It is still a long time till 2024 and the lies will continue. But, so will the protests as more and more Indians have gotten over the TINA concern and are willing to stand up and act themselves
(US Capitol violence; Reuters image)
The shameful attack on the US Congress on January 6 confirms that post-truth (= fake news) is often a prelude to fascism. The Nazis, who were recognised masters at this, pushed the canard that Jews were the main actors that wrecked Germany after the First World War. The lie was spread first quietly and then with increasing intensity till the majority of normal, everyday Germans believed it completely. This enabled Hitler to seize control of the country’s imagination leading to the horrors of the Holocaust.
The strategy was clearly articulated by Hitler in Mein Kampf, where he said, “in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods”.
While it is hard to believe that Trump would have read Mein Kampf (or, for that matter, any other book), he was intuitively a master at the big lie. He lied about everything from his business successes to the size of crowds at his rallies to the size of his hands to his great achievements as president. His four years of madness culminated in his biggest lie: that he had actually won the 2020 election and had been cheated out of his victory by a cabal of Democrats and others.
Remarkably to me—but clearly not to students of mass psychology, particularly in this age of social media—around 30% of the American public still believes this lie and that Trump should be president today.
Closer to home, we have our own very sophisticated version of the fascist doctrine. In addition to Hitler’s clear prescription to flood the people with lies, the cult of Modi appears to be modelled on Mussolini—his “melodramatic style of oratory was both pantomimic and liturgical, with exaggerated poses and hand movements and prominent variations in the pitch and tone of his voice. [He] intended his speeches to be faith-inspiring theatrical performances, stating that the crowd does not have to know; it must believe”.
With its hyper-active army of trolls, on-the-ground henchmen and bought out media, the Modi government is singularly focused on painting anyone who disagrees—or, indeed, questions—them (and, of course, Indian Muslims) as anti-Indian and, in their innermost hearts, agents of Pakistan. Rather than running the country, it is almost as if the government has been actively trying to destroy India.
The fact is that after five or six years of terrible economic performance, no doubt exacerbated by the lockdown, the “crowd” no longer believes, as all the lies are tumbling out of the closet. The conflicting stories from the government about the Chinese “attacks”, the duplicity over the PMCares Fund, and the recent discovery that Arnab Goswami was possibly privy to the Balakot strike while it was being planned shows just how far the government is willing to go to try and keep the people in the dark.
And, of course, whenever the chips are down—the upcoming West Bengal election, for instance—the government calls out its anti-Muslim brigade, this time seemingly out of nowhere in Madhya Pradesh to try to keep the focus away from its failures.
The good news is that the chips are down a lot these days. And, with Master Goswami under pressure for apparently trying to fix the TRPs of his channel, it would be a particularly good time for citizens to ramp up the pressure on him by boycotting products from companies that advertise on Republic—Dabur, IDFC Mutual Fund, ebix cash, Pernod-Ricard (that markets Jameson whiskey), Centuryply and others.
Of course, the loudest signal of discontent today is the farmers’ agitation that is inspiring the country. More than the plus/minus on the new laws, people are offended by the government’s approach to policymaking. The wide support for the protests is also related to the fact that Sikhs have always been brothers of all Indians—recall, for instance, the unstinting langar provided by Sikhs during the CAA protests a year ago. It is heartening, and hardly surprising that even non-rural Muslims have joined in to support the farmers in their demands.
And most importantly, it is the women of India who are rising in protest as well, not just as part of the CAA and farmers’ protests but also by running for—and winning—increasing numbers of seats in panchayat and other elections around the country. Women have learned that the PM’s first (and, originally very effective) lie—Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao—is nothing but smoke and mirrors since the BJP thinks nothing of installing horrifyingly misogynistic and backward party leaders as chief ministers of states like UP, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. No sensible person—and certainly not any of the hundreds of millions of young Indian women—buy the laughable idea that the BJP is pro-women.
It is still a long time till 2024 and the lies will continue and, indeed, get more vicious. And so will the protests as more and more Indians have gotten over the TINA concern and are willing to stand up and act themselves.