By Ramesh Sharma
When you read the real stories behind the headlines in newspapers and news websites; when you read the narratives behind TV news campaigns, slickly produced Youtube videos, viral memes, Instagram posts, Whatsapp forwards and Clubhouse chats by so-called social media influencers; when you do all of this sitting locked down in a pandemic that the global scientists have very little clue about, you feel quite sick about your country and all the negativity surrounding it. Well, when you are fed on a 24×7 diet of negativity by all corners of the multi-media, you are bound to fall sick.
But before we deal with “why things are happening the way they are” and “how there is a well-planned method behind these seeming madnesses”, let’s get one point clear: The looming threat of a two-front war at India’s borders will be tackled decisively by our armed forces. Let there be no doubts on that front.
It’s the unseen war, the multiple hit-and-run attacks within the country that should worry us the most. There is a mountain of evidence to show that India’s internal security is being eroded, in numerous devious ways, by an army of players within our socio-political establishment, co-opted through foreign funds and false propaganda by forces that do not want a strong and self-reliant India. So it’s no surprise that these external forces and their paid agents within the country have now become emboldened enough to declare an open war on every aspect of our society and governance.
A deep scan of just the major incidents of the past 18 months since the Pandemic began, gives a grim picture of how this “global narrative” is threatening to overwhelm the Indian State. Below is a random sampling of the internal wars being waged against India:
- The ongoing court battle between micro-blogging site Twitter and the Government of India (GOI) over the issue of adhering to Indian laws is a test case. Twitter has painted the whole issue as one of freedom of expression (FOE) and freedom of speech (FOS) and that local laws do not apply to a global platform like them. While the courts and GOI are dealing with Twitter in a “befitting” manner, two points stand out. One, Twitter was banned indefinitely by Nigeria after it deleted tweets by the country’s president. Two, Twitter and other powerful social media giants in early January deplatformed Donald Trump while he was still President of the US. Without going into the merits or demerits of the above two examples, the simple point here is that Big Tech is increasingly waging a virtual war against sovereign governments – even toppling regimes and installing those that align with its worldview. One can write an entire book on the amount of fake news, lies, propaganda, anarchy, hate speech, religious bigotry and anti-India views that Twitter has played host to in the last decade in this country. More on that later.
- Next, take the case of the “Farmers Protest” laying siege to Delhi since August 2020; the anarchy on the streets of the capital and the insult to the Tricolour at the Red Fort on January 26. What emerged subsequently is that all of it was (and is still ongoing) a well-funded and planned anarchy that played out as per a “toolkit” leaked inadvertently by celebrity activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter. The Red Fort attack case is in the courts. While the global activists and celebrities retreated into their fancy caves, their Indian cheerleaders moved on to more sinister propaganda as the second wave of the pandemic hit home.
- As the dust over the “Red Fort Uprising” was barely settling down, the “Toolkit” army started beating the war drums over the ongoing election campaigns in five Indian states and the Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand as being the super-spreaders that roiled the country in March-May. There was a concerted campaign in the global media about the “complete breakdown” of India’s healthcare system. Vivid images of crematoriums overflowing with bodies of Corona victims, aerial shots of funeral pyres and “burning ghats” on the Ganga riverfront made their way to news outlets in New York and Washington. They even discovered “thousands” of Corona victims buried on the river banks in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj and Varanasi cities. There were also stories and visuals of “hundreds” of bodies floating in the Ganga. There are stories within stories; you just need to remove the thin veil of propaganda to see the truth.
- The Supreme Court is dealing with the issue of “systemic failures” during the second wave of the pandemic in India; but in those three months of chaos, several sub-narratives went viral, creating a mass hysteria over overflowing hospital beds and acute shortages of oxygen and life-saving drugs. Thousands died due to gross lapses and shortcomings in the healthcare system; nothing can recompense those deaths. Again, just peel off the thin veils and you will see a concerted hit-and-run job to demonise the government in power. All of them clamouring to dislodge the man elected through a democratic process; as if the pandemic will then magically disappear? Their collective chest-beating suggested as though the rest of the world was doing a fine job, only India was floundering!
- All through this, hilariously, the “Toolkit” army’s narrative swung wildly from one extreme to the other: First they fear-mongered about the indigenous vaccine, doubting its trial data and efficacy; next, they asked why we exported “millions” of doses for free to all those poor countries when people are now dying in India; and as the virus mutated, their narratives mutated too. Now they wanted individual states to order vaccines directly from manufacturers and even lobbied for import of a particular vaccine from the US. When that flopped, they cried in the courts that the central government should take all responsibility of the vaccination drives!
- There is a clear pattern and agenda behind those “spine-chilling” photos and headlines, neatly explained by Shantanu Gupta, a political analyst and the author of a book on UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Gupta came out with some shocking findings from a study of the foreign media’s coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic in India: Titled “Tracing the Global Panic Super-Spreaders”, Gupta studied six major media outlets, three from the US—Washington Post, New York Times and CNN—and three from the UK—BBC, The Economist and The Guardian. He did a simple Google search for the time period between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021, under the search category “India Covid pandemic coronavirus”. Gupta found 552 headlines for the time period and broke them down under six categories: “Fear Inducing, Hyperbolic, Critical, Doubting, Neutral & Praising”.
- To remove any personal bias, he triangulated these headlines with 5-6 other individuals under those six categories. His findings: Of the total coverage, the BBC led the pack with 49.6% of the headlines on India; followed by the NYT—16.5%; WaPo—12.5%; CNN—9.6%; The Economist—6.7% and The Guardian—5.1%. A bulk of the headlines, almost 76-77%, fell under the four categories of Hyperbolic, Fear-Inducing, Doubting and Critical. Only the BBC and WaPo had just above 2% of their headlines that were “Praising”. Worse, as far as “Neutral” or factual reporting was concerned, The Guardian was not even 2%, while the BBC topped with 32%. Says Gupta: “When we split the 552 headlines in two categories, one for the month of April 2021, and the second for the 13 months from March 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, we found that a majority of the headlines, over 40%, emanated in the month of April 2021 alone. The percentage of “Neutral” and “Praising” headlines all came from the first wave coverage.”
- Gupta also found “a dangerous pattern” in the global media’s coverage: misleading headlines that use absolute numbers to twist data. On September 7, 2020, the BBC headline was: “Coronavirus: India overtakes Brazil in Covid-19 cases”. Says Gupta: “Brazil’s population is 21 crores, obviously India with 130-plus crores will overtake Brazil. Similarly, one headline said ‘India overtakes Italy’, whose population is just over 6 crores. Such scare-mongering has ramifications, going by such headlines governments issue travel advisories, cancel flights, there are economic repercussions.” Similarly, on June 28, 2020, a BBC headline said: “Coronavirus: How Delhi ‘wasted’ lockdown to become India’s biggest hotspot”. This was the first wave, and Delhi was nowhere near a “biggest hotspot”.
- Gupta also found another pattern in misleading headings, where they were “extrapolating a hyper local observation to a pan India level”. On April 3, 2020, a BBC headline read: “Coronavirus: India doctors ‘spat at and attacked’”. He says the BBC achieved two objectives with this headline: “They smartly covered up for the Tablighi Jamaat incident, barely a reference in the main story. Plus, when you read this headline, it comes across as though all Indian Covid patients are spitting at and beating up doctors!”
- On April 27, 2021, a NYT headline read: “This Is a Catastrophe. In India Illness Is Everywhere”. Gupta says, “There are over 740 districts, some have 10% positivity, some have 20%, and some others have 50%, and there are zero cases in several others. In Uttar Pradesh, during the peak of the second wave, 75% of the nearly 1 lakh villages did not have a single Covid case! And the NYT says illness is everywhere! This is how you spread panic.” There are dozens of such gems in Gupta’s study. He says we need to do a similar data analysis of social media posts during that period. The findings will be alarming. We need to keep exposing them otherwise the global media will run with its own set narratives.
- And the latest: The NYT in its advertisement for an experienced journalist to lead economic and business coverage of India has several critical remarks about the country and its government. First, it calls the border tension between India and China a “drama”. We will not elaborate on that, let the NYT stew in its biased worldview. Then, calling India a “melting pot of people and languages grappling with difficult questions of class and wealth disparity”, it claim that hundreds of millions of people are struggling for a better life for their children, and India’s once fast-growing economy is showing signs of stalling. Talking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the NYT says, “India’s future now stands at a crossroads” as the leader’s vision puts him at “odds with the interfaith, multicultural goals of modern India’s founders.” The advertisement says technology has become a “hindrance” due to the Indian government’s growing efforts to “police online speech and media discourse have raised difficult questions about balancing issues of security and privacy with free speech.”
All those clapping for such bilge from an agenda-driven global media and Big Tech, saying they speak truth to power, should know another fundamental truth: people are not stupid; they know damn well how thin this veil of FOE and FOS is. There is something called the rule of law, and FOE is always a two-way street; you can’t promote forces trying to break India and censor those opposing it. Social Media, or any media for that matter, cannot promote anarchy under the garb of globalisation.
And finally, be aware, be prepared and be armed to fight these internal wars erupting with unceasing regularity. Do not get misled by Indian news portals running editorials asking: Who will blink first? Govt or Twitter? We know one thing for sure: At the border, India is not going to blink first!
-The writer is a senior journalist and a Consulting Editor with Raksha Anirveda. The views expressed here are his own