As we have reported earlier, Business Standard published an Op-Ed where the author makes the assertion that the Kumbh Mela witnessed such a huge sea of devotees due to an unemployment problem in the country. It’s not the first time that they had done such a thing. Earlier, they had attempted to associate Kanwar Yatra with joblessness as well.
A simple way to look at it would be to dismiss it as sheer bigotry. However, the mainstream media is one of the greatest vehicles for propaganda in the current century. Therefore, when a pattern of behaviour emerges, we ought to pay it greater attention.
Given the continuous barrage of negative news regarding Hindu festivals we are hit with every day, it is natural for one to suspect a greater agenda behind it. As a wise man once observed, “Once is happenstance. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” Thus, it becomes imperative for us to understand how propaganda works. And it is important to remember that propaganda becomes necessary when facts are not exactly in one’s favour.
Most modern propaganda works via what is called conditioning. There are two types of conditioning: Classical and operant. In the first case, an attempt is made to modify behaviour by inducing the organism to associate certain objects or actions with a certain emotion by repeated exposures to both simultaneously. The second functions by modifying behaviour through the use of rewards.
In modern propaganda, where attempts are made to modify human behaviour and opinions, classical conditioning is the preferred method. To provide an instance of classical conditioning, there is no better than Pavlov’s dog. Pavlov, who came up with the theory, devised a situation where a bell was rung every time before a dog was provided food. When the food was provided, the dog naturally began to drool. After the process was repeated several times, it was observed that the dog started drooling as soon as the bell was rung in anticipation of the food.
Pavlov summed it up thus: there’s a neutral stimulus (the bell), which by itself will not produce a response, like salivation. There’s also a non-neutral or unconditioned stimulus (the food), which will produce an unconditioned response (salivation). But if you present the neutral stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus together, eventually the dog will learn to associate the two. After a while, the neutral stimulus by itself will produce the same response as the unconditioned stimulus, like the dogs drooling when they heard the bell. This is called a conditioned response.
In a rather unethical experiment with a human baby, it was discovered that the findings hold true for humans as well. In what has become known since then as the ‘Little Albert Experiment’, the infant was conditioned to be scared of a little white rat by coupling the sighting of the rat with hitting a hammer loudly on a steel bar. Initially, the baby was not scared of the white rat but it was scared of the sound that the hammer made. After the baby was exposed to both simultaneously on several occasions, the baby burst into tears at the mere sight of the rat, even when the hammer was not hit against the steel bar.
In Propaganda, attempts are made to shape public opinion which would then impact their behaviour. The principle is similar to Classical Conditioning. A neutral stimulus is coupled with a positive or negative stimulus so that the person develops the same attitude towards the neutral stimuli.
Now, let us evaluate the constant negative coverage of Hindu festivals keeping in mind how propaganda works. Diwali has been associated firmly with noise and air pollution despite no evidence as such that Diwali is the primary cause of the said pollution. Attempts have been made to associate Holi with wastage of water and sexual harassment despite no clear cut reason to suggest that the festival makes any significant contribution to the said negative things.
In a similar fashion, Business Standard has attempted to associate Kumbh Mela and Kanwar Yatra with unemployment and joblessness. It was portrayed as if people who do not have jobs are the primary ones responsible for the humongous participation in such festivals. In our minds, we associate unemployment and joblessness with crime and incompetence and inadequacy which are all negative things.
Therefore, the attempt is to induce us into believing that only people who are inferior to others participate in Kumbh Mela and Kanwar Yatra. The subtle message appears to be, “Now now, you do not want to be seen as someone who is inferior in your social circles, do you?” And of course, quite naturally, we do not want to be perceived that way. And therefore, if the message is hammered strongly enough and for long enough, we will come to associate the negative feelings with Kumbh Mela and Kanwar Yatra themselves.
All propaganda is engineered towards achieving a certain objective. Thirty years ago, or maybe even a couple of decades ago, people would have brushed aside those claims. And if anyone had even attempted to ban firecrackers during Diwali, the order would have been unimplementable. There would have been great protests with the possibility of violence even. But here we are in 2019 when firecrackers have been effectively banned across the country and people have hardly registered any significant protests although there were certainly lots and lots of firecrackers during Diwali last year.
The great amount of firecrackers that were observed during Diwali last year was more due to the fact that Hindus had seen through the propaganda and decided to revolt against it. Therefore, it was a revolt against the propaganda as much as it was in support of tradition.
The events at Sabarimala should also serve as a caution for what the possible objective of the propaganda against Kumbh Mela and Kanwar Yatra could be. The powers that be were under the impression that they could simply ban the traditions of Sabarimala without any adverse consequences due to the massive propaganda that was carried out against it. The only reasons the Sabarimala verdict has elicited such great protests is the general Hindu awakening that has been happening across the country and the fact that social media has very effectively undermined the monopoly that mainstream media enjoyed over narratives.
It is important to remember that propaganda is meant to serve an already reached decision. Its goal is to condition the public to either completely support or accept without any major protests the decision that has already been made by the powers that be.
If one wonders whether propaganda really works, then we need only review the effects of the work of the Father of Modern Propaganda, Edward Bernays. Bernays was tasked with the responsibility of increasing the sales of a tobacco company. After taking into account the customer base of tobacco companies, it was concluded that there was whole untapped demography that no tobacco company had been able to penetrate. The demography was, of course, women.
Until then, there was a great social taboo against women smoking cigarettes. Therefore, Bernays observed that the company could greatly increase its profits by eliminating the social taboo against women smoking cigarettes. To achieve it, Bernays devised a plan which has since then become popularly known as ‘Torches for Freedom’.
Bernays concluded that the best way to achieve this would be to project cigarette smoking as a revolt against male dominance, which is now popularly called patriarchy. Therefore, at the Easter Sunday Parade in 1929, pretty women gathered and smoked cigarettes as a revolt against patriarchy. Thus, by associating smoking with freedom and a noble objective, he had effectively made it more desirable in the eyes of women. The effects of Bernays’ strategy was quite clear. From 5% in 1923, the percentage of cigarettes sold to women increased to 12% in 1929, 18.1% in 1935 and peaked at 33.3% in 1965 and remained at the same level until 1977. It was not just observed in the United States, the effects of advertising targeted towards women were observed all across the globe.
Thus, propaganda works. There is no doubt it. Everyone knows it and uses it. Political parties use it, every consumer based company uses it (advertising is merely another form of propaganda).
Therefore, we may dismiss the Business Standard articles as garbage. In reality, it’s a propaganda war against the very existence of our civilization. Liberals hate Hinduism, they would much have it relegated to history books. If people are not made aware of the insidious propaganda against Kumbh Mela and Kanwar Yatra, they might actually accept completely swallow the toxic narrative that is peddled by the mainstream media.
Thus, when a decision is made by the powers that be to put restrictions on the Hindu festivities that unite Hindus across the barriers of caste, class, creed and language, Hindus might not be motivated enough to resist it. Like how it has been in the case of Diwali. Should we lose the Kumbh and Kunwar Yatra as well, then the effects could be devastating for our civilization? It is a civilizational war after all, and we cannot afford to dismiss such motivated propaganda as mere incompetence and malice.
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.