“I’m sure many of you look at this former Jedi and think, ‘Surely she cannot be this murderer or saboteur that they speak of.’ And yet think of all the times we have been fooled by the Separatists and how they have infiltrated the Republic, and ask yourself, is this yet another Separatist scheme? Another way to rip the Jedi and subsequently all of us, apart.”
— Emperor Palpatine spreading mass hysteria to suit his propaganda during Tano’s trial
(Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Wrong Jedi (S5E20))
The United States of America and the Republic of India have always had a lot in common in terms of socio-political traditions. Both are rich, vibrant cultures with the distinction and the world’s respect in being the world’s oldest and the world’s largest democracies. However, the political atmosphere in these two countries now resembles Star Wars more and more closely. There is an Emperor Palpatine in each of the stories, a democracy to bring down by fear, and a dark side of the force to supply all the energy for the plan to work. As of now there is no war on propaganda – it is now a war by propaganda.
The dark side of the force is the ideology that generates evil in our societies. The lust for power, the force that cultivates and harvests the hatred in us. QAnon and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) provides the exact thing. It places before us an idea, a religion, a fear, a dream, and an alternate reality (‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Achhe Din Ayenge’ (Good Days will come)) – that makes its followers ditch their common sense and blindly work towards making the dream a reality. There is a democracy to convert to an autocracy, and there is a ‘political party’ to lead us there.
The heroes, the kings around whom the narrative is built, the ones to save us from all evil, usher in the times of long-lasting peace and remove all anti-social, anti-national, and unwelcome members of the society are put up on a pedestal and worshipped as the saviours of the country. In Trump’s case, Q sets loose a propaganda that Donald Trump is the last man standing, holding up the bastion of Christian ideals, trying to keep America great, while the child-eating paedophile ring of Democrats who smell like brimstone (along with the space laser wielding Jews) would leave no stone unturned to bring the greatest country on earth down. In India, Narendra Modi, the hero of the Hindu fundamentalists, the ‘poor mother’s son’, the ‘Hindu-Hridya Samrat’ (‘Emperor of Hindu Hearts’), has come to avenge the centuries of atrocities on India’s Hindus and will finally ‘Make India Akhand Again’.
The first line of commanders they have is the active-duty, veteran legislators. Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham make sure that these elements of propaganda reach the corridors of power in the Senate and Congress. Nirmala Sitharaman, Prakash Javadekar and Piyush Goyal take it to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and formulate laws that work not for the people’s good but the Sangh headquartered in Nagpur. These laws are the consequences of this propaganda spread among the masses, but the next line of officers present it as a cause of their hate factory. Marjorie Taylor Greene would put up long Facebook Posts saying how space lasers cause the forest fires and how the school shooting is ‘fake news’. Amit Malviya would put the BJP IT Cell at work, dehumanising Muslims as terrorists, Sikhs as Khalistanis, students as communists, Dalits as Naxalites, women as feminazis, and anyone else as anti-national. Sambit Patra would rant about the same every night on National TV.
Misinformation is useless if it cannot be spread among the common masses like wildfire. And no mode of communication is as effective as ‘National TV’. Right-Wing National TV fans the flames out to every household in the country it can find, and there is no doubt that Fox News and OAN (Republic TV, Zee News and Sudarshan TV in India’s case) have played this exact role. The lead ‘anchor’ in this Navy, Tucker Carlson/Arnab Goswami, makes sure that no other sound can be heard over what they say (quite literally in the latter case), while the other captains of the army, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham (Sudhir Chaudhary, Amish Devgan, Suresh Chavhanke in India’s case) and others inspire the rogue mob – whose eyes have been clouded by the smokescreen of the manufactured news, blinded by the very facts they consider to be ‘eye-opening’. This mob, the foot soldiers of the Right Wing, then go on to perform highly ‘nationalistic’ acts – like storming the Capitol, demanding a recount (or asking to stop counting, depending on which state you are), threatening poll officers; and in India’s case, causing riots, vandalism, storming college campuses and destroying mosques.
“Propaganda works not just to change your opinion, but to change how you behave.”
— Steven Luckert
This is not a new trick that was somehow learnt in these two nations. This has been the modus operandi of many dictators and oppressors throughout history. The term Lügenpresse, meaning ‘Fake News’ quite literally, was used generously by Hitler to convince the German public that the ‘Jewish-controlled’ press was very much opposed to a nationalist government. In ‘Mein Kampf’, Hitler wrote that propaganda “must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”. And this is not merely a reductio ad Hitlerum (Latin for ‘reduction to Hitler’, also known as playing the Nazi card) technique. This is now very real. Using the points mentioned above, in order, Hitler used – the idea of a Greater Germany, the Nazi Party, the idea of him being the Führer, an alternate reality of the Third Reich ‘that will last a thousand years’, Hitler being the ‘saviour of Germany’, using Himmler, Heydrich, Eichmann, Göring, Müller and others in his propaganda, projecting Jews as the enemy, using state-sponsored media and forming a nation-wide mob of the SS. The events in the US and India cannot be more similar. There is a sign in the US Holocaust Museum that tells about the early warning signs of fascism. Look closely, or maybe just coarsely, and you will know that fascism is already here.
The good news is that Donald Trump is no longer in power.
The question now is: Who is going to be India’s Joe Biden?