Truth is the casualty of the systematic manner in which the Sino-Wahabi lobby operates through media and other forms of communication.
Among the colonial-era habits still retained in India after so many years of freedom is the belief that the misleading portrayal of India and in particular the Hindu population can be reversed solely by the official machinery. A few expertly constructed paragraphs and the world will understand how the image of the world’s most populous democracy is being sought to be maligned by the Sino-Wahabi alliance. The provenance of such propaganda is usually smudged over in such officialese, such that the gun gets blamed while no reference is made about the shooter. The consequence is that the public in democracies fail to connect the dots that connect so many takedowns of reputation of democracies and their leaders to strategies designed to ensure that the PRC emerge as the centrepoint of geopolitical gravity. And that many voters in world’s two largest democracies are persuaded to despise and mistrust their governments. Efforts through manipulation of social media to expand the fanatic fringe at the expense of moderate elements are designed to divide society and the polity through the promotion of hatred about the political or societal Other. Whether these be black or white citizens in the case of the US or the majority and minority communities in India. Political parties refuse to acknowledge that there may be merit in what their opponents are saying. By definition, if the rival side is doing or saying something, it just has to be wrong , even if that be the same as what the rival party was saying or doing in the past. The extent of appeal to the party base is calculated by the extent to which a politician is abusive of the other. Once such a situation develops, there are no points to be gained by being courteous or objective. The shriller the abuse, the more airtime that the individual accrues. In times past, audiences in the amphitheatres of ancient Rome demanded that the life of the person defeated in a gladiatorial contest be killed by the winner. A call for mercy was in short supply.
It would appear that in the present era, discussions spewing venom about political opponents get preferred by television audiences over a debate that is conducted on the basis of reasoned argument calmly and politely put by participants who differ from each other. Even rival anchors are mischaracterised. When long-time CBS anchor, Dan Rather went wrong not on the essentials but on a few details about how President George W. Bush had leveraged wealth and connections to join the Texas National Guard rather than get sent to Vietnam, a rival channel pointed to each such technicality as evidence that the story was wrong, which was not the case. It had not just been George W. Bush who somehow managed to escape the draft through the National Guard, but numerous other sons of the wealthy and the well-connected. Had CBS got away with its expose, who knew what influential scion would be the next to fall? And so Dan Rather and the researcher who put together the facts of the George W. Bush report, Mary Mapes bid farewell to journalism. Were they to get away with accusatory shows about the junior Bush (that too when he was the US President at the time the report was aired in 2005), it may have set off copycat reports about others in the community who were protected from Vietnam by money and power. Smaller publications could be allowed to get away with such reporting, but not a news show that was the most influential in television.
When this columnist was editor of a prominent newspaper in Kerala, he was candid to his team that they had only 95% freedom. The 5% represented the Directors of the company, who were off limits. As things turned out, even 95% freedom resulted in so many investigative reports about well-connected individuals that he left the newspaper to join another. Truth brings hazards with it, and it is often not a sufficient defence against a defamation suit or other forms of retribution sparked by investigative reports about those who regard themselves as protected by either wealth and privilege.
A Hollywood movie about the exit from CBS of Dan Rather and Mary Mapes was called “Truth”. Perhaps the “Consequences of Truth” may have been a more apt title. For truth is the casualty of the systematic manner in which the Sino-Wahabi lobby operates through media and other forms of communication. The objective is to discredit democracies considered a threat to the efforts of this axis to secure global primacy. Parallel efforts exist, the first track designed to take down or otherwise discredit factual reports about the travails endured by elements of the population in authoritarian states, including those countries ruled by the military. The other track is to weave together incidents and narratives so as to discredit leading democracies such as the US or India. Social media platforms are guided by algorithms, and these may often be designed by interested players to suppress uncomplimentary references about countries that are part of (or close to) the Sino-Wahabi alliance. Internet searches will tend to pull up derogatory references to democracies while lauding the perceived progress made by authoritarian states. Despite the clearly visible effect of such algorithm-crafted biases, few attempts are made by the companies owning the internet platforms to locate and hold to account those responsible. This is especially the case when sympathisers of the Sino-Wahabi alliance are present higher up the food chain than the algo writers, and smother accountability in order to protect not just such biased writers but themselves
That those working against major democracies such as the US and India have had some success in poisoning public confidence in the democratic system is clear. A substantial percentage of the population in the US believes that the 2020 Presidential polls were rigged to favour Biden over Trump. In India, Narendra Modi has been the target of the Sino-Wahabi alliance, and efforts at lowering his appeal increased after he ordered the 2017 intervention in Doklam to safeguard the territorial integrity of Bhutan. The “take no prisoners” mindset that is powering so much of everyday politics in some democracies has resulted in a situation where those out of office are ready to do whatever is judged to be needed to return to office the next time around. The cacophony such a dynamic creates assists in external efforts to delegitimise the democratic process. The purpose is to present authoritarian systems as more capable of delivery of services to ordinary citizens, and therefore better. Which is the opposite of the truth, for democracies have an inbuilt resilience absent in autocratic structures. They can sustain shock after shock, while the spread of mass unrest in autocracies would in time send the governance system into gridlock. Even comic book heroes are now being used to spread misinformation about democracies, such as what is being seen in a Superman comic book about Kashmir, that India is the aggressor rather than the victim of violence. Rather than take such efforts at skewing the narrative as inconsequential, major democracies need to initiate through civil society and government countermeasures designed to replace falsehood with fact in the public mind. Once the young in particular lose faith in the institutions and practices of democracy, it becomes easier for hostile powers to ensure that they get steered on to the path of violence. Just as a bank needs public trust and credibility to remain healthy, so does the governance mechanism of a democracy.