Skip to main content

Fake news is dirty politics, not journalism: PM used it against Manmohan Singh during Gujarat polls

By Anand K Sahay
Fake news” (FN), much heard about lately, is not news at all and is not part of any form of journalism. Typically, it is a part of the dirty tricks aspect of right-wing politics in many countries, as well as of intelligence outfits. The CIA has practised this dark art with consummate skill across the globe to outflank America’s opponents.
Journalism casts light. It seeks to spread credible information, analysis and views without which we will flounder in today’s complex and rapidly changing world. FN, on the other hand, spreads darkness. Its purpose is to confuse, spread falsehood and manipulate the unsuspecting minds of newspaper readers, television viewers and radio listeners, in order to disrupt the tempo and ethos of democratic politics.
In fact, the word “news” in its name is misleading. It should plainly be called what it is — “false information”.
“False information” is related to the pursuit of retaining power or making a lunge for power in deceitful ways — by designing supposed information in a way that creates the impression of truth, and then inserting it into the mass media stream. An important aspect of FN is to show the ideological and political cohorts patronising it in favourable light.
Both aspects have been on view from the Gujarat days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi — as seen in the fixing of opponents within the BJP-RSS parivar, the clever handling of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom which is politely called the “riots”, or the subject of fake encounter — and have stretching into the present.
In the Gujarat Assembly poll campaign last year, the PM himself practised FN when he publicly accused his predecessor Manmohan Singh, former vice-president Hamid Ansari, and a retired Army Chief, of conspiring with Pakistan to have him defeated. The Donald Trump election campaign for the US presidency practised FN successfully with the aid of a network of far-right and white supremacist interest groups and websites.
Since Hitler, fake news has been shown to be the mainstay of rightist plots to deflect criticism and to discredit and confuse opponents. The genius of Goebbels, the Fuehrer’s minister for propaganda and a vile man, is well known. The recipe he advanced was simply to cook up “facts” and then getting these repeated a hundred times so that people may believe them.
Once that comes to pass, to correct the situation and bring about disbelief in the false information — by now flowing freely in the mass media — becomes an uphill task. In our present day, such dangerous false stuff circulates wildly through the social media, such as WhatsApp, and is virtually impossible to roll back.
It is a pity our television stations do what they can to put a cloak over reality. Typically they catch someone from the Congress (or any Opposition party) and a person each from the RSS as well as the BJP (misleading us into believing they are different things) to be on the same debate panel on FN, but discuss good journalism versus dishonest journalism — failing to point out that fake news is not dishonest journalism but no journalism. It is an altogether different species.
Smriti Irani, the information and broadcasting minister, has expressed her desire to fight fake news. All power to her elbow. But the way she is speaking, it appears she’d go after news and views on the Web, 80 per cent of which is created by established media houses (who follow the rules and procedures of good journalism) or by thorough professionals.
She doesn’t speak of cleaning up the cesspool of the social media. But she could make a refreshing new start by telling us about Shilpi Tewari in the context of the scandal about doctored videos to bring into disrepute JNU student leaders in February-March of 2016, when Ms Irani was I&B minister.
According to a report in an English daily in March 2016 (such news items also appeared elsewhere), Ms Tewari’s Twitter account hosted some of these videos which were uploaded on YouTube. These purported to show that then JNU president Kanhaiya Kumar was “caught shouting anti-national slogans”.
A forensic report commissioned by the Delhi government showed that the videos were manipulated to create a certain effect. Ms Tewari dropped out of sight. The English daily quoted an I&B ministry spokesman to say that Ms Tewari may be “assisting” Ms Irani on a “private basis”, and that she had been offered an official position but had not taken it.
A volume was published last year, which detailed how the BJP produced propaganda on an industrial scale against political opponents and ideological antagonists. Its most prominent target was Rahul Gandhi. The book, written by a participant in the exercise whose conscience began to prick and she defected, speaks of the massive effort that went into making the whole country believe for a long time that Mr Gandhi was a “pappu” — a duffer.
This was sophisticated FN meant to degrade a key opponent before battle is joined, in the spirit of the teachings of Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategist who taught that the enemy should be defeated before it takes the field. The book was practically ignored in the Indian media — no doubt out of fear of the ruling establishment — but was reported at length in the Guardian, a famous British newspaper.
Mr Modi romped home victorious in May 2014. But his campaign for Delhi had begun well before that — with FN. In August 2011 then Congress chief Sonia Gandhi went to the US for a surgery. She was again in America in the first week of September 2012 for treatment. Shortly afterward, the future Prime Minister was already attacking the Congress Party and asking questions of then PM Manmohan Singh. He claimed (without credible basis) that the Government of India had spent Rs 1,880 crores of public money on Mrs Gandhi’s medical treatment, Firstpost.com reported on October 3, 2012.
The basis of the astounding claim was apparently a newspaper report which had relied on a RTI application. It was plain to see that a convenient news item had been “planted” in a shoddy publication so that the BJP leader may later be enabled to allude to it in order to paint his chief opponent as corrupt.
The air was cleared when then chief information commissioner Satyanand Mishra officially replied to a RTI query by one Naveen Kumar from Moradabad that the GoI had not paid for the Congress president’s treatment abroad. In four years as PM, Mr Modi has been unable to substantiate his sensational claim.
In 2012, the present PM sought to use FN to tarnish his Congress adversary. After he became the PM, his party mounted an extensive FN campaign to portray Mr Gandhi as foolish and unfit for politics, and now FN sites are being used to discredit top quality news that’s critical of the Modi government.
At least one of these, "The True Picture", has reportedly been endorsed by 13 of Mr Modi’s ministers. This is a clear sign of desperation at a time when five dalit BJP MPs from Uttar Pradesh have written to the PM complaining of the BJP’s attitude towards dalits. The political space is opening up.
---
This article was first published in The Asian Age

Comments

TRENDING

Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Muslim intellectuals met Bhagwat, extra-constitutional authority 'like Sanjay Gandhi'

By Shamsul Islam*  In a significant development a delegation of five Muslim intellectuals namely former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi; former senior bureaucrat Najeeb Jung; former AMU vice-chancellor and Lt Gen (retd) Zameer U Shah; politician-cum-journalist Shahid Siddiqui (presently with RLD); and businessman Saeed Shervani [Samajvadi Party] met RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat at RSS Delhi headquarters. The meeting was kept secret for reasons known to the participants and was held in August. According to the Muslim intellectuals the meeting held in “a very cordial” atmosphere continued for 75 minutes whereas time allotted was 30 minutes! In a post-meeting justification of the parleys Quraishi stated that their main concern was “the insecurity being increasingly felt by the Muslim community in the wake of recurring incidents of lynching of innocents, calls by Hindutva hotheads for genocide and the marginalisation of the community in almost every sphere”. This delegation consistin

'Massive concern for people': Modi seeking to turn India into global manufacturing hub

By Shankar Sharma*  The news item quoting Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, "Want to turn India into a manufacturing hub: PM Modi at SCO Summit" should be of massive concern to our people. One can only continue to be shocked by such policies, which can be termed as ill-conceived to say the least. Without objectively considering the environmental and social impacts on our communities in the medium to long term, such policies will also result in massive economic impacts because a lack of environmental and social perspective cannot be economically attractive either. In order to become the global manufacturing hub, India will have to meet an enormous demand for energy of various kinds, and in order to meet this much energy demand the economy has to manufacture enormous number of appliances/ gadgets/ machineries (to generate and distribute commercial forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, and renewable energy (RE) sources such as so

Why Bose's India Gate statue suggests RSS, BJP need violence-loving ‘Hindu’ Netaji

By Prem Singh*  In a TV channel debate, a BJP spokesperson and anchor shared and served a lie that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's daughter in her letter to the Prime Minister has alleged that the Congress kept devaluing Netaji to further Gandhi's non-violence; because Netaji had taken the path of liberating the country through violence mode by forming the Azad Hind Fauj (INA). They also praised the Bombay Royal Naval Mutiny of 1946 to confirm that the country got its independence through a violent route. I stated that I have read the letter of Netaji's daughter, and there is no such allegation in it. But a lie told in the intoxication of power is bound to be blatant. Netaji's daughter Anita Bose Pfaff, even in the past, has already requested some earlier prime ministers of the country to bring back the mortal remains of her father from Japan to India. In none of the letters she has spoken about devaluation of her father’s role in the freedom movement on the basis of Gandh

Pesticide companies' lobbying 'seriously impairing' basics of governance, regulation

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi*  The Indian agricultural sector is grappling with low incomes, shortage of natural resources, increasing pest incidence and low public investments in research and extension. Pest attacks are increasing. Previously unknown pests are attacking crops. Farmers, indebted as they are due to various market mechanisms, are finding it hard to protect their crop investments. Thus, farmers are pushed into the conundrum of pesticide usage by pesticide markets and companies. Pesticide usage in India is increasingly becoming a regulatory problem. Regulation has not been effective in the face of such challenges. Scientific expertise on pesticides is often subsumed in the policy tradeoffs that, in the ultimate scenario, encourage production and marketing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Expert Committee reports, which are recommending withdrawal of certain HHPs, are not being acted upon. Lobbying by pesticide companies has seriously impaired the basics of governance an

How Gandhian values have become 'casualty' in India under majoritarian BJP rule

By Sandeep Pandey*  A Muslim youth was beaten recently when he tried to witness the famous garba performance during the Hindu religious nine days festival of Navratri in Gujarat. There was a time when Muslims could easily participate in Garbha events in an atmosphere of cordiality. Bilkis Bano was gang raped in 2002 Gujarat communal violence, her 3 years old daughter, the child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 accused were awarded life term. However, recently a District level committee has decided to release all the culprits. A ruling Bhartiya Janata Party leader has described some of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins, the highest among the Hindu hierarchical caste system. In a communally polarized Gujarat today most Muslims feel offended by the decision of the government and BJP supporters either justify the release of rapists and murderers or just ignore the ignominious decision. Mahatma Gandhi came from the Guj

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Is coal import dependence of more than 50% by 2047 of any relevance to India?

By Shankar Sharma*  I have read the article " Building Resilience in India’s Power Sector " by N Vedachalam, released by the Observer Research Foundation, with a lot of interest. I expected it to provide few useful recommendations to our authorities in charting out a sustainable pathway to green energy transition much before the climate catastrophe push our communities to the precipice. But I am sorry to say that the overall discussions or the message implied in the article disappointed me. I was expecting the article, coming from an engineer with past experience in the power sector, to discuss the much needed recommendations to put the power sector on a sustainable developmental pathway. But I could notice mostly technical jargon and a lot of statistical information, which may already be available in the public domain.   The article also seems to have simply accepted what some of the official agencies seem to have indicated as inevitable for the power sector in our country;

'True decolonisation move': Demand to name new Parliament building after Ambedkar

By Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd*  In recent weeks, there has been a demand for the new Parliament building being constructed on the revamped Central Vista in New Delhi to be named after the architect of the Constitution and anti-caste leader BR Ambedkar. On September 14, the Telangana Assembly passed a resolution urging the Centre to name the new Parliament building after Ambedkar. The Bharatiya Janata Party was absent during the debate about the resolution. The next day, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi-led government declared that the new secretariat in the centre of Hyderabad would be named after Ambedkar. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao added that he would write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to name the new Parliament building in Delhi “Ambedkar Parliament”. The demand is finding resonance among civil society groups too and has led to social media discussions as well as public mobilisation.  But two questions arise: Should a Parliament that makes laws for a nation over a