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Science as patriotism: ‘Liberals’ are ignoring history of space race

Liberals seem to be unhappy that some news channels used this moment of excitement to take broadsides against Pakistan.

The narrative is now set. Liberals are treating ISRO’s failure to soft-land a rover on the moon as a chance to go after PM Modi.

Here is senior patrakar Urmilesh in his segment on the Wire, saying that media played politics over Chandrayaan – 2. Among his other claims, that there was a Hindi news channel (see from 6:26) that ran with the headline: “Chaand Modi ki mutthi mein.”  He was possibly referring to this viral image, which has now been exposed as fake and photoshopped.


But you get the idea. This fake headline has also found mention in other places :


Most of all, liberals seem to be unhappy that some news channels used this moment of excitement to take broadsides against Pakistan.

Who does not remember the morning after the landing failure, when excited liberals yelled all sorts of insults at Modi in their glee? And one alleged science journalist actually yelled at the scientists who had been working on the Chandrayaan mission. ‘All topic experts’ in the liberal intelligentsia actually welcomed this, praising him for asking questions to those in power. As the scale of the PR disaster for liberals became clear, they backtracked a little on this one issue. An apology arrived.  Although soon after, the big boss of liberal news went out to remind everyone that liberal journalists have apparently contributed big to Indian science.

As I said, the narrative is set. In their derangement, liberals see even the Chandrayaan mission and ISRO as a stand-in for the man they hate so much.

The worst of all are the ones who can only be described as concern trolls. The ones who are pretending to give sage advice about how this is not the way to do science, how science isn’t about chest-thumping and making others look bad and so on ….

That sounds sort of nice in theory (like Communism). But it ignores both human nature (like Communism) and also the course of history (like Communism).

This is especially pertinent when it comes to space technology. In 1961, President Kennedy proposed that it should be a national goal for the United States to “commit itself to achieve the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon…

The United States achieved it by 1969. The extreme urgency of this mission was driven almost entirely by Cold War sentiments. After the Soviets launched the Sputnik in 1957, the Americans went into a tizzy. The US State Department openly acknowledges this today on its official website.  In fact, the fears rose to such a fever pitch that a month after the Sputnik launch, President Eisenhower went on television to address the American people on “science and national security.” It’s available publicly from the National Archives of the United States.

“Science as patriotism” is nothing new. And it has been remarkably successful. In the United States, the Sputnik generation was driven to study science and tech out of a love for their country and their free way of life. It did a lot of good things for the world.

And by the way, the earliest rockets that flew into space were all directly descended from ballistic missiles.

Indian liberals flinch at the very mention of patriotism today. They didn’t complain all these years when Indian children were paraded to celebrate the Dear Leader’s birthday as “Children’s Day.” But now they complain. Because India no longer submits to them.

Now they complain that children might get the wrong impression about science, end up mixing politics and patriotism with it. It is hard to see this as anything other than concern trolling.

The Chandrayaan mission and the excited media coverage around it have done tremendous good. It has brought the Indian public to cheer science, inspired kids to look to scientists as heroes. A lot of great scientific and technological achievements had an undercurrent of national pride and patriotism running through them. So it doesn’t matter if sentiments of Pakistan got a little hurt in the process. Or for that matter, many more of Indian liberal sentiments.

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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