If you want to know what real farmers (outside of TV studios) feel about the new farm laws, look no further than the absolute drubbing of Congress in rural polls across Rajasthan yesterday. Unlike the ones on TV screens and blocking roads around Delhi, this is an actually representative sample of people from rural India. Like I said, if 60 crore people in India had found their livelihoods threatened, the country would have descended into instant chaos. The idea that these 60 crore people could be contained by Haryana Police blocking one narrow bridge is laughable.
I was thinking about this the other day. More than six years after the historic election verdict of 2014, you will come across a multitude of BJP supporters complaining about “communication.”
The alarm is understandable. Every few days, there is a new media circus in town. Some days they say the government is taking away your citizenship. Other days, it is taking away MSP, stealing private data from your phone, stealing your car keys, the chappals on your feet, whatever. Why do such absurd narratives keep spreading? Why won’t the government simply communicate better?
If you think about it though, this is just another version of “mahaul” over “data.” And this time, it is BJP supporters who are falling for it. On the ground, the BJP keeps registering astonishing electoral victories, galloping into new geographies and more. In Uttar Pradesh last year, the BJP’s voteshare was almost 50%! So, is the communication really failing?
Not to make anyone smug, but here is a fun way to turn this around. What if this cheap, hypocritical opposition, the constant media circus, has actually become an asset for Modi sarkar? Indeed, one could wonder why after six years, there is so little anti-incumbency. In fact, where is anti-incumbency?
Of course there are many reasons for this, but some of it could actually lie in the same media circus that BJP supporters complain about. Consider this, for instance.
Last week, there were at least two days of media bombarding us with supposedly heart rending images of farmers being showered with water cannon. This is exactly the kind of absurd outrage that drives BJP supporters up the wall. Which government in India has not used water cannon? This happens in India literally every week. How did water cannon become a human rights violation?
But on TV screens, the absurdity went on. How can the Indian state use water cannons against its own people?
You can hear the BJP supporters gnashing their teeth. How can the media get away with such nonsense? Why wont the government simply communicate better?
How about this? Perhaps nonsensical criticism like this is actually working in favor of Modi sarkar. People are not fools. Since the day they were born in India, they have heard of government using water cannons to tackle protesters. Just because the media suddenly acts like they are a human rights violation does not mean they can get real people to go along with them.
People see this. They have worked out why the death of a BJP supporter in Bengal gets less coverage than water cannons used on protesters in Delhi.
In other words, media absurdity has started working against the media itself, damaging their own credibility.
The other day, I made essentially the same point about global media outlets and their coverage of the Indian economy. In the last two years, global headlines have trashed the Indian economy in every manner imaginable. And yet if FDI in the last quarter is up 140% year on year, what does it say? If the Rupee stays stable while India’s BRIC peers like Brazil and Russia see their currencies collapse, what does it say? If FDI in 2019 was up 15% when Europe saw a decline and both US and China remained flat at 0%, what does it say?
It suggests that global investors have now worked out the underlying biases. They have stopped taking certain outlets, their talking heads and their headlines seriously. I couldn’t resist sharing with you this headline.
Sigh. Who will tell them?
Now, this recent tweet from the Governor of California might remind you of something.
California has launched a contact tracing app to help in the Covid fight. Why does that sound familiar? Perhaps because the Govt of India rolled out pretty much the same thing several months ago. But they are still going on and on about how Aarogya Setu app is fascist conspiracy to steal all your personal data.
It matters little that the source code for Aarogya Setu is available publicly on github for anyone to inspect. But who will convince the conspiracy theorists? The PIL pushers continue to chase their own tails. And the media is running circles with them.
Among real people, it might well be that this absurd outrage is causing the public to tune out of listening to the opposition. Like bad money drives good money out of circulation, absurd outrage has driven legitimate criticism out of the mind space of people. The absurd rabble rousing over anything and everything has turned into an asset for Modi sarkar.
Let me ask the media. Do they really believe that people have forgotten the glorification of “Kerala model” and the deification of one Shailaja ‘Teacher’? Tell you what : people noticed that the Kerala model has collapsed. As well as the fact that the media chose to shut up about it. This has hit the credibility of ‘liberal’ media, whether they want to admit it or not.
There is a human side to this as well. Your rights in an opposition ruled state today are under greater threat than in a BJP ruled state. If you are suffering in an opposition ruled state, there is nobody in media to speak up for you. I had pointed this out as well in an earlier article.
The common people of Kerala are suffering the most from Coronavirus today. They are paying the real price for the media’s emotional need to worship the Communists.
It’s sort of like the boy who cried wolf. Only more dangerous, because the role of media and opposition in a democracy is that of the sentinel. And guess what happens when people stop taking the sentinel seriously?