The spectacular power of propaganda

What the Arnab Goswami leaks show

The leaks of the WhatsApp messages of Arnab Goswami (Republic TV) have brought into limelight some bitter truths. One bitter truth is that the general public is a ‘bewildered herd’ (to quote Noam Chomsky) who could easily be made a fool of. Abraham Lincoln was wrong in saying “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

History tells that the people, even the Americans, are gullible. Propaganda deeply influenced even independent-minded Americans who laid down a constitution, beginning with the words ‘we the people’. Chomsky says even the American masses are like a “bewildered herd” who have stopped thinking. He asserts that, in a “properly functioning democracy”, there are a “small percentage of the people”, a “specialised class of citizens” who … “analyse, execute, make decisions and run things in the political, economic, and ideological systems”. Chomsky reminds, ‘Woodrow Wilson was elected President in 1916 on the platform “Peace without Victory”, right in the middle of the World War I.  The American population was extremely pacifistic and saw no reason to become involved in a European War. The Wilson Administration established a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Committee, which succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world…. After the war the same techniques were used to whip up a hysterical Red Scare…’

The leaked WhatsApp chats revealed that the Balakot ‘surgical strikes’ were conducted to shore up Narendra Modi’s image as a `strong man’, a Brobdignagian among the selfcentred Lilliputian Indian politicians. The ‘strike’ helped Modi win elections with a thumping majority.

Though Modi is educated only up to high school, he understands the power of propaganda. He has done a three-month course in the USA on Image Management and Public Relations. His campaign blitz cost about $700 million. Modi is considered the most techno-savvy leader of India as he is very active on various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The WhatsApp chats between Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) CEO Partho Dasgupta run into 500 long pages. They revealed the nexus between the media and politicians to hoodwink the masses. Several Congress leaders, including former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan, have raised alarming questions.

Chidambaram has questioned how the journalist and his friend knew about the Balakot strike three days before it took place.

Modi owed his electoral victory to the power of propaganda. He is making a fool of not only the Indian masses but also the world around

Meanwhile, senior journalist Madhavan Narayanan raised pertinent questions about the clearly transparent violations of media ethics, professionalism and business malpractices, as are evident from the purported chats between the Republic TV CEO and the former BARC head. In the transcripts, Arnab purportedly referred to the Pulwama attack on 14 February 2019. Three days before the Balakot air strike on 26 February 2019, Goswami purportedly wrote India’s response would be: “Bigger than a normal air strike. And on the same time something major on Kashmir (abrogation of Special Status).

Dasgupta was arrested in the fake Television Rating Point (TRP) case. The Mumbai police had earlier told the court that Goswami had allegedly bribed Dasgupta with lakhs of rupees to ramp up Republic TV’s viewership.

Like the Indian Air Force, the Indian Army also knows the value of propaganda. It occasionally stages fake encounters in which innocent Kashmiris are kidnapped and killed in ‘encounters’. Afzal Guru was hanged for the Indian Parliament attack, but subsequent revelations by police officer Davinder Singh revealed that he was in fact innocent.

In elections, Congress lost even in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, where it ruled. Even  Rahul Gandhi lost its citadel,  Amethi. In the gory West-Bengal contest, the formidable Mamta Bannerjee lost many seats to the BJP. Modi’s self-image and brand prevailed. The RSS held many conclaves to reach out to intellectuals. The Muslim Manch, distributed RSS leaflets. Even after winning the elections, BJP stalwarts visited Madrassa Deoband. Modi captivated popular imagination as a strong leader: ‘Modi hai to mumkin hai (If Modi is there, then it’s possible). Through power of propaganda, Modi brazenly bagged credit for all achievements of previous Congress governments. It was Jawaharlal Nehru who abolished the zamindari system. It is Nehru, not Modi, who set up the space centre that catapulted India’s ASAT Shakti.

Modi 1.0’s economic- progress figures were plain cookery.

The Goswami Leaks further weaken India’s accusation that the Pulwama attack was masterminded by Pakistan. Several questions, come to mind about India’s ‘chargesheet’: (a) Why did India bank on the FBI when it already possessed all communications from Pakistan? For instance, it intercepted the whole talk between military dictator Yahya Khan and his coterie during the East Pakistan/Bangladesh crisis. It intercepted Musharraf’s conversation with his generals while he was flying back from China to Pakistan. Isn’t there collusion between the FBI and India? (b) Why did India blame Pakistan even before the forensic lab and National Investigation Agency investigation reports? (c) Why are there differing reports about weight of the RDX used? One estimate is of about 80 kg of high-grade RDX explosive being used, another of 100-150 kg. (d) Why was a private vehicle allowed to approach the scene of the incident in violation of the CRPF Standing Operating Procedures? The CRPF’s Standing Operating Procedures required movement of up to 100 persons in a convoy. Why has the CRPF been moving such convoys, comprising more than 2,500 personnel each, on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. In the past fortnight, two such convoys had moved from Jammu to Srinagar. The latest was on February 4, with a convoy of 91 vehicles and 2,871 personnel. (e) Why could the convoy not spot the lonely suicide vehicle trailing behind? (f) How did the terrorists know the convoy movement was delayed by two days? (g) How did they remain undetected while loading the vehicle with explosives the whole day? (h) Not only WhatsApp but also landlines have never been accessible even in Hindu-majority Jammu (occupied Kashmir). Then how come the FBI has told the NIA about the WhatsApp group operated by a member of the terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad who was in contact with the people who carried out the attack of Pulwama? (i) According to the FBI, a man called Mohammed Hussain was operating the WhatsApp group, from Muzaffarabad. But the number was however registered under the name of Jameela from Budgam.

Modi owed his electoral victory to the power of propaganda. He is making a fool of not only the Indian masses but also the world around.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
The writer is a freelance journalist, has served in the Pakistan government for 39 years and holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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