Saffron Heads with Neutral Masks: Manufacturing consent through Social Media


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Noam Chomsky had coined the term ‘Manufacturing consent’ to refer to the role played by Media in creating system supportive propaganda function. The purpose of propaganda is to indoctrinate human minds to think in a particular manner through imposing necessary illusions. The five filters which enable this is through control of ownership of media owned by corporations, revenues of media being made dependent on funding through advertising, sourcing power centres acting as news feeders to media, Flak through adverse criticism of its supposed enemies and taking an anti communism stand thus creating fear of an enemy. The term was coined more in the context of mainstream media.

With the emergence of Social Media, a part of this function of manufacturing consent has also been taken over by blogs associated with Social media. Face book blogs, Whatsapp groups, politically supported cyber media have also emerged as new centres for ‘manufacturing consent’ to serve an agenda. Political groups are increasingly using such spaces for creating consent in favour of certain ideologies, individuals and institutions. It is in this context the usage of social media for manufacturing consent by Saffron groups needs to be looked into.

With BJP coming to power, a lot of Facebook blogs and websites emerged to perform the role of manufacturing consent. Some of these openly declare their allegiance to saffron ideology through fanclubs. Such fanclubs exist in the name of prime minister through groups such as ‘I support Narendra Modi’, ‘Narendra Modi fan club’, ‘Our PM Narendra Modi’. Sometimes these exist in the name of saffron leaning journalists such as ‘Rohit Sardana and Sudir Chaudhary fan club’, ‘Arnab Goswami against prestitutes’, ‘Arnab Goswami fans club’, ‘Arnab Goswami fans’, ‘I support zee news’, ‘zee news ke fans’ etc. These groups either openly declare their allegiance to the BJP regime and the saffron ideology or speak in favor of the right wing discourse. Thus they try to create consent among the public in favor of the Government.

There are also social media groups which claim to be neutral and standing against all forms of paid media. Though they operate under such banner, the content of their postings is highly in favor of themes generated by rightwing – which could be Saffron nationalists vs. Other anti nationals, Pakistan haters as good Indians vs. Pakistan lovers as bad Indians, Bad terrorists vs. good army men, Good Hindutva vadis vs. bad sickularists, Nationalists BJP vs. Anti national others, Efficient BJP vs. inefficient others, BJP as doers vs. others as undoers. Such groups exist in the name of groups such as ‘India against paid media, ‘Say no to sold media’. Considering secularism to be a bad idea, these saffron groups also operate blogs such as ‘Bengal against Sickularism’, ‘India against Sickularism’, ‘The Sickular Indian’ etc.

With the emergence of the Modi regime, such groups are increasingly attempting at occupying the Social media spaces. As these are increasingly becoming spaces for posting and receiving news content and shaping political opinions, they are being utilized by right wing to create an atmosphere in favor of Hindutva. It has created its cadre whose role is to manufacture content, post it and create an atmosphere in favor of saffron ideology. This is primarily through distorting information, manipulating facts, misinterpreting it and usage of manipulation for presenting the facts. The usage of Photoshop and doctored videos has become common. In the absence of critical reasoning and unfiltered absorption of such content by social media users, such content has the danger of shaping the opinions of social media users.

Chomsky’s filter can be applied to understand the roles played by Saffron leaning social media blogs to create propaganda. These entities which claim to be neutral under the banner of ‘India against paid media’, ‘Say no to paid media’, ‘India against Prestitutes’ are owned by political groups leaning towards BJP. In terms of their funding they either receive funding support either through right wing leaning political groups or individuals. The sources of news of these are either through rightwing leaning individuals, saffron institutions (RSS, VHP, BJP, ABVP, BJP) or saffron sympathizers. They resort to flak and heavy criticism of its enemies which could be political parties (Congress, AAP), political leaders (Rahul Gandhi, Kejriwal, Kanhaiah), ideologues and intellectuals (left, liberal), nations (Pakistan, China), journalists (Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep, Ravish) etc. They create a fear through heavy propaganda of ‘India under threat’ through Islamic terrorism, Maoists, Kashmiri militants etc.

Such social media blogs, in the name of neutral media are only representatives of a highly reactionary right wing ideology. They can only be termed as Saffron heads with Neutral Masks. These are emerging as the representatives of the ruling party to ‘manufacture consent’ in favor of the party in power. It is important to create a critical audience who critically appraise and receive only filtered information.

(About the Author: T. Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher. He did his M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University).


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