Ranjona Banerji: Textbook fascism and a compliant media

09 Aug,2019

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The Netflix documentary The Great Hack is a chilling eye-opener about just how insidiously and dangerously social media has infiltrated our lives and now controls us. The collapse of Cambridge Analytica does not mean that this invasion into our privacy has stopped or that it will stop. Eternal vigilance is the price but that currently only comes from a small group of committed people. Most of us have just succumbed to the lure and convenience of social media and connectivity. The result is that our own “data” is being used against us and we are being manipulated in devious ways we have never even heard of or imagined in our worst nightmares.

But even Cambridge Analytica had a role model and we see the fruits of how effective the original was here in India today. It’s been a semi-serious joke for a long time, or a throwaway line in a discussion on Indian politics, how the Sangh Parivar has closely followed and emulated Nazi Germany. The rise of the Nationalist Socialist Party is a lesson for fascists everywhere because no one did it better – manipulating the democratic system, slowly poisoning people’s minds and hearts, creating an internal enemy as well as external enemies, pushing lies into the public domain so efficiently that they become the truth.

One of the methods in this is the co-opting of the Indian media. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, addressed the people of India on the evening of August 8, 2019, to explain how wonderful the abrogation of Article 370 would be for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The speech did not explain why there was a total communication shutdown in the state, why there was such a strong military and security presence, why non-BJP politicians were under house arrest or arrest, why people could not go to hospitals or to shops or find out how their families were, why the people of the state themselves were not being allowed to “celebrate” like the rest of India apparently was.

Instead, this famous orator waffled on about how economic progress and development, tourism and the film industry were about invade the state and make it great. As great as the rest of India with its collapsing economy? Shhh, Ranjona, don’t ask difficult questions when the great man speaks. As one well-known TV journalist informed India on Twitter, Modi’s speech was “excellent”. Needs must when the devil drives?

In the link below, Samar Halarnkar describes the despicable celebrations as parts of India celebrated the abrogation of Article 370 and the manner in which it was done:

https://scroll.in/article/933228/to-the-cheers-of-indians-the-lights-dim-in-indias-democracy

Historian Ramchandra Guha, with whom I have disagreed plenty in the recent past for his proclivity to concentrate on historical parallels and not consequences, writes this chilling piece on the differences between civil society responses to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and the abrogation of Article 370 now.

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/babri-masjid-demolition-article-370-jammu-kashmir-bjp-5890136/

The total clampdown on information in Jammu and Kashmir should have exercised the Indian media, because communication and information are our lifeblood. But. The fact that newspapers had to stop print in Jammu and Kashmir should have exercised the Indian media because print is part of our lifeblood. But. In the race to prove that we are more loyal than the king, what statements have you seen from the Editors Guild or Press Council? Or anyone apart from the NWMI and civil society organisations?

When the government line becomes the media line, that’s how successful the Nazi propaganda machine has become. We are all co-opted. In another world, democracy is choice and dissent. The will of the people, as mentioned by Gopalaswamy Ayyangar has not been taken into consideration in this decision by the Union government. Yes, newspaper editorials have been written. Yes, commentators have commentated. But all our fellow journalists who’ve been toeing the government line, what are you?

And how soon before All Hail becomes something else?

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal.

 

 

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