Brownpundits have come on Youtube.
Currently, i have only uploaded History series podcasts on Youtube, but hopefully in the coming days we can upload some vodcasts and some popular podcasts on too
Brownpundits have come on Youtube.
Currently, i have only uploaded History series podcasts on Youtube, but hopefully in the coming days we can upload some vodcasts and some popular podcasts on too
Yesterday morning Republic TV Host – Arnab Goswami was arrested in the early hours of the morning for a two-year-old suicide case. The arrest and especially the nature of his arrest created a mini storm on Twitter, with Hindutva twitter making it a FOE issue and a reflection “fascist” nature of Maharashtra government and some sections of Liberals seeing this arrest as Karma.
I would highly recommend Shekhar Gupta’s Cut The Clutter on this topic
Some of the criticism of Karma on Arnab appears fair if you look at the way Rhea Chakravarty was hounded by Arnab and journalists on his side of the political spectrum with Arnab as the ringleader. But it’s the Optics of the arrest and high handedness of the Maharashtra government (using encounter specialists for the arrest) needs to be called out. This comes a week or two after the arrest of Sameer Thakkar for “objectionable” tweets about Uddhav Thackeray and his son. That issue created some outrage on social media but nothing compared to the Arnab issue. Personally, I find such arbitrary arrests (Sameer Thakkar) that have been known to happen in India very frequently, more troubling than the arrest of Arnab Goswami. The arrest of Arnab is surprising due to his stature and popularity and not due to the arbitrariness of his arrest (which is actually banal in India).
Within hours the BJP big guns jumped into the fray with condemnations from Smriti Irani to S Jaishankar. Even comparisons of Emergency were made by Devendra Fadanvis. However one must point out that Hindutva twitter was unhappy with BJP’s response. They wanted a more violent defense of Arnab by BJP (what that would entail is best left to the imagination). However, hypocritically though not surprisingly – the same establishment is silent on the arrests of journalists, which have happened regularly for actually doing their job (in all states including a lot of BJP governed states). Hathras was a prime example where some arrests were made by UP police (the exhaustive list would be too damning). Similarly, the famous arrests of so-called “Urban Naxals” – especially Sudha Bharadwaj, are followed by their detainment for over 2 years without any solid proof coming up in the due process comes to mind. Recently, Dhaval Patel from Gujarat was arrested because he wrote a piece alleging Gujarat CM being replaced because of poor handling of the Covid crisis. He was released on bail after an order from the court. I can go on and on and keep on pointing cases of significantly worse handling of journalists by all states under all governments in India. Uttar Pradesh under Yogi is particularly harsh when it comes to handling journalists but no state passes the basic smell test when it comes to protecting freedom of expression.
Taking it to a next level, there are routine deaths of journalists when they report lesser-known criminals and politicians. The Sand Mafia, the Mining Mafia, the other lesser and greater known criminals (and politicians) are famous for threatening, killing, and killing entire families of journalists. I would like some documentation with trends of murders and mysterious deaths of journalists in India over the last 70 years (couldn’t find any on a cursory search).
My aim here is to not indulge in whataboutery but to put the Arnab arrest in perspective. It’s not an extraordinary event in itself, just it grabs so much space (even in NYT) because it is Arnab – the TRP king and apparent favorite of the BJP Regime. Press freedom in India has a long long way to go, but using this particular case to make that point is not a great idea. Where this case may affect a change(or escalation) is the interplay of journalism (or media) and politics in the future. Politically this moment might turn out to be a significant yardstick for future abuse of state power for politics. Shekhar Gupta alludes to it in the video, this may be a slippery slope leading to an escalation in vendetta politics across the country. The central government under BJP has till now troubled NDTV (with Tax fraud etc), the Wire, and all the usual suspects for 6 years now. But in no case was the action OPTICALLY as drastic as the arrest of Arnab. Maybe such drastic optics are where we are leading, whenever someone raises the level it’s fair to expect others to follow. With more and more public figures getting partisan (Kangana Ranaut, Bajaj, etc) could one expect politicians to attack them too? As was the case with Kangana? Probably. But that doesn’t bode well for either the debate or the partisanship.
AJPlus is owned by the Al Jazeera Media Group, which is a catspaw of the government of Qatar. Qatar is a Salafi petrostate run for the benefit of the Thani family and is run like a capitalist caste state. I’ve been to Qatar. It’s a fine place if you have money, but perhaps less fine if you one of the laboring classes.
I don’t begrudge Sana Saeed for making a living, but I doubt she would begrudge herself that opportunity if she was on the outside looking in.
The world is complicated. I dislike engaging in guilt-by-association but woke journalists at AJPlus do it constantly. It’s like they don’t see the glasshouses that they live in.
Yesterday I read a piece in Web portal Newslaundry (of which i am a disappointed subscriber). While i agreed with some parts of the argument I found the oversimplification and ideological bias to be very stark and mildly unpalatable. Particularly what struck me was the referring to Yogi Adityanath as Ajay Bisht.
about that time Uttar Pradesh chief minister Ajay Bisht showed up in Karawal Nagar and told a bustling audience that “their ancestors broke this country apart”, meaning Muslims.
Being a reasonable follower of politics I know that Yogi Adityanath was once called Ajay Bisht before he took the name Adityanath as the head of Gorakhpur Muth. The use of name Ajay Bisht is clearly a polemical ploy to get virtual cheers from the people on your side of the debate but what it foolishly ignores IMO is the reverence Hindus in general have for Yogis, Sadhus and Godmen.
The problems of this polemic are twofold:
In my readings and listenings over the years, the only people who had scornfully referred to un-named religious men have been people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. However one doesn’t need to defend these folks for their consistency as their all out attack on religion is as even handed as humanly possible.
This discussion goes well into the truly sad self goal by the Indian Liberals viz. the Delhi Riots 2020 book launch. One of the arguments for this is made in here. (Again in Newslaundry which to my disappointment is going truly into the Wokesphere). This argument is so lame and so pre-Internet IMO that it doesn’t even bother confronting the real outcome of Bloomsbury de-platforming Delhi Riots 2020 – increased popularity and unnecessary (from liberal pov) martyrdom of the authors. What could’ve been criticized as an one sided and hyperbolic book has become a Free speech issue. And Liberals have ceded a lot of moral ground here. Contrast this with the much more objectively problematic book on 26/11 – RSS ka Shadyantra, 26/11 which did not receive any meaningful criticism from the liberal side despite being the complete PIGSHIT. The book could’ve objectively & legally banned from publishing IMO as it compromised the national position on 26-11 and Pakistan but it wasn’t. The extend to which the RSS opposed that book was that they filed a court complaint and the author/publisher had to apologize – yes its the so called Fascists who take the legal route. The whole outrage over the pulping of Wendy Doniger’s book is put in nice perspective with this incident. The reason I personally endured parts of Doniger’s spurious Freudian extrapolations is because of the noise that book generated. Same will happen with the Delhi Riots 2020 for many non-partisan people.
Some smart liberals have stood up against this virtue signaling masquerading as moral righteousness. Examples – Here and Here but they have been childishly dismissed by the left as Both-siders between Good and Evil. What is surprising for me is how deracinated some people have become to count this instance as a liberal victory. As if getting plaudits from your own tribe matters as a victory. But in these polarized echo chambers even a (BOT)tish liberal POV articles by folks like Aakar Patel & Shivam Vij are well received. Lets not even start with how people like Rana Ayyub and Sagarika Ghose earn so much money and fame.
On the whole, based on interactions i have had with Hindutva supporters, most don’t support the extreme narrative espoused in books like Delhi Riots 2020. From a purely reductionist point of view – 40/53 causalities have been Muslim and the overwhelming number of people facing prosecution are also Muslims. Such hard facts are irrefutable even if people on the Right are moderately honest (which most are). However what has enraged most people on the right is the calling of Delhi 2020 riots- Pogroms or comparing them to Gujarat 2002. Journalists like Rahul Pandita and even bleeding heart liberals like Rajdeep Sardesai were viciously attacked from the left when they pointed out that both communities had suffered from the riots. If such an atmosphere persists I wouldn’t be surprised if more One sided books like Delhi Riots 2020 are written, published and widely read. Had I been the marketing in-charge of release of Delhi Riots 2020, i couldn’t have come up with a better plan for a wider readership.
What is tragic about these antics is that people on the right are more likely to believe extreme and conspiracy theorist narratives as a natural function of this controversy. But till LIBERALS continue with virtue signaling over readable and nuanced arguments, liberals(like me) are bound to be pushed rightwards.
Paatal lok is the latest in the list of OTT crime thrillers released for Indian audiences. After receiving rave reviews from the entertainment fraternity, the series received the usual push-back from the rising digital Hindutva right-wing. I read this long read on Swarajya which interested me enough to bing the show – if only to check my views against those of Swarajya. Though the language of the piece was full of standard digital Hindutva tropes, I was of the opinion that the writer seems to have a point. I watched the show hoping to answer the following questions.
I still remember the good old days.
When the biggest internal danger to America was Bible Thumping McDonald’s addicts and a spontaneous KKK takeover of the White House. I was a young brown kid growing up in a post-9/11 America. Politics was one of the last things on my mind and easily summed up as Democrats = “tolerance” and Republicans = “racist.” Barack Obama’s 2008 victory showed me that a minority in the United States could achieve anything.
All was well.
Then an apparent apocalypse happened in 2016 when the Anti-Christ was elected. I still remember watching the CNN panel go from Manhattan arrogance to DC downplaying to Rust Belt frustration to Portland freakout – the coast to coast American experience all within a day. And I kind of shared that fear too. I liked Bernie, voted for Hillary, and was aghast at Trump. I still believed my old Republican and Democrat dichotomy.
Then I decided to take a second look. I started to notice unnerving parallels between American and Indian politics, particularly those on the left end of the spectrum. Looking at it from a different angle, I realized I was misjudging the waves for the tide.
Influence is an art. It is a dance of subtlety and force. A moving of the mind and a journey of the heart. It is difficult enough to master at an individual level; so how can one possibly master it at a geopolitical level?
Yet, influence is the invisible hand in geopolitics. Hard to quantify and in constant flux, some countries wield it with brute might, while other countries seduce their counterparts into submission.
Qatar may be the per square mile most influential nation in the world. This little, lavish country has mastered the painting of perceptions through the art of influence. And more than that, Qatar has turned its art into action.
When the ancient Cro-Magnon crossed paths with the Neanderthal in prehistoric Europe, a conflict was born. Slowly but surely, the invading Cro-Magnons subdued and supplanted the native Neanderthals into oblivion. The only Neanderthal traces left were fossils and tiny genetic snippets in the Sapiens code. But why did these Cro-Magnons so rapidly succeed the Neanderthals?
In his book Sapiens, Harari posits that it was the ability of ancient humans to create myths that led to triumph over their Neanderthal cousins. Whether it was concepts of religion, trade, country, etc…, the Cro-Magnon coalitions weren’t just strengthened by shared genetic codes but shared mythic creeds. Innovation and legends built from this cognitive revolution gave early humans the tools to not only conquer other species but also each other.
Old myths were now carving new realities.
This blood of fratricide would continue across the ages to the tip of Spartan spears clashing against Athenian shields. In this land of early contacts, people who shared even greater similarities than the Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals were still locked in an eternal war over the myths of alliances and city states. Another incarnation would appear in the same land as Greeks and Anatolian “Turks” (who may have shared more DNA with an Athenian than a Central Asian) would come to gunpowder blows with a backdrop of whether Jesus or Muhammed was the supreme prophet.
Of course, one could say these conflicts were all over resources; but myths provided the fuel to the fire. The fictions of community, ideology, and religion were integral to these conflicts; and the legends of their conflicts were peppered with these myths, not over who controlled a salt mine.
History is filled with centralized powers and rulers having a vice grip over their societies’ myths. Nonetheless, massive calamities or upheavals would cause realities to shatter mythologies (much like the coronavirus today). The spread of the internet and social media have upended traditional formulas, and now myths are increasingly divided and divisive.
I came across an extremely interesting yet at times very hypocritical podcast – the Rabbit Hole. It is produced by the New York Times and delves into the story of a young man named Caleb and his radicalization by way of…YouTube. On the way it pairs a fairly centrist Joe Rogan with famous racists such as Stephan Molyneaux and Milo Yiannopolous, designates deviation from mainstream thought as a mental disturbance, and labels dissent against mainstream media as surefire pathway to bigotry.
It is slickly produced, gorgeous in audio, and loudly ironic – as it sounds like a parody of propaganda itself.
Let’s not forget the highlight reel of the New York Times’ myths this year includes lamenting that not enough Indians have died due to coronavirus, labeling the Chinese travel ban as racist, and canceling #MeToo because Joe Biden.
These are the myths that an esteemed and storied American institution propagates. It doesn’t take a mythologist or scientist to tell you that something is off.
Media, academia, corporations, and governments themselves are seeing their stories thrown into bonfires like an Evangelical reaction to Harry Potter books. The sacred myths of the past such as the accessibility of the American Dream, the “natural fit” of the European Union, the hyper-competence of the CCP, India’s minority favoritism in guise of “secularism,” and so many more myths of the elites are being capsized. Populist surges have been inflamed by mismatching of reality and myth, and alternative voices have been given suffrage by the internet.
The Rabbit Hole feels like a reaction. A major institution trying to silence alternative thought (much of which I strongly disagree with myself) as it feels threatened, using every aesthetic and influential trick in its repertoire. It’s a very entertaining yet at times jarring piece of content. It’s so fascinating seeing a media giant so brazenly and fearfully enforce its myth.
The Hindu concept of Māyā is multifaceted; but for our purpose today, let’s pin it down to the idea that our world is an elaborate illusion, fueled by attachment, arrogance, and deception. The illusion is tailored. For one, it may be their emotional faults; for another, it’s their addiction; for someone else, it’s their position of power, etc…
Each person has their own māyā. Their own reality. Their own myth.
Institutions have for too long utilized prestige to create precedent. They have gotten used to their word being a given, rather than something that is taken. Now with the coronavirus baring the top-down māyā of the elites and institutions, a bottom-up backlash ensues.
A whole array of new myths and challenges to the status quo are arising. Many of my group chat debates with friends end up being us posting different articles that say wildly opposite conclusions with Herculean confidence – a testament to how we now have a myriad of myths to choose from yet increasing difficulty in discerning our reality. News is no longer news. News is narrative.
Truth is more subjective than ever.
The Vedas have described reality as “neti neti” – not this, not that. This comfort with ambiguity is something that is sorely missed in today’s world. The sages who composed the Vedas found ease in ambiguity and accepted the limits of truth. From their verses, flowed the founding myths of the Indian subcontinent; and subsequent philosophers and truth-seekers created their own spin on those myths. Debate, diversity, and a mutual respect became integral to the Indic ethos, something you would never assume today watching the screaming cobblestone screens of Indian news.
Now is a time to embrace ambiguity. Absolute truths are being overturned by the coronavirus and the cascading economic downturn. From the Federal Reserve’s infinite monetary sprint careening past notions of debt to the WHO’s blatant capitulation to the Dragon, old conventions are imploding to open a path for new strategies, new myths.
This piece is more of a collection of thoughts than a focused message. A quiver of arrows rather than a spear. I want you to leave with questions.
Why should I listen to the media and institutions that have been so consistently wrong? That have a permanent sneer towards me? That seek to sear any speck of debate into ashes?
The war over myths is the story of human progress. Our myths chart the trail of our future. Belief has proven self-fulfilling on an individual as well as societal level. We must make sure that our beliefs are not defined by consistently wrong and Puritanical elites and institutions.
Our myths should come from experience and inquiry. It’s time for conversion. It’s time for reincarnation. It’s time to choose our own mythology.
For whatever reason, Facebook recently thought I might be interested in the subscription South Asian themed webzine and newsletter The Juggernaut. I don’t mind paying for media. I pay for The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. But why should you pay for The Juggernaut? Here’s a snippet from their about page:
It’s like your other email briefings. But browner. Join thousands and get the newsletter that curates the best global news on South Asia(ns) every Sunday. We also send updates on events, giveaways, our original reporting, and more. Unsubscribe anytime.
There are some good stories in The Juggernaut. I especially liked “Not Indian Enough” by Sabrina Malhi, a Guyanese American of East Indian ethnicity. This is a good piece of journalism because it shines the light on a topic and experience that’s underexposed, the liminality of being of Caribbean East Indian background. I learned a lot.
But the problem with The Juggernaut is that it strikes a pose as “South Asian,” which like “Social Justice” or “Family Values” is innocuous on the face of it, but connotes particular affinities, identities, and preoccupations, which are exclusionary of vast swaths of its potential audience. Back when the Sepia Mutiny blog was a thing I went to some meet-ups, and one thing that I noticed is that despite the focus on inclusive South Asian language on the internet, privately most people were conventionally nationalistic in regards to where their parents came from.
People didn’t talk about Desi or South Asian, they talked about Indian identity.
Since then the political and social cleavages have polarized. The Juggernaut is a pretty conventional distillation of progressive Diasporic poses. It focuses a great deal on marginalized elements of the brown experience and is lockstep with the global Left in a deep skepticism of Hindu nationalism.
There is nothing wrong with that. But it’s just one viewpoint and a viewpoint that seems extremely overrepresented among the Diasporic media class. There are potential readers who are somewhat outside of this progressive South Asian American exoteric box. I wish publications like The Juggernaut had enough viewpoint diversity to reflect and attract them.
As the United Kingdom’s Labour Party swallowed a staggering loss, it’s clear that we see a pattern across the world. Election after election, Left parties collapse against either centrist or frequently right wing parties. Does this imply a victory for the “Global Right?”
No – as Manu Joseph has beautifully explained, there can never be a Global Right.
The crux of Joseph’s argument lies in the fact that Leftists have become constantly concerned with grand humanitarian conflicts and cosmopolitan problems while Right Wingers are more concerned with “skin in the game” local issues. The Leftist leader shouts in a city square about human rights abuses in Israel, America, India, the UK, etc… (all while conveniently ignoring much, much worse abuses in less pluralistic and less democratic countries). The Right Wing leader is on the hinterland battleground listening to disaffected and ignored voters about their latest economic or communal ailment. The Left has become caught up in the noise in the air while the Right have their ears to the ground.
Of course, you may notice that lately there has been some hobnobbing amongst many “nationalist” or Right Wing leaders. Yet this exercise will only go so far.
Consider this – put an American Evangelical Christian and an Indian Hindu Hardliner in a room together. While they may both agree on their disdain of radical Islam, they will reach an impasse when the Evangelical explains to the Hindu Hardliner that they will burn in hell for eternity for not believing in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Hindu Hardliner will then tell the Evangelical to stop sending missionaries who destroy indigenous Indian culture with their conversion agenda. This clash will overwhelm any commonalities in the long run.
Bring a group of Leftists from disparate places such as London, New York, and New Delhi and you will have free flowing conversations about the liberation of Palestine, proper pronoun use, and how one needs to read more Marxist theory for communism to work.
Even on economics, Right Wingers from different nations will have vehement disagreements. The British Tories are distinctly to the left of American Democrats. Narendra Modi (who many times is described as “Far Right”) has enacted more “Socialist” policies in 5 years than Bernie Sanders will probably ever do in his lifetime. Modi has achieved the wildest economic initiatives of American Democrats yet is labeled as India’s doom and gloom; which is in direct contrast to his staggering electoral victories.
Finally, we have to acknowledge the grand chasm between international media’s narratives and ground realities. The raucous and slanted theater over the 2016 US, 2019 UK, and 2019 Indian elections show how massively wrong reporting was. This was a validation of localist siege mentalities regarding the media as well as the growing distrust people have in it.
What is a nation?
Is it its citizens? Its borders? Its values? Its history? Its present? Its future?
Of course, a reasonable take is that it is all of the above. The Left’s problem is that it has disconnected from its old base (the working class) partly because it has more or less forsaken the first 3 (notions of citizenship, borders, and local values).
The rural proletariat backbone of Left parties across the world have now been labeled as bigots, uncouth, and “deplorables;” simply because they refuse to digest runaway academic politicking, sneering towards their local tradition, and denigrating of their skin color or religion.
The Left’s relentless attack on their countries’ respective “majorities” has manifested into electoral backlashes. Even in loss, we’ve seen their ideologues double down on this suicidal oration.
On top of this is the perception of the Left engaging in vote banking with minorities. With the Left capitulating to certain antisocial elements in minority groups, majorities have become even more infuriated. Whether its the Labour Party massaging the antisemitism of Islamists in the UK, Indian opposition parties lionizing protestors who canonize terrorists, or American Democrats sticking their head in the sand over the spillover of drug and gang violence from Mexico – Left parties across the world have been made bare over their apathy towards their vote banks’ faults.
Does this mean all minorities should be shamed and hounded for their misdeeds? Absolutely and unequivocally no. All communities in a nation, whether in majority or minority should move to remove their faults and prosper forward. However, the reality is that localist parties have now been given enough ammo from the Left to consolidate majorities in their countries. The Left’s vote bank vetos have lost their old potency and must face the mirror or face the music.
The march of muddied boots under red flags used to send shivers up the spine of capitalists. Now capitalists rally around the latest “woke” trend and other inane culture wars that are ripe for the investment into perpetual outrage. Old Left leaders came from factory floors, while the current crop comes from Ivy Leagues and ivory towers. The formally faithful worker base asks for policy changes regarding welfare, wages, and trade; while the bourgeoise urban elite donors and leadership demand new articles highlighting “X-phobia” and identity politics.
And when the Left does decide to finally wade into economic issues, the results have been lackluster.
The topic of the Left’s economic evolution is worthy of a book in and of itself. Every country’s economic situation and externalities are very unique; so it is futile to paint their economic portrait either free market green or a socialist red. However, a common theme across the world has been Left parties holding the torch of economic reform only to run either half measures or trip up over useless communal quarrels.
America is a prime arena as the economic tug of war is in full force here.
While markets have recovered and wildly prospered post-2008, many Americans feel like they missed the ship. These same Americans would propel Trump into power as they saw the Democrats’ half hearted economic agenda failing them. The Democrats would face a wave of economic populism to finish what Obama started, but this would drown under toxic identity politics introduced by the mainstream Clinton camp to nullify Sanders’ swell. The problem came about when Clinton lost and now a new wave of Democrats combined both Clinton’s social agenda with Sanders’ economic direction. As various elections across the world have shown, this is not a reliable concoction.
While older Left parties were seen as champions of the working class, they have increasingly championed policies that hurt them. Open borders and mass immigration rhetoric would be devastating to lower income people with depressed wages and increased job competition. Scathing criticism of the “billionaire class” by multi-millionaire politicians not only looks like ridiculous rhetoric but is absolutely ineffective policy. Billionaires and the mega rich are indeed the global citizens that many Leftists wish they were. As Europe’s failed wealth tax experiment showed, the rich will simply move abroad or tell their accountant to move their money.
A light in these dark times for the (Western) Left is demography. The youth overwhelmingly favor Left parties in places like the US and Europe (India is the opposite where youth are placing faith in the BJP). American youth even have a positive tilt towards socialism. I can imagine a recession in the near future will shatter the walls to universal healthcare, major subsidies in education, and maybe even UBI.
However, what the Left must work on is ushering in renewed faith amongst the majorities of their nations. A ceasing of incessant attacks on majority culture, customs, and values is a must. It is all right to call out the problems of slavery, imperialism, etc… of the past, but the crimes of the past should not rest on the shoulders of those in the present. Likewise, current issues regarding discrimination shouldn’t be blanketed over whole populations.
Concerning immigration, it is a topic for individual nations dependent on context and demographics. An open or loose border ideal won’t work for most nations if any due to either economic constrains or demographic antagonism.
In America at least, I see glimpses of a future winning ticket in politicians such as Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard (though both will most likely not win the primaries) who shun the vociferous social histrionics of much of their party while presenting decidedly Left articulations of economics without wading into full blown socialist visions. They stand their ground all while standing up for minorities as equal citizens instead of coddled vote banks or vilified communities. All this, while tackling the impending massive changes to the economy as the information age veers into full swing.
It is more than clear that Left parties have their work cut out for them. Introspection is the best prescription I can offer them as their current path will only lead to ruin. The world needs their kind for ideological balance, sensible opposition, and checks to an increasingly dominant right wing across the world.
Time will tell when sense returns to the Left. Till then, localism will reign.