How Right Wing media manipulates Public Perception The damage done to the Farmers' Protest by whataboutery, false equivalence and wild conspiracy theories
19, Mar 2018 | Sushmita
CJP has been campaigning for farmers’ rights and supporting them in their struggle. Since March 14 we have been bringing to you constant updates from an ongoing Satyagraha by farmers in Odisha. Unfortunately, a large section of the mainstream media has remained indifferent to the protest which has entered the 8th day with the farmers launching a Rail Roko on Monday. The apathy of mainstream media to cover issues of social and political importance in states like Odisha, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh etc. is not unknown. However, a purportedly right leaning website, OpIndia has given a different colour to the entire episode.
In an article titled, “Here is why farmers marched in Odisha but failed to inspire liberal tears” dated March 14, OpIndia has attempted to spread falsehoods about the farmers’ protests taking place in Maharashtra and Odisha, twisting the truth to suit their own agenda.
Questioning Authenticity using Deceptive Labelling
The article begins by calling the farmers as “alleged farmers” indicating that though they called themselves farmers, there is a likelihood that these were not farmers. It goes for a character assassination of Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani in the very beginning saying that he is infamous for his foul language, without elaborating upon the context in which such supposed ‘foul language’ was used.
The article accuses ‘communists’ of having a tendency to implore others to serve their “selfish and political goals.” After wards, it makes a rather weak argument as to how ‘communists’ had the resources to afford flags and caps for the farmers but not a pair of footwear, thereby blaming the blisters on the farmers’ feet on alleged ‘communist’ ineptitude and apathy. This is a devious way to draw attention away from what led to the farmer protest in the first place.
Next, OpIndia alleges that the protests in Odisha didn’t get media coverage like the ones in Maharashtra is because Maharashtra is a BJP ruled state while Odisha isn’t, alleging a twisted political conspiracy by the media.
The article goes on to say that “the protests have a knack of appearing out of thin air when the opposition needs a change in narrative desperately.” What change of narrative could they possibly be talking about?
Right Wing Propaganda and Redundant Linkages
The article goes on to say that ‘communists’ encouraged “people already suffering…” to go through more pain, “so much that the skin falls off their bare feet, to further their own propaganda.”
In its blatant attempt to do propaganda, the article neither cares about the agency of the farmers nor the ensuing agrarian crisis. Further, it talks about a symbiotic relationship between Congress and Communists.
Liberal use of Irrelevant Jargon
The article makes use of scientific and sociological terms without a context, like “manufactured public opinion” while resorting to create one, itself.
India has been facing a deep agrarian crisis for few years now due to climate change and mismanagement of resources by government authorities. The crisis has been exacerbated by measures like demonetization and GST that adversely affected the financial health of the Indian farming community and led to protests across the country. Calling the genuine dissatisfaction of the people a result of manufactured opinions is not only crass, over-simplistic and irresponsible, but also factually incorrect.
Rhetoric and more Rhetoric
Overall, the article resorts to playing the rhetoric game. The worn down footwear of the farmers are not just a symbol of their misery of weakness, the feet of a farmer have been portrayed as a symbol of resistance and power. That media had generally been apathetic when it comes to under-developed states like Jharkhand, Odisha etc. is no news. Indian farmers, in the absence of any safety net and inadequate MSP, uneven irrigation supply, other crises of the markets etc. can’t compete with global markets. This has resulted in a situation which demands citizens’ urgent intervention. In such a context, to call a spontaneous protest and long march of the farmers an attempt to change the narrative is bizarre. It is only because the narrative isn’t enough that we are facing this crisis in agriculture. One must pull all strings together, including action on streets and various policy and technological measures to urgently address the challenges that the farmers are facing. It is therefore important to call out publications like OpIndia for their rhetoric and lies as these don’t enrich the debates, but try to blur all the layers of a complex and ugly truth, all the while attempting to surreptitiously absolve the guilty party, i.e the BJP government, of their responsibility in worsening the crisis.
Odisha Farmers’ Protest in Images