Thursday, April 24, 2014

Aditya Nigam: Modi-Fascism and the Rise of the Propaganda Machine

What was once merely ‘bias in reporting’, often conflating news with opinion, has now acquired an altogether new and dangerous dimension. The Big Media is no longer ‘media’ in the sense that we understand it. It is now a full-blown propaganda machine of Modi-fascism. One need only look at the complete black-out of the massive turnout in Benaras at the time of Kejriwal’s filing of his nomination.

The Election Commission has not, to my knowledge, so much as taken note of the full-page advertisements featuring Modi in all newspapers on voting day in Delhi and some other places on 10 May 2014. This when the campaign in any form is supposed to have stopped 48 hours before polling begins. Who paid for the advertisements? What is their total cost?

The Political Culture of Fascism
In an earlier post, I had joined issue with a section of liberal intellectuals, whose ‘liberalism’ was either rendering them too gullible or simply complicit in the formation of the Narendra Modi phenomenon – which I have no hesitation in referring to as the Indian edition of fascism. The gullibility or complicity of many of these intellectuals also manifests itself in the myopia that grips them when the talk about the impending challenge before democratic politics in India – a brief glimpse of which is provided in the quote above, that indicates the alliance, the power bloc that will rule, were Modi to come to power.
The Modi-formation is ‘fascism’, in the sense that it takes direct inspiration from the particular history that goes by that name, especially its Nazi episode and knows that even though it cannot replicate the conditions of its existence in India, it can nevertheless use its cardinal ideas. The exaltation of the Nation/ nation-state, the manic obsession with ‘national security’ to the extent of the destruction of democratic rights, identification and suppression of scapegoats – the Other (the Jew, the Muslim, the homosexual, and all kinds of ‘wayward’ sexualities – often, all rolled into one) and of course, the intellectuals, artistes and human rights activists. A key aspect of this political culture is the combination of violence with mass frenzy that is sought to be continuously whipped up and directed against the imagined enemies of the ‘Nation’.
Developments since then shown that the rise of Modi is, increasingly, by the day, by the hour, unleashing the forces of fascism – witness the Pramod Muthaliks, Praveen Togadias, the Giriraj Singhs, Raj Thakres and the Shiv Sena MLC Ramdas Kadam who assured his audience in Modi’s presence, that Modi would destroy Pakistan within six months of assuming power - not to mention Modi’s very own Amit Shahs. Those in the media who have been trying to tell us that these are aberrations or even that Togadia and Modi fell out with each other long ago, have no clue about how politics works. They certainly have no idea of how a political machine is assembled and how signals are sent out and received within a political field that is already structured in specific ways. They should know that fascism requires ‘stormtroopers’ and ‘blackshirts’; that fascism is the mindset that knows only one way of dealing with dissent and disagreement – violence; that the Togadias and Raj Thakres are the thugs who will rule the streets and public life if Modi is to become prime minister.
It is not simply threats administered to dissenting individuals but the development of a generalized culture of threats and violence that is the hallmark of such politics, and it is not unusual to see different arms of the state itself surrender to that logic. Witness the following where Modi, already assuming he is going to be the next prime minister, administers this threat to the Election Commission:
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Modi has warned the Election Commission saying he will investigate the Commission’s role post-elections to see if the poll has been free and fair. Modi said, ‘I want to tell to the Election Commission and state Election officials that it will be your real test whether you conduct a free and fair poll in Firozabad. I will monitor this, install CCTV cameras and after the election I will set up inquiry. The EC does not have right to be partisan.’
Within a day of this threat follows the appalling arrest of a respected poet and AAP candidate, Balli Singh Cheema, in Nainital:
“A senior police official had stopped Cheema’s vehicle on Sunday and found that the vehicle had two loudspeakers against the permitted norm of one,” SSP Udhamsingh Nagar Ridhim Aggarwal told TOI. When the police official asked Cheema to produce the papers of the vehicle, he failed to do so, she said. 
Cheema was arrested (in a Congress-rules state) for the violation of the code of conduct because he used two mikes instead of one!  This is the generalized breakdown of all norms in politics, where might is right. This generalized breakdown is the effect of the ‘Modi formation’ – a deadly cocktail of naked corporate power, lies, violence and threats of violence, combined with a propaganda machine which we mistakenly call ‘the media’. No arm of the state, including the Election Commission, apparently has any authority left when it comes to disciplining this formation. The Election Commission has not, to my knowledge, so much as taken note of the full-page advertisements featuring Modi in all newspapers on voting day in Delhi and some other places on 10 May 2014. This when the campaign in any form is supposed to have stopped 48 hours before polling begins. Who paid for the advertisements? What is their total cost? Does it get added to the candidate’s or party’s election expenses (on which there is apparently no cap!) Is the BJP (and Modi himself) then not guilty of the violation of the code of conduct? Are the newspapers who have taken the money and put out the ads unaware of what they were doing?
But no, neither will Modi be booked for excessive election expenses and violation of code of conduct nor will his aide Amit Shah be booked for communal speech. On the contrary, it was Yogendra Yadav of AAP, who was booked for ‘paid news’ for distributing his own party’s paper. It was Yadav again, against whom a police complaint was registered (by Modi-devotee Madhu Kishwar) for spreading communal hatred and making inflammatory speeches.
Such is Modi’s insatiable lust for power that he is not satisfied with an EC that is already grovelling at his feet – witness its mild reprimand of Amit Shah. He wants an EC – and by extension all independent state institutions – that will surrender completely before him and his cronies. As an aside, compare this with the toughness with which the EC continues to deal with Azam Khan (who is a crook, without doubt but that is not relevant here). What exactly did Azam Khan say? That the Muslims are nationalists and fought valiantly in the Kargil war against Pakistan. Yes, he went overboard and added that they fought more valiantly than even the Hindus. But seriously, is this a communal statement that bears any comparison to the call for revenge made by the triple murder accused Amit Shah? This is the portent of things to come, if Modi-fascism were to come to power.
Big Media Morphs into Fascist Propaganda Machine
However, this situation has not suddenly arisen out of nowhere. It parallels one of the most significant and frightening developments in the political landscape: the morphing of the Big Media into a fascist propaganda machine. More detailed and systematic studies of this process will soon be available as there are hundreds of people across the length and breadth of India who are closely monitoring the way the electronic media in particular, is indulging in a kind of carpet bombing in Modi’s favour. However, some things are evident even at this stage.
Ever since it became evident that Modi was facing a barrage of criticism about his inability to face tough questions in one-to-one interviews, raised by the AAP campaign in particular but also by us and other observers of the media scene, a whole barrage of fixed interviews was relayed. We had linked videos in our post linked to earlier shows that reveal that apart from the famous Karan Thapar programme in 2007 when Modi walked out mid-way in the interview, he had also avoided questions to the point of being rude with other journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai and Vijay Trivedi of NDTV. These videos have been doing the rounds in Facebook circuits as well. But in order to rescue Modi, the electronic media channels went berserk setting up one fixed interview after another with this would-be prime minister... read more: