Big Brother Watching: When Thinking is Crime


From the demonization of an NGO, coming in the way of the rulers' dream of ruthless and corporatized development, to the Kerala arrests, the Indian story reveals not just the state's appetite for propaganda but also intolerance for dissent.
From the demonization of an NGO to the Kerala arrests, the Indian story reveals not just the state’s appetite for propaganda but also intolerance for dissent.

Manipulating loopholes in laws coupled with a co-opted media performs this job of thought control quite ably and the government seems to be losing no time in reducing democracy and free speech to a myth


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he role of the media in service of the powerful elite — the political class or economic (the interests of both intersecting and complimenting each other) – is far from over even as elections are done with and a new government sworn-in. It has only just begun and so has the game of crushing all dissent and controlling the way people think.

Manipulating loopholes in laws coupled with a co-opted media performs this job of manufacturing consent and thought control quite ably indeed and the government seems to be losing no time in reducing democracy and right to dissent or free speech to a myth.

The policy may not be the exclusive domain of the BJP led NDA government. Maharasthra government, off late, has begun cracking down on facebookers and challenged the peoples’ right to not just circulate what may be considered “objectionable” but also like it.

In Kerala, things have gone even more bizarre. With the reported intervention of the BJP and other saffron brigade activists, Kerala police booked a college principal and 11 students under various IPC sections for provocation and defamation. Their crime, Narendra Modi figured in the “Negative List” page of the campus magazine, among several other figures like Adolf Hitler, George Bush and Osama bin Laden. But there is not a whimper in the media about such excessive methods of control.

Instead, the media, especially electronic media, has gone overboard in its vilification campaign against the NGOs, particularly the demonization of Green Peace with the aid of an IB report giving details about the NGO receiving foreign funds to oppose development projects in the country. Green Peace is a reputed worldwide organization persistently working on issues and against projects that are a threat to environment and that allow mighty corporate to usurp the rights of the ordinary people to their land and resources.

The IB report, is said to have plagiarized paragraphs of a Narendra Modi speech, revealing the very fountainhead of this new campaign in which IB, corporate and media are very much obedient partners. It is not the IB report that engages in the vilification campaign as it simply calls Green Peace moves a threat to Gujarat model of development; it is the media that dutifully follows that blares out ‘IB nails Green Peace’, leading to a complete free for all situation in the social media, many pointing fingers at Green Peace and other NGOs. Where is the nailing here? Has the IB found faults with the NGO’s audit accounts? That is not the case.

And if foreign funding itself is a crime, should it be asked why the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, that backed Modi and almost ran its entire election campaign, not be brought under scrutiny. has reported that in 2002, a report titled The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva, put together by a group called The Campaign To Stop Funding Hate, documented how the India Development and Relief Fund, a charity based in the US state of Maryland, was funneling funds to Sangh institutions in India.

It claimed that the IDRF had sent more than $3 million to Sangh institutions in the seven years before the report was published. If NGOs working on human rights, environmental issues, supporting anti-nuclear campaigns have played instrumental roles in shaping policy decisions regarding development, the RSS has played influential role in setting the tone of political discourse and creating social divisiveness. If NGOs can be brought under scrutiny, which they must, though without the package of mis-interpreting lies of the media, so must the RSS. And, so must questions be asked about the money laundering on the very impressive election campaign of Modi that molded public opinion about the man, his party and Sangh Parivar that backed him. Why these two yardsticks?

Chomsky offered the brilliant example of media over-publicizing Soviet Union’s 8 vetoes to the United Nations during the cold war period between 1970 and 1989 and created a euphoria in America, creating a myth that USSR was constantly vetoing every resolution of the UN. The media, however, remained silent to the vetoes by the United States of America which far excelled the USSR record with 56 vetoes during the same period and the American public was blissfully ignorant of the same because of the lies pedaled by the dutiful media.

This model of what Chomsky called ‘Thought Control’ is now been replicated in India, though in many ways the Indian state seems to be surpassing its mentor America. Chomsky, while writing about thought control, concludes that propaganda has become an essential ingredient of modern day democracies, arguing that propaganda would not be required in dictatorships where no lies need to be in circulation to fool the masses as they can simply be subjugated by force.

Looking at the recent cases of propaganda, perpetuating myths and taking action, one can find that lines between the needs of the state in a democracy and in a dictatorship are obliterating. From the demonisation of an NGO, coming in the way of the rulers’ dream of ruthless and corporatized development, to the Kerala incident of arrests, the Indian story reveals not just the state’s appetite for propaganda but also intolerance for dissent.

These are dangerous precedents, revealing the beginning of times where dissenting views would not only come under criticism but will also become unlawful, making individuals lose the right of having their own views or liking and disliking somebody. This goes far beyond the American ‘Thought Control’ model. Thought, itself is a crime here. More like Orwell’s 1984.

All opinions and views expressed in columns and blogs are those of individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Caravan

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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