Photoshoped Nationalism

Image Source: Facebook

Is our county becoming intolerant? Some of us cannot tolerate this soul searching question.  But the good old adage that enjoins us to trace the poof of the pudding in its eating illumines the obvious.  The way dissent and disagreement is silenced through state-sponsored mobs often chanting Bharat Mata ki Jai exhibits that there is a growing tendency to employ terror tactics to bring dissenting voices into submission.  Moreover, the fact that certificates of nationalism are distributed with violence that seem to  enjoy  impunity  leads  us to think that the state seems to have employed terrorism as  its policy over its own citizenry. The brutalization of a prisoner in a judicial custody in Goa also reveals that Goa is not free from tyranny and echoes what is happening in India at large.   We can certainly discern how our democratically elected Government is inclined to move towards an authoritarian control of opposition and dissent both through fair and foul means. This means we can find the formal legal process being used to stifle opposition as we can see in the case of Defence Expo and also notice a non-formal intimation in the case of attack   on the anti-mining activist in the jail. 

The narrative of nationalism is employed to oppose dissent which becomes an easy tool in the hands of the state authority to brand anyone who disagrees with it as anti-national. Moreover, possibilities generated by the new communication and surveillance technologies are increasingly being used to frame and repress its opponents by the state apparatus. We have already noticed how a doctored video was circulated and  used to frame a JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar . While the victimized student was arrested in a hurry, the same haste is not exhibited by the authorities to find and nail those who generated the fake videos and circulated them to create mass hysteria to justify the charge of sedition on some students of   JNU.  The fact that perpetrators of the morphed videos still roam free only prove that our society is treading down a dangerous zone indicating that we are facing a state that has unleashed terror as a policy to deflect attention from real issues that plague our country to issues that can generate hysteric mob frenzy, crippling fear and  mindless violence.  Some scholars have identified the use of new technology of communication and surveillance as techno-fascism. 

Besides the usage of audio video manipulation to crush dissent, we can trace techno-fascism in the world of social media.  The social media is craftily used by the proxies of the state as well as directly by the politicians to disseminate messages that  promote their agenda and demonize their enemies.   We have already seen how rumour was a chief tool of Dadri lynching and therefore we can imagine what could happen when rumour, lies, distortions are given technological legs.  Unfortunately, on the wings of technology, destructive and corrosively divisive messages are rapidly disseminated and circulated like wildfire, whipping up hatred based on questionable premises to meet the need of silencing dissenters in various places.  One has only to jump from facebook, to twitter or from youtube to Instasgram  to find a barrage of hate messages cascading in all directions on select  victims who are portrayed as the enemies of the nation.  While these hate mongers intimidate and terrorise opponents, they also mobilise the likeminded and innocent fence sitters to support their partisan agenda.   This has often  led to veiled and even direct incitement to violence. 

The new technologies enable governments to act as a Big Brother who has complete surveillance over our society.  The new technologies allow the surveillance of the personal life of any person which may include his/her social interactions, professional dealings, geographical location, financial transactions etc.  These technologies facilitate the surveillance over the supposedly anti-national activities of the dissenters. We all know what a simple phone tapping could do.  Armed with these new technologies, the state can intrude into the personal and intimate life of its citizens.  The fact that mobile and internet usage is increasingly becoming a basic necessity in our country, most of our people are already vulnerable to an invading probe of a Big Brother, positioning and justifying its acts of intrusions as necessary in the interest of the nation. Thus, it has become possible to mask a vested interest as the interest of the nation. This opens us to the dangers of photoshoped nationalism which can strangulate and silence innocent citizens who   are often demonized as enemies  to our nation. 

The photoshoped nationalism photoshops its people. It orders and ranks them as national and draws the boundary between those that are deemed as anti-national.  The new technologies of communication and surveillance has made it possible to manipulate the digitized images and information of individuals and groups and twist them to fit into a scheme that will render them as raw material to be craftily  photoshoped  to suit the agenda of a powerful elite. Image of photoshop is profoundly powerful. It not only opens us to the domain of the new communication technologies and their potency to manipulate information and enslave people but also opens our horizons to the way social engineering is being employed to manipulate the collective image of the people and render them alien. This is why we may say that a  photophoped nationalism is photoshoping the minorities, dalits, women and tribals as others and strangers to the mainstream culture. In Goa, we also have evolved as a photoshoped community. We are considered as different and others from the rest of Indians. This photoshoping of Goa as a place of difference builds social capital that is being preyed upon by the tourism industry.  The raising of awareness of the photoshoped  nationalism and its photoshoping of our people  is the beginning of our freedom from it.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao