How Prime Minister Narendra Modi is waging a war on reality

India is facing grave challenges in all spheres, but Right propaganda projects several holograms to keep up the morale of the cadres and the devotees.

 |  13-minute read |   13-05-2018
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The election campaign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Karnataka Assembly polls made me wonder whether he is the Prime Minister of India in 2018, or, in his mind, the Opposition leader to the Congress Nehru government in 1952.

Are we supposed to vote in 2018 on the basis of what happened, or on what didn’t happen in Indian history?

Modi’s rallies in Karnataka made me wonder whether he is the Prime Minister of India in 2018, or, in his mind, the opposition leader to the Nehru Government in 1952. Photo: PTIModi’s rallies in Karnataka made me wonder whether he is the Prime Minister of India in 2018, or, in his mind, the opposition leader to the Nehru Government in 1952. Photo: PTI

Are we supposed to debate whether Nehru visited Bhagat Singh in jail or did the Congress insult KM Cariappa, than talk about what has transpired since 2014?

Are we supposed to forget actual history and replace it with a falsified version?

My questions lead to a single answer: we are supposed to inhabit a “reality” or the “perception of reality” that Modi and his regime conjures up – a reality that is most conducive for the BJP to win elections and enhance its power.

And the “reality” that is conjured up is a simulacrum – a substitution of the real with distortion, omission, spin and falsity.

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The reality of the organised “war on reality” upon the citizens by the ruling establishments was explored in detail by a cult book that still retains its charm in certain circles.

Simulacra and Simulation is a 1981 treatise by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, in which he examines the relationships among reality, symbols and society.

In the book, Baudrillard uses as an analogy a fable derived from On Exactitude in Science by Jorge Luis Borges. In the fable, a great empire created a map that was so detailed it was as large as the empire. The actual map was expanded and contracted as the empire itself conquered or lost territory. When the empire crumbled, all that was left was the map.

In Baudrillard's rendition, the people no longer lived in the empire but in the map of the empire that was the simulation of reality that didn’t exist in the real world. 

This is a global phenomenon where establishments have created simulacra via constant propaganda, spin narratives, myth making and psyops, or psychological operations.

The West is as guilty as the East in this war on reality, or in fact, the progenitor of the organised deception that is being raged upon the citizenry of the modern world.

The fundamental idea is to control how people think, what they talk about and how they react via a sophisticated system of influence, indoctrination, conditioning and brainwashing.

This global war on reality is conjured up by the ruling establishments: plutocracies or an anti-democratic coalition of political parties / politicians and unelected billionaires with vested interests who use corporations, think tanks, intelligence agencies, PR firms, social media trolls & bots and mainstream corporate media to further their interests of unhinged profit and centralised control.

Most of the “respectable” liberal “mainstream” media of the anglophone West – that often “victimises” a large chunk of the anglophone Indians – also suffer from the same malaise of being the voice of the ruling plutocracy.

The idea is simply to spread the agenda of a minority of the elites for the benefit of the entrenched plutocracy.

The betrayal of one’s own citizens by the corporate media or the “mainstream” is a cancerous reality around the globe.

This was exposed once again by what transpired recently in Syria: battleships were dispatched, missiles were fired and WW III was risked because of a “mainstream media event” of a “chemical attack” in Douma that actually didn’t happen!

The madness and absurdity of it all is well captured in this piece from the sphere of western independent media:

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One of the prime responsibilities of a thinking citizen in our world of simulacra and simulation is to become a rebel in this war on reality and keep oneself well-informed.

One needs to cultivate an open mind that fundamentally values truth, fairness, peace, equality and justice, than being subservient to the establishment narratives of one’s own tribe.

Apart from the pro-establishment shills, those who keep quiet are also the accomplices: all that is required to support lies and injustice is to remain silent and not talk about them.

There is a growing group of global citizenry – especially the youth – who don’t allow news and analysis from “mainstream” corporate media to determine their worldview.

They also venture beyond their echo chambers to understand what the “others” are saying. 

For them, the “MSM” or the mainstream is mostly junk and the progressive alternative is the “neo-mainstream”.

They use social media and the internet to consume news and analysis from an array of diverse sources: news sites from all the continents, independent media, independent journalists and alternative blogs.

This helps them to develop a wider perspective and understand the realities of our modern world that is distorted and hidden by the simulacra that I call the global war on reality.

This strategy of diversifying the sources of news and analysis also develops a few important qualities we need to develop in our modern world: to see through the establishment propaganda, to develop healthy scepticism and not to confuse psyops with news.

This strategy by the well informed citizenry is decreasing the effect that the ruling establishments have upon the consciousness of the people.

The most vocal of the “well informed citizenry” also influence their friends, followers, acquaintances and family by spreading ideas, thoughts, conversations and debates.

More and more users of social media (who are not paid supporters or bots) are also becoming news editors: they curate and spread links of articles that challenge “mainstream” narratives.

News and analysis are reaching people by bypassing the global war on reality. And this is happening because of independent media, digital media, internet and social media.

The establishments know this, and they also know that losing the control upon the narrative is the first step to losing power.

Hence a war upon the independent and alternative media has also begun. Social media algorithms are being manipulated, smear campaigns are being manufactured against independent voices, data is being mined to manipulate citizens, efforts are being made to change “net neutrality”, ideas being thought of to control the internet and impose restrictions upon the digital online media.

Within all this, a large group of citizenry is still trapped within the simulacra: they have little idea that they are the victims of the illusionists.

The illusionists who control the simulacra rely upon psychological and emotive stimulation – theatrics and hysteria – which are used to bury discussions about real issues, real policies and the real consequences of the policies.

The simulacra longs to capture people, like dreams capture us while we are sleeping!

But a nagging restiveness is felt by everyone – even at an unconscious level. Everyone senses that things are not what they seem, something is gravely wrong and things are really rotten and falling apart.

So the balance of power in the war on reality is changing and the informed citizenry are managing to bypass being trapped, brainwashed and victimised.

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The India that was promised by chief minister Narendra Modi, before he became the Prime Minister of India, and the “progressive” path of his travels, which he had indicated through endless propaganda and public speeches, had created a simulacrum in the minds of the citizens.

It was the first stage of “good appearance” of Narendra Modi in 2014 what Baudrillard called “the sacramental order”.

The demonetisation policy, or 8/11, wiped out 1.5 – 2 per cent of the GDP. Photo: PTIThe demonetisation policy, or 8/11, wiped out 1.5 – 2 per cent of the GDP. Photo: PTI

Baudrillard ideates that there are four stages of simulacra and simulation.

The second stage is perversion of reality, the third stage is pretension of reality and the fourth stage is pure simulacrum.

In the four years of the Modi government, we have reached Baudrillard’s fourth stage already, where the simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever.

What was promised, and what really transpired, isn’t the same. People are feeling betrayed. In all major economic and human development data, India has fallen, and continues to fall.

Welcoming slogans like “minimum government, maximum governance”, “acche din” and “sabka saath sabka vikas” have been rendered hollow by actions that contradict those words.

The gap between what politicians say and what they actually do couldn’t be wider than it is now. 8/11, or the demonetisation policy, wiped out 1.5 – 2 per cent of the GDP: amounting to a loss of 3 – 4 lakh crore. This caused an unprecedented social-economic damage that will take years of gradual recovery.

The myopic economic policies, gross mismanagement,  the blind implementation of technocratic neoliberalism and imposition of intrusive surveillance systems disguised as social good  – pushed by foreign vested interests – are seriously hurting India.

There is a general consensus among the thinking citizens that our sovereignty to choose our own economic policies, our freedom, the Constitution, and democracy itself are in serious danger from the present establishment.

Within this scenario, the aggressive expansion of Hindutva worldview and the organised injection of fear and hate into society are causing unprecedented ruptures in the plural social fabric. 

Horrific incidents like Kathua and Unnao show that the organised hate campaign since 2014 has managed to produce a growing moral degeneracy and moral bankruptcy, as if the very soul of India is undergoing a dark eclipse.

Regional stresses are also escalating due to the drive of the Hindutva forces to convert and colonise everyone in the image of the Hindi-Hindustani belt.

The present regime has created more new problems than simply solving the pre-existing issues.

In all spheres, India is facing grave “self-created” challenges and the country has retrograded like a planet in the sky.

The propaganda, however, says otherwise, and projects several holograms from the simulacra to keep up the morale of the cadres and the devotees.

After the fourth stage of simulacra and simulation, Baudrillard has nothing more to add. He leaves society within a permanent unreality, where people no longer can perceive the difference between the real and the fake. They are forever suspended within their simulated perception, which become their reality.

They keep on mistaking well-crafted holograms – projected out of diverse channels of propaganda – as undeniable truths.

The first step of any rebellion or resistance is awareness. The task is to make more people aware of the simulacra and establish more “sources of seeing and hearing” that will help the people to circumvent the “war on reality”.

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Looking ahead towards 2019, I see the mutation of the simulacra that we first encountered in 2013-2014. But it won’t re-focus on “development” and “good governance” planks, which have failed. Nor will it genuinely address the problem of decreasing human development indices. Those are the social issues that don’t excite the right wing that much.

Modi’s simulacra totally rely on the emotions of ego – hate, greed, anger and pride – to bring people under its spell. Photo: PTIModi’s simulacra totally rely on the emotions of ego – hate, greed, anger and pride – to bring people under their spell. Photo: PTI

It wants an emotive theatre – a spectacle – that boils the blood and raises the pulse.  It also likes the ego boosts of tall statues and taller claims – whether they are true or not. It needs a constant micro-dosing of essential toxins – a hate machine firing away at the identified “enemies of the nation” – which include fellow Indian citizens who are de-humanised and de-sensitized in their minds.

In other words, Modi’s simulacra totally rely on the emotions of ego – hate, greed, anger and pride – to bring people under its spell. It relies on improbable dreams or hallucinations, phobias and demagoguery.

So the mutation – that is already happening – will increase the thumping of the ego and will be hyper emotive.

Four fundamental issues are likely to become the dominant face of the simulacra – nationalism, “enemies of the nation”, Hindu Rashtra and Ram Mandir.

This suggests a rockier ride till the next General Elections; a rally drive over a dirt track that is pockmarked with craters. The journey looks more challenging, and more ominous.

However, if the majority of India hang strings with lemons and chillies over the heads and refuse to fall under the spell of sorcery, then the government might be forced to do a course-correction and look deeply at the real issues at hand – of economy, jobs, infrastructure, education, healthcare, social welfare, social cohesion, peace and human development.

This will be ideal, but it is unlikely to happen. Those who have pushed us into the abyss won’t be able to save us from it. There won’t be any existentialist exclamations: “what are we doing!” There will be no course-correction.

Hence, there will be no reversal, or even an easing, of Western Neoliberalism and Savarkar’s Hindutva.

What is more likely is this: simulacra will be coloured deep saffron by the ideology of extreme Hindutva. The fringe or the “peripheral” far right will move towards the centre.  Conches will be blown and drum beats will roll. The communal angle will become the prime focus. Sudden blood will continue to spill.

We might also have a large-scale media event around some incident or a manufactured crisis, as we approach the next general elections, which will aim to milk the political tool of Islamophobia, generate sympathy for the Prime Minister and consolidate the Hindutva support base.

We will get silently trapped more and more within the fishnet of technocratic neoliberal corporatism and the Hindutva theocracy, while we hear loud emotive rhetoric about Nationalism, “Enemies of the nation”, Hindu Rashtra and Jai Shri Ram!

But there is a brighter side. The opposition is coming around with narratives to counter the Simulacra. The war on reality is being challenged with the “truth of reality”.

The image of a “mythical hero” that was conjured up in 2014 didn’t quite result in the actual delivery of the tall promises, and understandably, the “magic” has waned.

The Modi “wave” has also crashed on the shores of time and has disintegrated into oblivion.

The Assembly election results of Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh will indicate what will happen next year.

If the opposition unites and manages to prevent the division of the opposition votes, then 2019 – the most crucial year for the destiny of India – might go down in history as the year we stopped the retrogression of India and saved our people from the soul-deadening abyss of a regressive “neoliberal theocratic autocratic corporatocracy” that India is transforming into.

We need to prevent this from happening for the sake of our sovereignty, our Constitution, our freedom, our democracy and our nation.

In order to do the above, it is essential to prevail over the war on reality with the truth of reality.

There is no other way.

Also read: 5 reasons why BJP will win Karnataka 

 

Writer

Devdan Chaudhuri Devdan Chaudhuri @devdanchaudhuri

The writer is the author of 'Anatomy of Life'. He is one of the contributing editors of The Punch Magazine and lives in Kolkata.

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