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Propaganda 101 – Lessons in propaganda from the Liberal playbook

For the uninitiated, propaganda is hard to recognize. Seemingly benign, it successfully camouflages itself as a piece of scholarly work or a lofty opinion or simply as a sample of (that very popular and fiercely protected specimen called) free speech, but then quietly goes about mischievously trying to influence the gullible public undetected.

Sometimes, when you come across a news item, an opinion piece or a simple tweet, does your jaw drop or eyeballs pop out of their sockets or are you are left shaking your head in disbelief? Does the farfetchedness and the sheer audacity of what is being peddled with the utmost confidence and pompousness, without an iota of self-doubt or remorse on the writer’s part leave you befuddled?

Fret not, like many of us, you may just have been hit by a propaganda item, from the liberal stable. Dictionary defines propaganda as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view”. For the uninitiated, propaganda is hard to recognize. Seemingly benign, it successfully camouflages itself as a piece of scholarly work or a lofty opinion or simply as a sample of (that very popular and fiercely protected specimen called) free speech, but then quietly goes about mischievously trying to influence the gullible public undetected.

But, once you attune your antenna to detect propaganda, it is very easy to spot it. Despite all efforts to hide, the wolf begins to shimmer through the sheep’s clothing. However, this article is not about how to detect and thwart propaganda. In fact, far from it! We in India have had some expert propagandists live and bless us for many years now. Very early on, perceiving propaganda as potent tool to sway public opinion, they embraced the art-form and perfected it over time.

The group I am referring to, is of course, the great Indian secular brigade, and I think there is lot to learn from them. A bit of history may set the context. It all started with the master propagandists, the British. With all the tools at their disposal, both men (eg. Thomas Babington Macaulay) and material (eg. AIT – Aryan Invasion Theory) they spread their wisdom to the unwashed Indian masses in an attempt to make them loathe their past, culture and their very existence.

While the majority fortunately rejected their attempts, Brits do seem to have taught a few of their brown subjects, especially the liberal elite that would go on to occupy influential positions in media, academia and government after independence, quite a few tricks of the trade. And then like Arjuna exceeding Drona in archery, eventually the students exceeded the masters themselves.

And produced an India, with the unique distinction of being the only country in the world in whose history books invading marauders were exalted and worshipped as benevolent rulers, while the true history of the land lay dismissed as mythology and bunkum. While I do admit that some practitioners of this art are currently undergoing existential crisis and losing touch, the art itself is very much alive and kicking.

With so much talent all around us, there cannot be a better thing to do than observe and learn. So, here is a carefully gleaned set of lessons, a masterclass of sorts in the art of propaganda straight from the liberal playbook.

Lesson #1: Never allow minor inconveniences, like facts, come in the way of a good story

Exhibit 1: India’s “non-scientific COVID mismanagement” story

It is true that COVID caught all nations by surprise, including India. But ever since the COVID outbreak started, Indian liberals with a section of foreign intellectuals had waited with extra eagerness and bated breath for the pandemic to wreck the country and for people to start dropping dead like flies.

Although their hopes were dashed (despite rising numbers, India continues to do very well in terms of both fatality and recovery rates) a glimmer of hope came in late July when due to sheer population size, the inevitable happened and India occupied one of the top 5 spots purely going by infection numbers.

It didn’t take long for the liberal media to rub their hands in glee, seize the moment and lump us with other “right-wing” countries like US and Brazil (whose leaders had openly called Corona a hoax) and attribute it to “anti-science” policy of the Modi government. Never mind that right from the start of the fight against COVID, Indian government had let medical professionals lead the show and had let the world know as much.

Exhibit 2: The Kashmir or the CAA story

Scrapping of Article 370 in 2019 was a long overdue, rational action to bring the state into mainstream and remove the blatant discriminatory laws that had existed – against Dalits, non-Sunnis and women. So was an act like CAA that was simply meant to help persecuted, fleeing religious minorities from neighboring Islamic countries.

Any reasonable individual could see that. But no such compunctions for the liberals when they opposed these humanitarian (and completely lawful) acts tooth and nail – most times blindly, wilfully, and irrationally, often riding a pile of lies and dramatizing their pronouncements to carry on their propaganda.

It didn’t matter to them that their sophisticated lies literally set the country on fire ultimately culminating in the bloody 2020 Delhi riots. Now why should facts be ignored? Because facts tend to be a dampener when you decide to sell your story. So do your best to avoid them at all costs.

Lesson #2: Render intellectual heft to your story by using irrelevant references from outside India

I guess that’s what educates my wish for India this Independence day. I just want silence. This noise, this headsplitting, ear-bleeding barrage of hate and falsehoods and acid, needs to stop. Pablo Neruda’s Keeping Quiet comes
to mind. Maybe, that’s what we all need. A moment of silence. A moment to pause and ask ourselves what we have
come to. A moment to allow ourselves to heal.

Poignant lines from Harnidh Kaur’s 2018 article in thePrint. Of course, in reference to the abyss India had started descending into ever since it voted a non-intellectual government in 2014.

Or sample this:

Tweet by Sajjan Singh Thakur sharin g Sagarika Ghose’s article

What is the use of poring over all those South American and Russian novels and poetry if you cannot use them to randomly to prove your point? But one has to be mindful here. A communist poet or author from Russia or South America is Kosher (or should I say Halal). But horror of horror if you were to quote a Kalidasa or a Thiruvalluvar (not that their work would offer much scope for propaganda).

That would be tantamount to declaring yourself a rustic, rooted Indian – a strict no-no, of course. The only exception among Indians is Mahatma Gandhi or Chacha Nehru, who are allowed to be quoted. Quoting them, in fact, would lend a certain gravitas to your story and grant it some much needed secular creds.

Tweet by Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana

But when in the mood to be caustic, move away from South American intellectuals and Gandhi, to talk of that perennial favorite, North Korea to compare India with.

Tweet by Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra
Tweet by filmmaker Anurag Kashyap

Because secular governments as in West Bengal or Maharashtra that send the police after you for questioning their secular leaders, still are within Indian boundaries, you perhaps can get away with this comparison.

Lesson #3: It is always the fault of those, on whose side you are not

Democracy is a favorite weapon. As long as of course it aids your propaganda. The moment it stops doing that, it becomes just another tool in the hands of the undeserving. (So decidedly while fascists sometimes do get bored with tampering EVMs and lose a few elections for a change, do not get misled by that. They are probably busy plotting their next move)

The tweet was retweeted widely

So, when you lose, it is invariably because most people are fools…

Tweet by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor

Or immoral and evil

Tweet by propagandist Rana Ayyub

Or are simply helpless due to lack of options… (from Shekhar Gupta’s piece post Aug 5 Bhoomi Pujan)

From article by Shekhar Gupta

But don’t ever remotely consider the possibility of you having been ignorant, oblivious or plain stupid to notice obvious signs of loss. That possibility simply doesn’t arise.

Lesson #4: Every occasion, even a calamity, is an opportunity to propagate your story

Tweet by Shashi Tharoor
Tweet by Sagarika Ghose

Don’t forget to repeatedly hammer in your point, no matter what the situation is. Even better when efforts from your fellow ideologues are synchronised with yours. Coordinated reiterations will naturally amplify the effect. Called repetition technique this has been long proven as a successful method in advertising. This can be adopted and followed, quite “liberally” during propaganda.

Lesson #5: Oxymorons and Ironies – banish them from your dictionary

Remove complicated words like oxymoron, ironies and paradoxes from your dictionary (while at it, also remove words like shame and empathy).

Tweet by Shahid Siddiqui

Never mind what the word ‘uniformity’ actually means, make incongruous claims that bringing uniformity actually means favouring one community over other (through Hindu Rashtra).

Tweet by Communist leader Sitaram Yechury

Since secular icons donning skull cap and holding candle vigils is totally acceptable, just ensure that your sense of irony does not inhibit you from driving home your message of destruction of secularism in the country when Hindu ministers attend Hindu functions donning Hindu attire.

And finally,

Lesson #6: Relentlessness and persistence – your mantra for life.

Propagandists are nothing if not relentless and persistent. And loyally wedded to their cause, come hell or high water. So keep the cauldron simmering, however poisonous its contents maybe, even if it means tearing apart the already fragile social fabric of the nation and reviving painful memories of past trauma.

Tweet by Aakar Patel

But this could be a slippery slope. When overdone, it can backfire badly.

Tweet by Rahul Gandhi

So tread cautiously.

In conclusion, understand that propaganda never stops yielding result. Successful propaganda is why a brahmin, Ravana, ends up getting propped up and worshipped by a Brahmin-hating EV Ramasamy Naicker in Tamil Nadu. It is also why a secular India despite its flawless track record in minority treatment gets branded ‘Islamophobic’ or ‘Majoritarian’ by random ‘experts’ and assorted personalities.

There is no doubt that liberals have had an undue advantage in being the first movers in this territory and causing enough damage to the country and its ethos in their unchallenged long run. But it is now time for the other side to learn, and to use the venom to manufacture the nullifying antivenin.

This country deserves its healing.

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