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Imbalanced media and the loony Left
May 28, 2004
Part I: What BJP needs: New leaders, better strategies
Having lifted the kimono on the BJP's debacle, the Leftists and the media are beginning to reveal their true colors in the cacophony of the on-going propaganda war. The nautankis really assert themselves here.
The same balanced media personalities who were enthusiastically promising to take down the NDA government in public a few months ago are now giddy. Unfortunately, this unrestrained enthusiasm sometimes makes it difficult to hide extreme stupidity.
Consider reports that urged the delinking of the stock market from politics.
Of course, it is another matter that in every modern economy, the stock market, macro-economics and political realities are closely and intrinsically linked.
Suggestions like 'G N Bajpeyi should initiate a move at SEBI to shut down the markets for a week the next time an election takes place' are also dangerous.
Imagine the message that would send out to the rest of the world markets. It would make India look like a banana republic and the investors would flee in droves.
Some brave souls venture even further in to the abyss of inanity, describing Sonia's singular act of sacrifice as being the true redemption of Hinduism. Makes those factless allegations of a mandate for some distorted form of secularism seem almost intelligent, doesn't it?
Of course, this kind of mindless postulating isn't restricted to the fourth estate -- the Congress after making hazaar hullabaloo about Narendra Modi and promising to prosecute him, promptly made Jagdish Tytler into a minister. A simple google on 'Tytler + Sikh + riots' will reveal ample evidence of Mr Tytler's unflinching leadership in the perpetration of the 1984 riots.
We now have the premier protagonist of the anti-Sikh riots being re-knighted, while at the same time rants of 'Modi must be strung up' fill the air. What a perfectly dumb-ass move. This is called handing the Opposition a stick to beat you with.
But the fun does not end there. Just after we had A B Bardhan of the CPI, the proud king-maker based on the 10 or so seats won by his party, pontificating about the removal of criminal elements from politics, Taslimuddin was brought on as a minister. Taslimuddin, of course, has such impressive claims to fame, as alleged dacoity/rape/extortion and the pride of being kicked out of the previous Deve Gowda government.
Who came up with this particular nomination? As far as we know, the Left, including the CPI, have supported this nomination -- strange, since it was the veteran CPI leader Indrajit Gupta, who many years ago, refused to take charge of the home ministry, until Taslimuddin was removed from office. How times have changed.
Unfortunately, one big farce that was played out this time, was the massive exercise in really shoddy journalism.
From ideological opinions replacing facts and barely hidden appearance of balance from journalists who had openly promised to dethrone the BJP to the deny-deny-deny theory of acceptance of lies -- all the lessons in classic journalistic dishonesty were on display. Of course, this was not limited to Indian journalists, the British were for the most part far worse and often openly racist, but then again, their work ethics are also deficient, so we cannot quite blame them.
A perfect example is the allegation that the stockmarket crash was manipulated by the desh bhakt types -- nudge-nudge, hint-hint, the BJP-Hindu types. There was no evidence presented to backup this claim. Not necessary -- why bother when shoot and scoot works just fine?
Unfortunately, the facts are that after Smith Barney announced they were going bearish on the Indian economy the day after the election results came out, many foreign institutional investors started pulling out. Subsequently, Moodys has downgraded the Indian currency and Merrill Lynch has downgraded Indian stocks due to the election of the new government.
Could all these global financial institutions have been manipulated by local Indian Hindu-fundoos? Certainly not. But blaming the desh-bhakt-BJP-Hindu types makes for much more interesting copy, than facts, so the writer just stayed with subterfuge.
Sometimes, of course, openly lying just works well too. One scribe declares that 'when one looks at the performance of the BJP over their five years in power, one recognises that they achieved nothing.' But CNN, which has a little more of a reputation than this gent, declares, 'Atal Bihari Vajpayee changed the face of the world's largest democracy transforming it into a military and economic power. During his administration, India became a declared nuclear power and emerged as an economic power as well, firmly embracing globalisation and the market.'
Now you decide, which one rings true. Me thinks, the first gent has been drinking too much cool-aid.
Next came Sonia's decision to forgo the PM position. There were basically two view points. One, she made a great sacrifice on her own, and two, extraneous pressures like legal and Presidential hurdles forced her to do so.
The fact is that there is no conclusive or clinching evidence for either opinion. But, for every article that mentioned the possibility of some legal and Presidential hurdles to her acceptance of the PM's position, there were 20 that painted her as a martyr. None, except one by Vir Sanghvi, gave any evidence for this Sonia-is-a-martyr viewpoint -- but simply stated it as fact. Eventually, the deny, deny, deny strategy won out, in spite of some excellent evidence-based articles to the contrary in journals like The Pioneer and others, such as the remarkable one by Ravindra Dani.
Some of this deny-deny strategy was pure subtlety. An excellent example comes from an article in another Delhi daily.
'Ironically, the problem wasn't so much with the United Progressive Alliance partners as it was with Congress aspirants unwilling to emulate Sonia Gandhi. Initially, the reading was that portfolio distribution wouldn't be a problem within the Congress after Sonia's own refusal to be PM. But bad habits die hard.'
The lines in this off-topic news article are written with the assumption of Sonia-is-a-martyr theory. The assumption becomes a fact -- neatly embedded within a news article. Outstanding piece of propaganda -- certainly worth emulating.
Some publications have simply gone irrationally overboard. Consider the recent, intense and almost always factually challenged fulminations in Outlook. We had one guy declare: 'There is some food for thought when the media here in N America, which usually devotes not more than cursory space for the largest democracy in the world.'
Anybody living in the US for the last 18 months or more knows that in the last one year, two or more articles have appeared in mainstream US media almost every day about India -- Indian outsourcing, Indian medical tourism, Indian IT, Indian politics and, of course, on the loss of American jobs. This is not restricted to the print media either -- Fox News, MSNBC and CNN have been doing the same.
But, in this guy's darkly red and deluded world, these kinds of facts would never be allowed to enlighten good ideological near-anarchist propaganda.
Then these editors took this fact-less propaganda war a step further.
They gave Arundhati Roy, noted for her Naxalite sympathies (check out the attendee list at big-time naxalite lovefests) pride of place -- the first part sounded like an anarchist manifesto, replete with not-so-subtle promotion of underground parallel governments within India and attacks against Indian economic icons; the second one attacked Indian nationalism and Indianism; the third one shrieked and called everyone fascists -- from corporate types to politicos.
But given the recent revelations about Times of India in Mid-day, one has to ask the editors at Outlook -- what's behind this propaganda?
In the end, I have to admit, that in some cases the propaganda was extremely slick. Consider this whole thing about Hindu groups opposing Sonia as a PM -- foreign and Indian news columnists have been shrieking about it endlessly. Any poor sod who is just limited to the media for the news would automatically blame the 'racist, small-minded, fascist Hindu nationalists.' Even though most Leftists or women that I spoke to and interviewed were also dead against the idea of her coronation. What gives?
'Aamader Chhara ekta paao egote parbena (they can't move a single step without our support).'
This is how Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya would like to project the Congress-led UPA at the Centre. Unfortunately for the nation, the Leftist-anarchist combo now has the ability to influence all our lives, instead of just West Bengal and Kerala.
Congress leaders openly claimed that 'the chief minister and his Marxist friends are not only trying to build up undue pressure on the Centre by threatening to push unmodified Marxist agenda, they are also bent upon mortifying the Congress leadership as a whole.'
We got a taste of this soon after the results started coming out. On May 13-14, we started hearing threats from leaders of the CPI about doing away with the divestment ministry. There would be no more divestment, so why have the ministry at all?
The danger of having extremist ideologues so near the seat of power quickly became apparent as the stock market took a 300 point plunge, wiping out $20 billion of market value. Not satisfied with wiping out hard-earned Indian corporate growth and people's life savings, immediately after this, these Left-wing extremists declared that there was a massive conspiracy to manipulate the market.
The market panicked on hearing such irresponsible statements from folks who could well be part of the government of the 10th largest economy of the world. The result -- at one point nearly $60 billion of hard-earned national corporate wealth had vanished. Wonder how many lives would have been destroyed, if the market had not reacted positively to Dr Singh's subsequent nomination.
Sucheta Dalal puts the magnitude of this loss in perspective -- No global capital market has witnessed a 25 percent collapse in stock prices in just two trading days. Thanks, in no small measure, to our ideological warriors, who now want to roll-back hard-earned power-reforms, thus propelling India back to the dark ages.
But, this was not the only area of ideological warfare. India's relationship with Israel has been attacked viciously. There are lots of countries that have poor human rights records or have acted like bullies -- Nigeria, the Congolese, Zimbabwe are just some recent examples. But we are not handing out condemnations to Nigeria and Zimbabwe, like we just did to Israel.
The fact that international politics is purely about national interests, even if it means double standards, is lost on these ideologues. Today's India no longer has the luxury of holding foreign policies hostage to arcane principles at the cost of core national interests -- especially when there's no quid pro quo from the people being supported.
On one hand, Israeli radar and equipment is one of the main reasons that Pakistan is finding it very hard to infiltrate people through India's Western borders; Israel was one of the only countries that took arms away from their existing deployments, to rush armaments to India, during Kargil.
On the other, Palestinians have never directly supported us on Kashmir at international fora or openly criticised Pakistan for terrorism against India. So why do we need to be holier than thou? Why do we need to criticise Israel, when the Palestinians do not do the same against Pakistan?
Ah well -- say the 'ideology is more important than the nation' crowd -- 'we need to be more Catholic than the Pope.'
Israel is our strategic friend -- we do not have to agree with our friends on all issues, but we must treat them and keep them as friends. We should pay lip service to the Palestinian cause to maintain some semblance of a relationship with the Arabs, but also make it clear to the Arabs that blind support for Pakistan is not acceptable as a quid pro quo.
But, who'll tell the Leftists about patriotism? They are internationalists, first and last. These extremists suggest dialogue with Pakistan, but never ever mention terrorism against India in any of their missives about Pakistan. Instead, they pout over 'Israel being the only State that sponsors terrorism.' For a country that has lost 100,000 people to organised terrorism from Pakistan over the last two decades -- that definition, which does not include the primary source of terrorism against Indian citizens, is tantamount to sedition.
Unfortunately, for our Leftist extremists, it's always internationalism first, as has been clear since the Quit India Movement and the 1962 war with China.
Part III: An agenda for the new right
Arindam Banerji can be reached at email@example.com