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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 11 New Delhi March 5, 2016

Rise of Fascist Forces and Electronic Media

Wednesday 9 March 2016, by Barun Das Gupta

The nature of the second BJP Government under Narendra Modi is getting exposed by the day. The object is to subvert the Constitution which declares India to be a ‘socialist secular democratic’ republic. Those who took office by swearing by the Constitution are, day in and day out, denigrating the ideals of socialism, secularism and democracy. The entire Sangh Parivar, with all its affiliated bodies, is at it. What is more regrettable and insidious is the role a powerful section of the English and Hindi electronic media is playing as the handmaiden of the Sangh Parivar. A mass hysteria is being sought to be created in the name of nationalism and patriotism.

This section of the media is defining nationalism and patriotism and dictating it to the people. The definition is simple: if one supports the hanging of Afzal Guru, one gets a certificate of patriotism and nationalism. If one voices the slightest doubt about the actual role played by Guru in the attack on the Parliament House or about the quantum of punishment given to him—whether he deserved the capital punishment or, say, a life sentence—he is immediately branded as an anti-national and a traitor to the country and the full blast of patriotic anger is turned on him by the media. It helps create the situation that the Sangh Parivar wants. The tone, tenor and content of the ‘patriotic’ propaganda unleashed by this section of the media is reminiscent of what Hitler said about the art and function of propaganda:

“The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses’ attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision.

“All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be. But if, as in propaganda for sticking out a war, the aim is to influence a whole people, we must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public, and too much caution cannot be extended in this direction.

“The more modest its intellectual ballast, the more exclusively it takes into consideration the emotions of the masses, the more effective it will be. And this is the best proof of the soundness or unsoundness of a propaganda campaign, and not success pleasing a few scholars or young aesthetes.”

By this definition, the conscious use of tampered tapes, doctored photographs or telecasting of speeches by people whose voice is audible but who are not visible at the scene where they are supposed to be delivering their speeches, is not only permissible but perfectly justified because such propaganda, according to Hitler’s dictum, is popular and its intellectual level is adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to.

The question can be justifiably raised that if to question the justifiability of sending to gallows a man to ‘satisfy the collective conscience of the society’ amounts to treason and sedition then, by the same logic, why should not those who constantly and openly speak against the ideals enshrined in the Constitution be treated as anti-nationals and brought under the purview of the sedition law? Why denigrating the basic principles of the Constitution should not be treated as subversion of the Constitution and made a cognisable and non-bailable offence? Why those who declare that their aim is to turn secular India into a Hindu Rashtra not be treated as anti-national offenders?

SOME of the noisiest telecasters who are making frenzied and frenetic attempts at rousing ‘patriotic’ feelings of their viewers are remini-scent of William Joyce, the American-born Englishman, better known as ‘Lord Haw Haw’ who became a Nazi propagandist when Hitler became the Reichschancellor of Germany. These electronic media propagandists of pseudo-nationalism and pseudo-patriotism have already tasted the fruit of their efforts when a large number of them were beaten up in the Patiala House Courts by lawyers of the saffron brigade. They have strongly condemned the attack on them but are still carrying on their shrill campaign for their brand of ‘nationalism’ with undiminished zeal.

But they are not alone. There are many who are helping the rise of fascist forces in the country without fully realising the implications of what they are doing. By the time they realise, maybe it will be too late. A historical anecdote is worth recalling. Hitler’s first abortive attempt at seizing power in Bavaria is known as the infamous Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. Hitler had managed to enlist the support of General Luden-dorff, a respected hero of the First World War, in this military misadventure.

Ten years later, when his colleague, General Hindenburg, appointed Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the same Ludendorff bitterly wrote to Hindenburg: “By appointing Hitler the Chancellor of the Reich you have handed over our sacred German Fatherland to one of the greatest demagogues of all times. I prophesy to you that this evil man will inflict immeasurable woe on our nation. Future generations will curse you in your grave for this action.” (Reichstag Fire: Ashes of Democracy, by R. John Pritchard, 1972, p. 45)

It is worth recalling that Hitler did not amend or abrogate or rescind the Weimar Constitution. To legalise his fascist rule he introduced, under the same Constitution, an ‘Enabling Act’. Article 3 of the Act said: “Laws enacted by the Reich Government shall be issued by the Chancellor and announced in the Reich Gazette. They shall take effect on the day following the announcement, unless they prescribe a difference date. Articles 68 to 77 of the Constitution do not apply to laws enacted by the Reich Government.” The Enabling Law disabled the Weimar Constitution and on the ruins of the Weimar Republic the Third Reich raised its ugly head.

The lesson that it gives is that the institutional framework of constitutional democracy does not give a guarantee against a fascist takeover of the state. In fact a democratic state can morph into a fascist state even without amending or suspending the Constitution. Democracy can be given a burial and an authoritarian fascist rule allowed to supplant it, while retaining the democratic garb. In the nineteen thirties of the last century the television had not come to India and even in Europe its power as a weapon of political propaganda was very limited. Today its power is immense There is a TV set even in the remote village. Those who are strengthening and helping the growth of fascist forces in India, for whatever reasons, may become their first victims, the media included. It would be too late by then to regret or repent.