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1

I tend to have very strong opinions, so my contempt for the increasing "stupidification" of India is hardly a secret. This is a cause for alarm, because it is indeed contagious. Political views, gender, caste, class, religion are not barriers to this epidemic. The reason for it is the natural human tendency to reply in the manner in which we are spoken to. I have brought this up before. If I say apple, you may say "oranges, pie, tree, cold weather, computer...." but you are unlikely to say, say for example, "spoon" - our mind tends to reply in a manner that is relevant to what it is that we are replying.

This is a problem when there is an overall process of radicalization, because those conditioned to thinking in a polarized mannerh will have a tendency to bring all conversation to their programmed triggers. The trap is already set. There are few responses that can be made at that level that won't derail you from the subject you wish to talk about. As a consequence, this conditioning spreads also to those who oppose it through sheer Pavlovian repetition. So a person questioning a liberal perspective may be a bhakt, a person questioning a feminist perspective may be a misogynist, and so on. The fundamental tendency proliferates on its own through sheer engagement with it. Whether in agreement or disagreement does not matter, as long as the nature of interaction is polarized.

It creates an unconscious conditioning of disagreement being seen as hostility or outright evil. Among both desiring to exclude or target specific identities or those wishing to exclude or target those who exclude or target specific identities. This is where we are today. This is why it is so difficult to prevent the increasing irrationality. Because those opposing the irrational views themselves get sucked into the whirlpool to the bottom of the IQ scale.

It is human nature to recognize our own view as the sane one and see the irrationality outside us.

However, if we examine the interactions we have, for quality, as opposed to morality, the problem is clear. We have gazed too long into the abyss and the abyss also gazes into us.

This, in my view is the real danger to the society, the country and the world. A departure from rational thought in the public space is a very alarming situation. The stupidification is a bigger threat to India long term than the violence and it has grown far more than either side of the polarization is able to recognize.

Fear is seductive. Our survival instincts condition us to pay attention to threats in order to survive. Hence, negativity - real or imagined - will always draw attention more easily than well being (there is nothing that needs urgent attention).

In my view, the bigger urgency today is to understand how we get sucked into talking about things we don't wish to through sheer Pavlovian conditioning. We need to develop skills to engage in rational debate and refuse to engage in irrational triggers derailing conversation to programmed tirades on political stands. The immediate danger may be violent mobs, but the larger long term concern is what caused so many people to think that such a stupid choice is a bright idea.

This is the result of fear. The fear that is used as a quick fix to compensate with paranoia what the agenda lacks in quality. We are surrounded by a culture of fear. Majorities are led to believe that minorities are somehow going to subjugate them. People who wouldn't quit smoking over health issues in the next decade would happily celebrate the murders of hundreds or thousands to "protect" themselves from that unlikely threat. The chances of dying in a road accident are higher, but they feel no fear about being in a vehicle. The point I am making here is anxiety is carefully built about specific subjects to turn them into threats for political profit. This is how Muslims being less than a fifth of the population and yet disproportionately underrepresented in jobs, education, housing and over represented in disadvantageous statistics like death tolls in communal crimes or being killed in state violence or being imprisoned without trial and so on, still results in a perception of Muslims as a threat.

It is like asking someone whether they have a pimple forming on their nose. They will touch their nose and examine the smallest hint of a bump and see it as proof that a problem pimple is indeed growing. It is how a stage magician may move his hand in a flourish while saying something in a dramatic manner, while the other hand palms a coin or scribbles a message for the audience to "discover" in full sight of the audience - and yet invisible. Because attention is focused elsewhere. People trying to figure out how the trick was done will continue to imagine that there was something about the flourish and want to examine sleeves and such, but fail to notice the other hand in full view doing the tricky part on the table. If you see enough TV programmes discussing the risk Muslims are to the country, you don't stop to ask why there is a need to discuss Muslims specifically. The unconscious conditioning to see them as a problem that needs to be resolved is already established through what is called a "false dilemma" or "false dichotomy", where you are presented with two choices as the only ones possible, making several illogical assumptions in the process.

If you were to see TV talk shows discussing daily whether apples were healthy at all, regardless of the discussions or conclusions, the fact that there was a need to evaluate the safety profile of apples specifically at all on a daily basis would have you avoiding apples and eating bananas or some other fruit to play it safe. In reality, there is no particular reason to discuss apples with such exceptional intensity. There is nothing wrong with discussing apples either. But the disproportionate attention given to evaluating their safety will make them appear to be unsafe even if discussion after discussion daily affirms after much debate that they are safe - because that affirmation is no conclusion, a new discussion will be required tomorrow - it is not safe. It is an ongoing threat. Better eat the orange. Now, if I sold bananas and wanted more people to switch from apples to bananas... would I have a reason to trigger such paranoia among those I want to manipulate?

This is an important part of propaganda - the delegitimizing of the targeted population. The questioning of every aspect of their existence and needing it to be proved harmless, while the rest of the population is very much similar but bears no scrutiny gives out its own message. The issue is not what these debates conclude. The fact that you devote 80% of TV debates to less than 20% of the population itself is its own signal to the population - here is something that needs you to be alert. The examination of every aspect of a part of the population as though they were aliens also serves another purpose - dehumanization.

Humans inherently are social animals and do not aspire to see themselves as vicious killers or attackers or those depriving others of basic human dignity. Mere differences cannot make a person be okay with inhumanity. For that, the target needs to be dehumanized. It has to be rendered to something less than human. A threat. Something so alien that it feels less pain than us, is more violent than us, is less deserving of compassion than us. This is where impunity for genocides is manufactured. We are in this cold blooded process. And we have no way to elevate the conversation. Partly because these conversations are carefully engineered to avoid targets being seen as humans, but also because those countering have no skills to set their own level of conversation and respond on the same level. Whether you don't talk to me or I don't talk to you, if the end result is a chasm, the objective is achieved.

This manipulated and deliberately propagated insanity is also the reason why there is an increase in violence - both physical and verbal. Violence is the last refuge of the illogical. When a person runs out of words to express their stand, they escalate to violence. As long as there is scope for presenting more and more of their perspective with words, there is no need for violence. But because the propaganda is inherently illogical, a person who believes it has no way of explaining it to one who doesn't, unless they make considerable effort to come up with enough logical fallacies themselves as well. Questioning then becomes a threat, because they are convinced of the threat to them from their targets and any questioning that could undermine it also becomes a threat.

To avoid increasing violence and hostility, we desperately need more clever and well planned conversations. We need the public to develop skills in assessing where their interests lie and when they are being manipulated toward prefering or avoiding something for reasons that are completely irrelevant to them and will likely harm them.

Long term, I think Darwin nailed it. The stupidification itself will erode the mental faculties of those depending on propaganda and with time give increasing advantage to those able to think through it. In the meanwhile, I suppose they will also have to learn how to survive till that point.

3

While people question govts in a democracy, in India the govt questions anyone questioning unaccountable govt actions. And supporters think that while India was a democracy under UPA, under Modi it has become some kind of Hindu Empire and questioning the king means "off with their heads" sort of thing. For some reason, Ritesh Dwivedy confused private individuals, not elected to public positions nor employed by public funds, as those accountable to him for their personal views and actions. And then sulked and asked again when no one thought him important enough to consider seriously. Entertaining as it is, he clearly seems to be disoriented as to who his rights as a citizen entitle him to answers from, so trying to help him find his way in the muddle this alleged democracy is becoming.

Clarifying some problems he appears to be facing. All quotes from one or the other article linked above unless explicitly mentioned.

Aadhaar is a unique indigenous innovation that empowers every Indian by providing them with a secure and verifiable identity.

This statement is completely unsubstantiated and likely at the root of all the confusion. He has been informed a lot of glorious things about Aadhaar. They are not necessarily true. Verification is an important skill in today's times when the government routinely lies to people in order to get them to believe, like Ritesh Dwivedy, whatever they wish people to believe.

Aadhaar is going to be the backbone of India becoming a developed country, and is receiving global acclaim from entities like Bill Gates, The Economist, the World Bank, Raoul Pal, and others.

These guys? Why wouldn't foreign power cartels appreciate the tool that hands them power over India on a platter? Big data is big power and leaky big data is big control without accountability for opportunists. Who needs terrorists when you have hackers and crucial data of the entire country is in a form the government has little ability to secure? Is this government supposed to serve their interests or those of citizens? Of course the other two pillars of this servitude by this government are demonetisation and promotion of cashless transactions in a country they forgot to get fully on the internet first. That is how dumb this government is. If such a database were empowerment, why is it being forced on third world countries?

One whiff of WannaCry and RBI has all ATMs shut down. On the other hand, it is the country with all these people praising us (without US doing it themselves) created the ransomware originally. To get a better perspective, they have actually done an attack on a nuclear facility in Iran with Stuxnet. Our idea of security is "don't enter random numbers for Aadhaar or we will consider it hacking" - a freaking bank did a replay attack on the Aadhaar database while "testing" their setup and neither are replay attacks prevented after that, nor the known "violators" refused access to Aadhaar - we are fucking out of our league on competence. It is like praising a 5 year old for writing all his secrets in his "private" diary in its hiding place behind the park bench. Except the 5 year old is writing down the security codes for getting into their home. Oh wait Indian homes don't have security alarms and such. Oops sorry.

Think of it like this. If Aadhaar is this easy to misuse, it will be misused and it is being misused and so far people have just got away with it while those who exposed flaws got arrested.

How many more years do you want India to remain a ‘developing’ nation?

Forever. I hope India never stops developing. How many years do you want India to be a banana republic wannabe pleasing foreign powers at the cost of citizens?

Why are you silent on all the benefits we are seeing as a result of Aadhaar?

For the same reason I'd be silent if my 5 year old came home happily telling me about her new best friend. A grown man acting in a shady manner, whom she thinks is absolutely fantastic. There are problems that are visible to one with experience on the subject. Just because all my daughter knows about the nice man in the park is that he gives candy doesn't mean it is a good thing.

Waise, why are you silent on the countless problemswe are seeing as a result of Aadhaar?

Why are you misleading the Indian public about Aadhaar through fear-mongering and sensationalism?

Why are you misleading the Indian public about Aadhaar through false assurances and "bagon mein bahar hai"?

Why are you willing to give biometrics to foreign govts and corporations, but not to your own govt?

Because our government is proved to be incompetent with data security. There isn't a single other biometric database that can be queried for identity by any Tom, Dick and Harry - because it is an idiot idea to begin with, with too high error rates to be efficient at what it claims to do and too poor security to protect citizens from the risks such a database presents. Nor is anyone in this circus apparently interested or aware that citizens have rights in a democracy and you can't just say "Idea, let me make the whole country do whatever I wish AND foot the economic and security costs of my whims without question". BJP was right on Aadhaar when UPA was in power. Today BJP has sold the country out a hundred times more than UPA even planned (though no guarantees, it is the same creeps even now. Only the sarkari gullibles have changed) Incidentally, I haven't given my biometrics to foreign governments and corporations, and most Indians have not.  Also foreign governments and companies have limited use of my biometrics, unlike the Aadhaar, which is being forcibly attached to absolutely every important transaction a person can do from hospitalizations to bank accounts, property to crop insurance. Misuse or denial has the power to literally finish the ability of a person to access own funds, communicate, live in own home or even survive if medical needs. No foreign government has been stupid enough to enslave own or other citizens this badly. Yet.

Tell you what, you do some homework and hardwork and expose some of that data you are comparing Aadhaar to, then we will have some grounds for an actual comparison, yes? Good part is, those guys won't even arrest you, you'll actually earn bug bounties. So not even risky like fighting Aadhaar under a totalitarian state.

Why are you opposed to using technology to benefit the nation?

Next you will say any and all technology is benefit only. Like the govt spamming me daily is benefit to the country, etc. Technology isn't inherently good or bad. I am opposed to insecure technology being used to generate big data for power cartels at the cost of citizens. Benefiting the government and benefiting the nation are not necessarily the same thing. Just like dissent is a right and opposing the government is not anti-national. A government is a temporary entity that changes every five years. My nationality doesn't change every five years. Get your civics right and a lot of these government peddling issues will get sorted.

Why speak half-truths and ignore the lakhs of people who are getting benefits for the first time because of Aadhaar?

Next you will say babies are being conceived because of Aadhaar only. In a country this size, people are constantly becoming eligible for something or the other. It isn't because of Aadhaar. Aadhaar makes you eligible for zero benefits. It is simply the dog in the manger inserted by the government that PREVENTS otherwise eligible people from getting benefits because the government chooses to deprive them unless they surrender their privacy for it. Think about it. It is actually an imposed indignity. I will forcibly take your fingerprints if you want the pension you spent your entire career working towards. This is helplessness. Not benefit.

Cleaning up the PDS system - for example - requires cleaning up the PDS system. It doesn't take fingerprints to know whether someone is eligible for PDS. But authentication issues sure have deprived loads of people whom you are ignoring while pointing fingers in an increasingly crazed manner.

And this is me talking because you irritated enough people that they pesterd me to reply, but the information is from the government. Most people who got Aadhaar already had documents to provide proof of address and identity for it.

 

And so on. Not bothering to read or reply further. Because personal attacks are not arguments and this is plenty to entertain those who wanted to see you get a reply. Just because you make an assumption doesn't mean it is true. Nor are you relevant enough to the larger picture to take seriously.

Return with data, technical arguments, fact based information that isn't just "But why don't you ignore all the ghastly stuff and just meditate on all the pretty?" or consider this post the answer for anything you write on the subject till eternity.

1

A guest post by Hari Prasad on the propaganda prevailing in India, the nature of it and the implications it has for the country and its ability to understand its government.

India. It was May, 26th 2014. There was a coronation in front of an historic building to an undisputed emperor of the purportedly new dawn, the king of good days (not times). There was hope, expectation, (misplaced) rejuvenation among many and there was anxiety, curiosity, worry and suspense among another lot. What one thinks and feels (or felt of thought) is not relevant when it comes to judge what has happened since.

There have been seemingly unconnected statements made by various ‘fringes’ – a term which is mostly an excuse by the present ruling dispensation in India and its larger family the RSS. It is important to see why these statements and certain actions are to be seen in cohesion and not as so called ‘isolated’ anomalies.

But how are things handled these days in India? How is criticism taken these days in India? How is opposite point of view is viewed in India? All of these not by Indians but by the present ruling dispensation and its cohorts in India.

I have kept the prose very rudimentary, less grammatical and only in hints or examples (not explanations) and there is a reason to it.

Ad hominem:

You place an argument and instead of responding to that argument, we are called names. I will let you assume what those names have been and how many people have been victims of those. To electoral opponents in Delhi to an economist.

Ad nauseum:

How many times have we heard a single or very limited ideas being repeated – like ‘Love jihad’ or ‘us vs them’ or ‘appeasement of past’?

Appeal to authority:

How many seemingly unconnected and extremely opposite national icons have been appropriated by this group? Bhagat Singh was a completely left. Ambedkar called Hinduism “a veritable chamber of horrors.” Netaji had nothing to do with RSS. Patel was opposed to RSS. Yet, and that’s where the beauty lies, they are being appropriated.

Appeal to Prejudice:

How many loaded and emotive election campaigns have we seen during 2014 and two years after that? Whether it is 15lakh per person to Muslim across the border in Assam to crackers across the border in Bihar, to the latest Kairana, we have come a long way in just appealing to only emotions.

Big Lie:

The big lie was economy was absolutely down. Nothing moved. Policy paralysis. Based on the new series (or magic series, if you are one of the critics), in fact the economy didn’t do as bad in numbers published by the finance ministry in final years of UPA. But in meetings after meetings, in interviews after interviews we heard the word “revival” used sparingly and without any inherent meaning. There was no concrete proof provided on what that word meant. There was neither concrete proof provided for the word “in shambles.”

And oh, the global economy was blamed. And what did the world see after 2008? A high growth and high demand period? (more on specifics in another post)

Black and white fallacy:

Sometime back, I wrote on ‘is and the ought.’ Apart from those, we have been provided with few false choices during these two years. A shining example – “have four kids or else…”

Cherry Picking:

Savarkar sympathizers quoting Gandhi, to their own convenience. The irony died multiple times in the past two years.

Classical Conditioning:

If you are against this government or its policies, you are termed you know what by you know who. What happened and is happening to the NGOs and the activists in Chatisgarh is beyond comprehension.

Common Man:

Remember the photo ops – worshipping parliament, crying in central hall, posing with broom. These appeal to the common folks, just like you and me. And by the way what is wrong with it? Nothing, if they are true and honest and we know now those are not. When you work actively to topple elected government, your empty symbolism is sheer waste.

Cult personality:

My favourite. There is nothing wrong in personality but everything wrong with Cult personality. Name a person in India who has used mass (and social) media to have cultivated idealized, heroic and worshipful image? The never-wrong image fuels the followers and in turn feeds the person as well.

Demonizing the enemy:

Remember the Hitler and Akbar comparison by a dimwit? Libtards sounding bastards to refer liberals. Presstitute sounding prostitute or press? These are sub-human and at once demonizes all opponents.

Dictat:

Indian Prime Ministership is supposed to be first among equals. There has never been a PM apart from Nehru who personified this. However, there was nothing called as Dictat from the last PM. But now, there are Diktats – Yoga Day on Ramzan, Good Governance day on Christmas etc. With short term memory, we forget the burqa diktat in one Jaipur rally of BJP and yea, asking colleges to send pupils to its Mhow rally.

Disinformation:

Dadri. JNU and Hyderabad University. Created false records, forged video to convince us of some untruth. This also has extended to conceal truths by censorship. Udta Punjab is a case in point and not the end of it. Kerala – somlia comment. Amit Shah showing a Sri Lanka kid’s pic with the words “God’s own curse”

Euphoria:

Circa 2014. Need say more? Or all the NRI meets.

Exaggeration:

Modi lied about paying off Gujarat’s debt before and he lied about 15 lakh per person on black money. And I am waiting and so are crores. These are all classic case of exaggeration which are allowed only to poets and if politicians use this licence they have one word for it – LIARS!

Fear, uncertainty and doubt:

With demonization and name calling, few sections of society are left in fear. They have to prove everytime that they are innocent and the starting point of any debate is under the assumption that they are guilty.

Flag-waving:

After 6 decades of independence we are left with a debate on nationalism and patriotism. Now, we are expected to prove our patriotism first when we debate the idiots and foxes in power. To provoke nationalism is one thing, it can harness good in a society but the flag waving group is certainly not doing for it.

Guilt by association:

You are associated with congress, yes you are guilty and anti-national. Well, when they cross the river and come over to BJP, their sins are cleansed by Ganga jal and are reborn. Assam to Uttarakhand to Arunachal we have seen it all.

Half truth:

“Despite being Muslim….” That’s how a minister referred to Late APJ Abdul Kalam. He was a Muslim, yes, no denying that but ‘despite’?

Intentional Vagueness:

This government is a master in not disclosing facts and trumpeting on motherhood statements. Take for example BJP-PDP alliance. Or for example the Naga accord. What are the specifics? What have we conceded or accepted to? Bharat Mata is worshipped but “afforestation commitment” and “Forests Rights Act” certificate have been removed for miners!

Labelling:

Aadarsh Liberals. Libtards. Sicklar. Presstitutes. Barmaid.

These are easy, simple, deceptive, meaning less but enchants the crowd. (Bhakt is a praise and cannot be called as pejorative.)

Managing the news:

As Arun Shourie said, this government is managing the news and not the economy. What we are given now are recurrent themes – “under threat,” “love jihad,” “illegal migration,” “fastest growing” and acronyms and abbreviations for endless recycled policies and schemes. But actions on those? Never mind.

Minimization:

Dadri. It was not a cow. No, wait. It was a cow. So killing is justified. An unjustifiable position is justified. Go online and see comments and feedback on Godhra and the answer is glaring.

Name calling:

Should it be elaborated? How many facts based arguments have we seen in the past two years? Every issue is twisted to make it emotionally suitable to a point of view, to an agenda, to a predisposed conclusion. Oh! And don’t forget a former general calling some Dog. Behold, Sickulars!

Oversimplification:

Pakistan, China and the like. We have seen and heard solutions to all. We have seen and heard the past government being (rightly) criticized for handling these issues and were offered “56 inch.” But what have we seen? ISI has visited our Air Base, China came in last week, Nepal screwed and no, we love Africans (but only one of our CMs has a reservation about Nigerians). Results? A big big zero.

Rationalization:

How many reasons have we been offered for completely indefensible acts?

Scapegoating:

Oh yea. Blame it on Nehru. Blame it on Congress. Blame it on Mughal Rule (note: not on British Rule). But I am incapable to providing solutions or answers. All I can do is blame the past. And no, don’t question me on my work. Because, I am a patriot.

Also, keeping a one arm distance, the ‘fringes’ are offered as scapegoats whereas they are perfectly in line with the mind-set and ideology of the ruling dispensation.

Stereotyping:

NGOs are foreign national plant. Christians are converting beasts. Most of the supporters actually believe this garbage. And no, I need not say anything about their thoughts on Muslims. A quick stroll through whom the PM ‘follows’ in Twitter will give a glimpse of the stereotyping.

Testimonial:

In March, 2016, BJP tweeted a purported quote of Mahatma Gandhi praising Savarkar. However, when I tried searching a lot, I couldn’t find a quote.

Third Party technique:

Another testimonial came in the form of WikiLeaks which praised Modi as corruption free. Remember? That was also a lie. An organization which is respected and hated worldwide was quoted without any authentication or permission and self-glorified itself.

Unstated Assumption:

One follower, a famous one at that said “When pest control is done at homes, cockroaches, insects etc come out. The house gets cleaned up.” What is the implication? Eradication of all who are opposing this government of us? Or even if they oppose what is the written law, so what? The unstated assumption here is that like Hitler used vermin, he had used it and threatened whoever is opposed to whatever this government thinks it as right. So did he propose a ‘final solution’ to the problem?

Virtue words:

Truth alone triumphs

The world is one single family

Non-violence is the topmost Dharma

Let good thoughts come from everywhere

All spiritual paths are treated equally

“Sahana bavathu… let there be no hostility”

These were pre-2014 words of Modi’s Idea of India.

As recently as last week, we have seen the double message – Vikas from PM and Kairana from the planner.

So why are all these necessary? What are these random phrases? These are phrases which define any propaganda machinery. Their methods, techniques and their ways. Its hard to see things in isolation but when you connect the dots, you have it all.

Without knowing and without being obvious, what we are seeing and living with is a propaganda machinery at work. We can’t search for a plan, a blueprint. What we are left with are actions on ground, inferences glaring at our face, wanting to take note and stand up and raise our voice.

Why was the prose kept very simple? Because someone in the past said that propaganda must be kept simple.

What is Propaganda?

The dictionary describes it as “information, especially of biased nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”

What will this trend lead to?

People who have the power also have the responsibility to do. In our case, we have the power to resist such schemes, manipulations and twisting of facts. If we stand and watch silently, if we think that this has not happened to me so it will never happen to me, I leave you with these wise words of Niemoller.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Dissent, debate and disagreement are cornerstones of a vibrant democracy. By using the techniques of propaganda, the ruling party and its affiliated ‘parivar’ are undermining it. Brick by brick, the edifice of our democracy is being eroded in front of our eyes and we are remaining mute spectators.

If we think, this will not happen to India, just because this is India, we are either living in fools’ paradise or utterly stupid.

Wake up, its propaganda!

Originally published here

5

This post is the second in a series that discusses democracy and the idea of a shared country from the ground up. The previous post asked why, when the basis of civilization was a need to co-exist with some guaranteed security, the masses chose to believe in paranoia. I attempt to present some views here.

The masses at large are preoccupied with what they come in direct contact with. Few have the inclination or interest to examine what doesn't *appear* to be broken. When thoughts delegitimizing the rights of fellow citizens proliferate, there is little realization that this is something that goes fundamentally against the secure social structure they take for granted as a country.

Nationalism prefers to disenfranchise minorities and appropriate the country in the name of the majority. Secularism believes that regardless of identity, citizens must be equal under law, AND vulnerable minorities MUST be protected - because it is human nature for the majority to choose bullying as an easy way out instead of sharing.

This is not something that is limited to India. The internet and the speed of disseminating information as well as doing it in ways that allow deniability have resulted in a surge of nationalism worldwide that those believing in equality struggle to counter. There are several reasons for this. In a world where established thought respected equality, and growing globalization subtly created an attitude of opportunism being the right of those with access, a subtle erosion of morals toward "might being right" went unnoticed. Furthermore, I don't think enough "thinkers" anticipated that the unthinking masses would simply choose faulty thinking that they could superficially understand over the words of established thinkers and philosophers over the ages. The last straw was the methods.

Whichever country sees a rise of nationalism sees a barrage of incorrect and inflammatory information finding purchase among the masses. This information is not an accident, it is engineered to make people who believe it think that the minority is the threat to the majority. It further provides explanations and conspiracy theories to excuse the crimes perpetrated against the minority and invents or magnifies any wrongs by the minority. And thus, defense indeed becomes the first act in this war. Absurd as it seems, the majority is actually led to believe that the minority is out to make them extinct.

When such thought spreads, you find countries unable to prosecute crimes against the minority because of fear of backlash by a majority that believes them to be justified, resulting in a collapse of law and order. This impunity, of course is exactly what nationalist leaders want, because their entire agenda is impossible to implement in lawful ways in a democratic country.

Fake news is being recognized as a threat to rule of law worldwide now.

But this is the result. How is it that xenophobia spreads to such a degree? Why is it that fake news spreads more rapidly than real news? Well, apart from the obvious reason that fact checking takes time and effort (there are now attempts to make fact checking more easy in an effort to combat fake news) and apart from the obvious reason that fake news is crafted to sound believable - at least to those already primed with a steady barrage of it - there is the fact, that those spreading fake news are operating out of a sense of carrying out a mission for a cause.

I once observed that the approximate time difference between a Modi supporter coming up with an explanation that other supporters like for something indefensible (at this time you will have multiple excuses being made) and it being used popularly as the explanation by the vast majority of supporters is 2 hours for a simple argument, 4-5 hours for something more complex and about half a day if the propaganda involves images.

Compare this with secular intellectuals almost never having the same rebuttal for something, a far fewer number of them, each using their own words, and it is easy to see how one kind of answer has the capacity to rapidly dominate a debate, while the other fails.

This is largely because while nationalists are engaging in a propaganda war for their identity, secular intellectuals are engaging in what they imagine is a debate, where they are presenting their own view.

So the observable difference in spread of nationalist and secular views is also a difference that can be directly measured as one between active promotion of views and expressing an opinion.

To dig in still deeper. If you take a single message that needs to be put out among people to support or defend something, if released among nationalists, it will be forwarded without question and accepted as the correct explanation of events. There is a lot of schadenfreude among secularists when someone like @bhak_sala (a pro-Modi Twitter handle) gets trolled by other bhakts (unquestioning Modi supporters) when he outright dislikes the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. What they miss in their "LOL"-fest is how rare such an incident is. While a party like Congress accepts criticism for the most part (not that they have much choice these days) or supporters in a party like AAP form entire sub-movements in revolt against the actions of their leader, or while socialists and communists literally have so many differences as to almost hold independent views only, a voice of dissent in the BJP is so rare that it is a one off episode and literally involving one person in this instance. It stands out because in spite of BJP being able to generate the largest organized propaganda - and some of it absurdly illogical or inhuman - dissent is almost next to non-existent. This is a hive mind at work. These people aren't there to think for themselves, they are there to win a country for their team.

If a similar message were released among secular intellectuals, unless it is exceptionally well crafted so as to have agreement among those with the various flavors of secular thought, chances are that it will be read by several, further promoted by a few, and commented on with critiques or refinements by most. The slightest disagreement with the arugment or dislike for the author would mean the message goes no further with that person. In effect, there is no "team" spreading secular thought. And it is difficult for such a team to exist as well, because it is difficult for independent thinkers to come up with identical thoughts. And this is still the spread of a message among those already in agreement with secular thought. The impact and credibility of this is further diluted among the masses if concepts people aren't familiar with it are used. Relatively speaking, "jobs are few, get rid of reservations and we'll have more" is easy to understand when compared with "2-3% caste-class elites already have over 50% jobs and much more in private sectors" - particularly if the 2-3% elites have never had any reason to question why the whole country should run as per their preferences.

So, it is absurd when bewildered secular intellectuals today ask how the country could deteriorate to this degree. Well, your thoughts were not accessible to the masses, the thoughts that were not just accessible, but actively promoted among the masses were simple to understand and made prejudice sound the need of the hour, and you never bothered to organize to elevate the thinking of the masses beyond presenting your refined thoughts.

It is no coincidence that when thoughts of hate proliferate, there is absolutely no concerted campaign going on explaining the basics of democracy. What is a democracy, what are our rights? What is a government? What does the accountability of a government to people mean? and so on.

It isn't difficult to put these things in simple words anyone can understand. In fact, you could probably plagiarize a textbook non-voter kids study (quickly, before it changes) and voters have left far behind to recirculate the basics. There are ways to explain life affirming concepts through various mediums in ways anyone could understand. But it is a matter of doing it. It is not enough to call nationalism, fascism a primitive thought that cannot result in a stable country - the need of the hour is to explain why that is so. In simple words people understand. No government is going to pay for this education. Personal liberty means that we cannot have forced conscription of liberals to educate the masses either. So who will do it? And is it important enough for you to take it up voluntarily?

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Where is the secular and liberal voice of India being lost? Why is India increasingly being toward paranoid insecurity over coexistence?

This trip to Delhi is turning out to be interesting. For that matter this whole past week has been interesting. The has been yet another flutter of panic in our oh so refined conscience about the appalling rise of BJP.

These moments come and go, I have seen. They are quite entertaining for the opportunity to make sarcastic tweets at something ugly. In terms of utility, they are pretty much meaningless, even counterproductive. Impotent outage by opponents is the true mark of victory to a cult of power.

Yeah, so a thug has found recognition. Or rather what is perceived as a new level of thug. So?

People are agitated. BJP has fooled the masses with fake news, polarising rumours and likely EVM rigging.

And this is news because...?

Can anyone honestly say that the BJP has done anything differently? All this was known. There were no indications that winning tactics would be dropped over some sudden discovery of ethics. So what is the new outrage?

Part of it is that we are unsettled by this rise. Mirza Waheed remarked on twitter "@Vidyut  Three years is all it's taken. It's chilling what how much the far right has achieved."

While i think it has been much longer than three years, what I said spontaneously then is my belief.


And yet it is not so simple. If, as Arundhati Roy famously put it, the middle and upper classes have seceded to the stratosphere, it is also true that the intellectuals have seceded to an intellectual stratosphere. Sadly, the financial stratosphere pays the bills, while the intellectual stratosphere can only form clubs of like minded people.

And of course, the vast majority of people has access to neither stratosphere.

The challenge for the intellectual elite today, is to learn to implement the egalitarianism they allegedly believe in.

How is it that they apparently have views that are empowering and progressive and yet primitive propaganda succeeds in pitting citizens against each other in what amounts to a tribal war conducted with votes? It cannot be that the right wing has extraordinary intelligence or communication skills. So where does the thinking fail? Is it really true that people would prefer an existence of paranoia and hostility over one of secure coexistence?

That doesn't sound right. After all, the basis of civilisation itself is a need for a guarantee of secure co-existence. The Hindu rashtra, with its model of every street thug ruling his own kingdom with impunity is not sustainable even if it grew unopposed and there was consensus on wanting a religious state. Yogi Adityanath is not an accident. He is the product of impunity being a norm.

But it will be a long time before such a model fails. Too long to be of relevance to the well-being of a county. This is recognised by the intellectual elite. But not by the masses.

So what are the missing parts? Where is secular thought falling to include the people it aims to include?

I have several views on this and will be blogging further to present them over coming months.

For now, I leave you readers with this question. Why is it that the fundamental principles of shared citizenship are being discarded so rapidly in favour of moves that disenfranchise a section of the population?

Make no mistake, the rules being broken get broken for the security of all -broken is broken- even though the temptation right now is the targeting of some.