Back in 2009-2011, when Twitter spread fast in India along with mobile data and smartphones availability, the liberal crowd was amused with it. They were actually among the first ones to adopt it, with Shashi Tharoor’s follower count being the talk of the town. He was the most followed Indian politician on Twitter in those days. There were news articles based on accounts he had chosen to follow.
Incidentally, Twitter got a lot of free promotion in the mainstream media, and thus common people became aware of its existence after Tharoor got into a couple of controversies thanks to his tweets. Those controversies almost took his job as the union minister – the first was the ‘cattle class’ controversy arising out of his own tweet in 2009, and then some tweets by former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi in 2010, which hinted at his personal and financial relationship with Sunanda Pushkar, whom he later married.
Though Tharoor had some early troubles, Twitter remained a nice playground for liberals until after the ‘other side’ started using it really effectively. This shift didn’t take too much time actually. By 2011, along with Anna Hazare DP sporting youngsters, Twitter was densely inhabited by the ‘Hindutva types’ too.
The platform democratized the narrative. People who had no chance of getting an article published in a mainstream media outlet earlier could now get a distribution platform that was fast matching the reach of the mainstream media. Not just reach, even impact. It broke all barriers that existed in the mainstream media publishing – of language (primarily of style), of access (you didn’t need to know an editor or hire a PR agency to get an audience), and most importantly, of ideology (you didn’t need to toe the same old liberal line to get published).
Those who couldn’t even get a ‘letter to the editor’ published, were now sending out witty retorts to such editors and building their own readership. The narrative was all set to be inverted because the process of building the narrative was getting inverted. Consequently, the liberals started getting uncomfortable with this inversion.
In August 2012, the then Government of India blocked a bunch of Twitter handles – many were ‘Hindutva types’ among those blocked – it remains one of the earliest attempts to censor Twitter by the government. The UPA government simply bypassed Twitter and asked the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block access to those Twitter accounts. It created a massive furor, but it also had tacit support from some quarters of liberals.
Many of them justified this blocking, saying the accounts were indulged in ‘hate speech’ on communal lines. Founder and Editor of one such liberal outlet ‘Hardnews’ that supported the decision of the Manmohan Singh government to block Twitter accounts of ordinary citizens, is now an office-bearer of Editor’s Guild of India.
While not all among liberals openly supported the government’s decision to block these Twitter handles, many of them, especially the talking heads in the media, started a concerted narrative about ‘trolls’ on Twitter and how that was a real problem that needed solving. They wanted Twitter to provide them ‘safe spaces’ and government to go after such egg-DP ‘criminals’ who had the audacity to say unpleasant things to them.
Neither of those wishes was fulfilled immediately. Twitter was too busy acquiring new users while the UPA government was too busy with new scams. However, to be fair to the UPA government, they did try, by coming up with Section 66A of the IT Act. But it was too brazen and unsophisticated. The wordings of the law gave away that the idea was to have a pro-government thought control rather than ‘pro-liberal’ thought control, which (thought control) is what liberals ultimately aim for.
At that point, liberals believed in sophistication – they didn’t have Swara Bhaskar types as their heroes, basically – so they couldn’t openly dance in support, though many, especially journalists, did try to argue that such laws were needed to control ‘trolling’ on Twitter. It didn’t work, and Twitter continued to democratize narrative where thought control was not easy.
In July 2013, Narendra Modi overtook Shashi Tharoor to become the most followed Indian politician. Most liberals mocked the development and downplayed it, saying stuff like ‘Modi can surely become the Prime Minister of Twitter’. Next year, Modi took oath as the Prime Minister of India. Silence. Sannata. Shock.
Desi liberals woke up from this shock, and thus they became ‘woke’. All of them realized that they need to get control back on tools and platforms that help build the narrative. They were lucky that in 2016, Donald Trump won the Presidential elections in the USA, so the global left too realized this need to control the new technologies and social media platforms.
In the next 4 years, the liberal control on the big tech was complete. Donald Trump was actively suppressed and censored; that he was a loudmouth and reckless too helped that process, but clearly, he was ‘marked for it’, as various leaks since then have revealed how there was active collaboration between the liberal media and the big tech. Currently, he is banished from both Twitter and Facebook.
But that couldn’t do anything to Narendra Modi, who meanwhile won another election in 2019. Or let’s say, the global left was yet to focus all their energies on Narendra Modi. That seems to be changing. The global left felt like a messiah who saved US from Trump. But a messiah just can’t stop after converting the original land. He and his apostles must head to new lands to preach, convert, and civilize.
India is a fertile ground for this conversion. Or let’s say, India is a fertile ground for this conversion too.
The desi liberals in India were anyway a carbon copy of the western liberals. All that they have done is to replace “White” with “Brahmin” in various treatise and feel good about their intellect. No wonder some of the ‘best’ works of liberal filmmakers are remakes of Hollywood hits.
Further, the desi liberals know that their domestic heroes are no longer seen as towering intellectuals who are non-partisan scholars. I mean what else to except with Swara Bhaskar being your hero. Forget her, even someone like Prashant Bhushan is now reduced to a lowly troll on Twitter, who takes a break from inane tweeting to tweet against masks and vaccines in the middle of a raging pandemic.
Modi winning in 2019 again, and getting a higher vote share as well as bagging more seats, is one of the manifestations of the fact that the desi liberals are not able to capture the mind-space of the ordinary Indians, and thus they desperately need a foreign messiah. Indians still value ‘foreign maal’ and ‘white skin’ so this strategy makes sense too. On a side note, I think liberals shouldn’t go too aggressive on fairness creams; till Indians love white skin, their propaganda will find easy takers.
Point is that having a ‘foreign’ aspect is now integral to the liberal narrative since Modi’s 2019 victory. It’s not a coincidence that journalists who were losing clout in domestic circles were suddenly given regular bylines in The New York Times, Washington Post, Time magazine, etc. One poor journalist even got scammed, if her claims are to be believed, thinking she has been appointed an Associate Professor at Harvard University. It doesn’t matter if the byline reads Rana Ayyub or Rabindar Atoot, what matters is the ‘foreign’ part in the publication.
A couple of weeks ago, an article published in The Daily Guardian newspaper that argued how PM Modi was working hard during the coronavirus pandemic, was attacked by liberals. They didn’t attack it for the content, but all of them went on to ‘fact check’ and ‘expose’ that this newspaper was not the same as The Guardian newspaper of the UK – a claim that was never made in the first place. The liberals basically ended up betraying how desperately they want to prove that ‘foreign media’ was only with them, not with Modi. It’s primarily a subset of the colonized mindset, I must add here.
The same mindset was reflected yesterday when these folks yet again appeared desperate to run down an article that was published in Gulf News, a ‘foreign’ media and written by a US-based foreign policy expert Dr. John Hulsman, a ‘foreign’ name, who had some words of praise for the Modi government. Essentially, the desi liberals just can’t let anything dilute or blunt this ‘foreign’ part of their strategy. They are desperate to get a helping hand from their western counterparts, nay, maai-baaps, because now that’s their last hope against Modi.
This hope that a messiah from a foreign land will come and displace the local false god has manifested on many occasions, not just these two that I’ve pointed out above. We had seen the liberal jubilation on various occasions even if a local municipality in some US state or European country passed a resolution against CAA. The same was seen during the ‘farmer protests’, this time even more brazenly, when foreign leaders were asked to intervene. All of these interventions, even when from a former porn star, were cheered and welcomed by the desi liberal and woke crowd.
The crudest form of this hope was when many among these desi liberals and the ‘wokes’ openly wished that China ‘crushed’ India during the Galwan valley face-off. It was yet another manifestation of yearning for a messiah who will come from a foreign land and establish the true order and religion in the failing society.
This need for a foreign messiah is so ubiquitous that they have been cheerleading a white-skinned foreign national named Audrey Truschke to whitewash Aurangzeb’s crimes when so many brown historians have been available for the same service. Essentially, whether to clean old sh*t, or to spread new sh*t, desi liberals now need some essential foreign help because their domestic heroes have been failing.
The love and support expressed by the liberals for Twitter in the wake of the latest stand-off between the Modi government and the microblogging website is a manifestation of the same mindset. A US-based company is seen as an ally in defeating the heathens. It is not about free speech or democracy at all.
Liberals supported such principles when social media platforms came up, but they soon realized that it doesn’t work that way. They have become self-aware; they have come to the conclusion that they don’t have any principles, but only privileges, which they must preserve and protect. Since then, they have turned into ‘wokes’ who argue that ‘free speech is racist’ and ‘free speech is killing us’ (these are real thoughts expressed by modern age liberals) and for whom democracy is flawed if the favorite leader is not winning.
The current stand-off with Twitter (and there will be with other big-tech media companies too) is not at all about electoral politics. It’s not about the BJP IT cell or Congress toolkit. It’s about this mindset. Whether the foreign messiah prevails and heathens are ‘civilized’, we will see.