what stops us from terming them as a “Deep State” within India?
- And if this “Deep State” exists, it just can’t be ideology. (More so when Left is as good as politically over in India). Who does this “Deep State” belong to? CIA? Saudi money? Commie funds? Or all of them put together? Or deep pockets of imperialism masquerading as Liberal Order?
The dangers are obvious. As the divide between Hindus and Muslims grow deeper; the spin-off could begin with lives lost or India divided, 1947 revisited. With people at war, India would get terminally weak. Those plotting it would be happy beyond words. Those who want Hinduism crushed would be over the moon.
Hindus of course can’t match them in propaganda. They are deep-rooted: The “Deep State: have their artistes, intellectuals, historians and media planted everywhere around us. They have a ready audience at home and abroad. The narrative would stay with them in foreseeable future. This has been a project of decades. The monster can’t be slayed overnight.
Sure it needs response. An organized response. Democracy is one tool which has rolled these worthies into the ground. But we are putting too many eggs in one basket. Democracy can be subverted (Why do you think they cry so much on EVMs?). We have also seen how technological giants, such as Google, Twitter, Amazon etc promote such Break-India forces. Our culture is still a binding force but when “Jai Shri Ram” is turned into an abuse, it’s only a matter of time before it implodes. India is young and they are easily brain-washed (All those with teenagers at home would identify with this issue).
Frankly, Hindus need a George Soros to combat these forces. Those who don’t know him, should do it now. He fronts Liberal Order; Hindus need one of their own. It’s unlikely BJP or RSS would be of much help in terms of funds or a commitment for decades. But Hindus would be increasingly under siege and only an organized structure, and not stray organic counter-voices, could set them free.