This is from the New YorkTimes: “The quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly provocative. They are sent by e-mail from the Obama headquarters in Chicago to reporters who have interviewed campaign officials under one major condition: the press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name”. In other words any quote from the Obama campaign that appears in media is pre-censored by his press office. Out in the US they are now calling it “quote approval” or “message approval”. In India the govt and the media are creating “phenomenon and semantics” to create fear and through it muzzle free speech. The phenomenon here is to use the Assam violence and subsequent events to create fear and panic and distract from many other real issues. The semantics: Spreading hate, images inciting violence, hate-speech and communal threats! And all of this mainly coming from only one source: Social media on the internet.
The entire sequence of events after the Assam riots is turning into one bizarre conspiracy. It almost seems very well thought out, planned and implemented. The violence at Azad Maidan followed by that at Lucknow by those in “garbs and dressed up” as Muslims (as TOI states) do not seem to be accidents. If there were fake but provocative images of killings in Assam or Burma on the internet they were used by the riot-mongers in ‘print’ at both places. It is not the Internet or websites that directly provoked any violence or communal hatred. Evidence based on people arrested so far in Bangalore and Kerala clearly indicate use of mobile services for bulk SMSes and MMSes to instigate fear and the exodus. From August 12 the media had started receiving the memo. Blame it on Pakistan! Blame it on Social Media! They broke it gently and then raised the pitch by accusing FB, Twitter and websites of hate-speech, inciting communal violence.
On TV channels and Twitter the agenda-driven media folks, led by CNN-IBN and NDTV, were on a rampage issuing warnings, threats and messages to social media about spreading hate and inciting violence. The stage was set – Enter Kapil Sibal and Sachin Pilot. I had alerted the Internet/Social Media censorship plan in my post “Assam & Azad Maidan - How MSM Sibalises Riots” on August 12. A private message even reports that some Twitter handles were reported to the govt for blocking by members of MSM. Not surprising! Once the stage was set by the MSM, the junior guy, Sachin Pilot, embarked on a mindless rampage blocking websites, FB accounts and individual web pages. Not much success with Twitter yet. Let’s ignore the nonsense about fake or parody accounts of @PMOIndia. That’s another smoke-screen. So what did they block so far?
|CIS Blocked sites (Click to enlarge)|
Here’s a graphic from the CentreFor Internet Society that indicates 309 sites and pages that have been blocked. (Caution: They claim this is based on a leak and also some sites may still be accessible on certain ISPs). The 309 figure seems close as Indian Express corroborates. IE also adds an important and shocking opening para: “Out of the 245 web pages that the government had blocked till Monday, not more than one-fifth contained any reference to the people of the Northeast or the recent violence in Assam, indicating that the role of Pakistan’s internet users in creating the hate atmosphere that caused people of the Northeast to flee home from cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Pune could be exaggerated”.
|Outlook (Click to enlarge)|
Ø Sagarika Ghose implied the RSS, who were helping the NE victims, was behind the Bangalore exodus and that they had an “agenda”. She wasn’t alone, there were many others. Message: Right wing Hindus were spreading hate and rumours and threats.
Ø TOI describes the rioters in Lucknow as people in “garbs” and “dressed up” as Muslims.
Ø Frequent appeals and warnings by media persons on Twitter warning Twitterati to avoid rumour mongering, spreading hate and inciting communal sentiments. And though the messages are general, the target is the huge Hindu population on Twitter and the internet.
Ø Denounce the “Illegal Bangladeshis” reality on TV shows and print articles and portray Muslims as the victims. Completely avoid mentioning the role of Asaduddin Owaisi and his “third-wave” threat from the parliament.
Ø Constantly accuse Indians on social media from across the world, again mostly Hindus, of abusing freedom of speech and inciting communal hatred.
Ø Blame Pakistan without real evidence but act against websites from India. Even innocuous web pages that discussed Assam or the Exodus were blocked. Some Twitter accounts are also blocked to spread further fear and panic.
A govt that can fall and face elections at any time will go any lengths to create fear and panic. A govt that is corrupt will go any lengths to block dissent. 2014 is still some time away. The first target would have to be Gujarat. It needs no Einstein to discover that a huge majority in the social media are Narendra Modi fans and BJP sympathisers. Semantics? Tag them as Fascists, Extremist-Right-Wing and people who “spread hate”. Another massive victory for Modi in Gujarat presents the greatest and clear danger to the Congress govt at the centre. It is also hurtful to them that Modi has proved to be far more net-savvy and has been successfully able to harness social media to further his cause and politics. SM will naturally play a major role in campaigning and propaganda in all future elections. The dissenting voices on the net need to be tamed, if not silenced, since the Congress is losing the social media war. The Gujarat cottage industry of hate, Teesta, Mallika, Barkha, Rajdeep and others, has been defunct therefore newer options needed.
Although the Congress claims to be the party that fought for our freedom from the British, it has stood for anything but freedom and independence. At every threat to its power at the centre or any state it has resorted to the most absurdly repressive measures. Curbing free speech has always been the permanent pet project of the Congress and its govt. In December 2011 in the parliament Ram Jethmalani altered a commonly used saying about power thus: “Power corrupts but the prospect of losing power corrupts absolutely!” If the Congress loses power then the media, which is soaked in corruption and luxury by its collusion, will also lose the battle. Indira Gandhi did it in 1975, Sonia Gandhi and her cronies have just about implemented a veiled Emergency in 2012. The worst is still to come but this time around it is unlikely they will manage to suppress speech. The internet is not like Congress sycophants, it’s now the mother of free speech.