What ideally should have been a funny gif, sparked of quite a few battles on Social Media. I’ll elaborate how it happened. After their joint address as Angela Merkel was walking towards Modi for a photo-op, Modi thrust his hand forward, in a bid to shake hands with Merkel. Merkel did not shake hands, but passed him, touching him and showing him the way to a spot next to him. This much action is captured in the following gif:
Apart from being an entire story on Buzzfeed, this was used with hilarious captions by many Twitter users. Good fun some would say. I would too. But there was more to it. Apparently, Pakistani media was using this bit to spread propaganda that “Merkel snubs Modi”.
The truth however, is visible once you see the entire video. Merkel merely asks Modi to come near the 2 countries’ flags, so that they can shake hands there and have an even better photo-op. When this part is omitted for comedic reasons, it seems innocuous, but when it is omitted for propaganda, it can hurt people.
This is where many Social Media users rallied and pointed out the whole video, to people who were using just the edited portion. They even forced Buzzfeed to update their article with the full details. This behaviour, was disturbing to many, including me till I was made aware that this video was being used for false propaganda. And this reaction, has forced many people including me to wonder: Is the Right Wing on Social Media paranoid?
Answer is both Yes and No. I have explained the Yes, a harmless video of a seemingly awkward moment of a PM is always a funny video, which can be used in multiple ways for good clean humour.
Now I will come to the No part. Unfortunately, in past few months, many damaging news reports have begun from tomfoolery or “flippant” tweets on Social media. The best example of this the “Rs 10 lac Modi suit” story. We had traced the entire story here. It started with Social Media realising the monogram print, trying to estimate the cost based on other examples, Print Media picking this up as a “story”, Main stream media holding TV debates, and it even reached the speeches of Rahul Gandhi. Much much later, the person who gifted the suit revealed that the cost could not be Rs 10 lacs because he couldn’t afford it. Till then, the damage had been done, and some people guessed, that the actual cost of the suit was the Delhi Election defeat. This story, if it was nipped in the bud, by “paranoid” Right Wingers on day one itself, would not have spiralled out of control into a device to malign Modi.
And this worked so well, that Adarsh Liberal journalists tried it again. We showed you how Rana Ayyub tried to claim Modi’s Shawl was from Louis Vuitton. That was the first step, second would be the cost, third would be juxtaposing “humble chaiwala” with “luxuries”, fourth would be to question the source, fifth would be to allege it is a gift from an Industrialist to do his bidding, and so on. Luckily this story was stopped at stage one. Thanks to “paranoid” Right Wingers.
Yesterday again, there was another potential propaganda tool. Times Now managed to confuse the Government of India’s Dadasaheb Phalke Award, with a similarly named award from some private body, which was conferred on Vivek Oberoi. Within minutes various people posted multiple links which proved that Times Now has got it horribly wrong. The GoI Phalke award for 2015 was already declared in March 2015 to Shashi Kapoor. This had to be a fake news. And it was. Within 30 minutes, Times Now deleted their tweet without an apology or clarification. They had even managed to get a quote for Vivek Oberoi!
Again, on the face of it, the story is about a seemingly less deserving Bollywood actor, getting a very prestigious award. Most outrage on social media was only on this. But again, there could have been undertones. Vivek Oberoi is a vocal supporter of Narendra Modi. On his recent visit to Germany, Prime Minister Modi, met Vivek Oberoi.
Given these facts, it is extremely easy for someone to allege that Vivek’s closeness to Modi allowed him to jump the queue and get this award from the Government. Once again sullying Modi’s name as being partial to his friends etc. In this context, Times Now’s highly misleading tweet can very well be considered to be mischievous, to say the least.
And just today morning we had the “2AB” “controversy” where some people who did not understand the metaphor, began ridiculing the PM. ANI tweeted this abridged version, probably because of space constraints:
— ANI (@ANI_news) April 16, 2015
Which actually should sound like this, to make perfect sense (Below image is a transcript of an earlier speech where Modi used the same metaphor). And if one sees the actual video, this is exactly what Modi said.
Again it was up to “Paranoid” Right Wingers to clear the air, over something as trivial as a metaphor, but which was being misused to spread propaganda.
So is this paranoia? To my mind, it will be called “paranoia” when this fact-checking doesnt yield any result. Egs if Modi had indeed used a stupid illogical Math metaphor. Till then, it will be on the other side of the thin line which separates paranoia from prudence. And most of this, is because of the ever depleting standards of Indian media. MSM has plummeted to depths never seen before. From asking General V K Singh to be more sensitive to people he is personally rescuing to blatant Lies peddled day in and day out. In such times, Author Sidin Vadukut’s advice sounds perfect:
Assume everything you read is biased in some ways. Absorb accordingly. Read critically. Seek perspectives.
— Raveena4Life (@sidin) April 15, 2015