In many countries, the gap between social media rhetoric and mainstream media rhetoric is often quite vast. In India however, on both mainstream and social media, there is a race to the bottom in terms of how absurdly hyper-nationalistic one can be when it comes to scapegoating internal strife on India’s neighbours Pakistan and China. In this sense, while India presents the wider world with slick media campaigns which tend to portray the entire country as an economic superpower inside a kind of spiritual Disneyland, what Indian media says to domestic audiences is overwhelmingly crude, base, hostile, flippant and violent. Beyond this, vast swaths of Indian media have perpetually exploited disinformation campaigns in order to foment the mass hatred of Pakistanis, Chinese, Indian Muslims and the Ummah (global Islamic community) as a whole.
Rather than respond to international calls to resolve the human rights disaster in Kashmir through dialogue and de-escalation, Indian media and Indian politicians jumped to blame last week’s Pulwama incident in IOK on the Pakistani state, in spite of a total lack of evidence. This has been the case in spite of the fact that the attack was carried out by an indigenous Kashmiri group that has been banned in Pakistan since 2002.
But while for those who follow Asian political developments, India’s response was sadly predictable, for those outside of south Asia in particular, Indian media’s over-the-top attempts to sow discord between India and its nuclear armed neighbours, between Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris, between Muslims and Hindus and between Sikhs and Hindus – ought to be amplified globally so that international audiences can see how literally “incredible” (as in difficult to believe) modern Indian media is.
Of course, no survey of Indian media in the aftermath of the Pulwama incident would be complete without viewing some of the televised “debates” where those arguing for military action against Pakistan tomorrow, are called traitors and weaklings by those who have argued for military action against Pakistan as a so-called “preemptive” measure. Yet because such “debates” are typically little more than groups of men shouting over one another for minutes on end, some of the rhetoric is lost in a sea of blood thirsty screams.
While members of the ruling BJP compete with members of its even more extreme coalition partner Shiv Sena regarding when and how to attack Pakistan for something which had nothing to do with Pakistan, the supposedly respectable Times of India is clearly the champion of fomenting violent mass hysteria.
On the 18th of February, the Times of India published an article by the proudly US educated Harbir Singh titled “Pakistan must be destroyed!“. Far from just being a grotesquely hyperbolic headline, the article itself is a lengthy diatribe in which Singh outlines a list of baseless and conspiratorial allegations against Pakistan, before sounding a jingoistic call for war. After assuring his readers that China would not get involved in what would almost certainly be a nuclear war against Pakistan, Singh ends his article by stating: “If that is not an outcome we want, Pakistan has to be destroyed and we have to gear up to make it happen. Starting now“.
Just to recap, this wasn’t written in a What’s App message to a small group of like-minded obscurantist lunatics. This was published on the website of The Times of India, the English language newspaper with the highest circulation not just in India, but in the entire world.
Thus, while in most countries, supposedly respectable media outlets of all sizes tend to stay away from calls to enter a war that would inevitably be a nuclear one, the Times of India clearly has no problem with publishing such obscene filth. In this case, one would find it hard to imagine that obscure blogs and What’s App threads could keep up with the violence agitated for in the Times of India. Perhaps this is why Indian ultra-nationalists instead devote much of their time on social media to hurling abuse at professional political strategists, journalists and commentators who present objective views on the realities of Naya Pakistan.
Below is a screenshot of a hateful message sent by an Indian ultra-nationalist to a geopolitical expert based outside of south Asia:
But not just content to spew hostility against Pakistan, Indian media has also been launching disinformation attacks against China. Whilst China’s top media outlets typically refrain from commenting on the behaviour of foreign media, sustained Indian media attacks on China elicited a response from China’s highly respected Global Times. The Global Times editorial stated that Indian media’s Sinophobic fake news has “...impulsively demanded India downgrade diplomatic and economic relations with China“.
The Global Times further highlights Indian media’s self-harming and supremely arrogant militant posturing against its Chinese neighbour in the following way:
“With strained relations, crisis erupts now and then between India and Pakistan. China hopes to broker friendly cooperation with India while also maintaining a sound relationship with Pakistan. India wants China to stand with it over the India-Pakistan row, otherwise China is seen as unfriendly. India cannot force China to do so, which frustrates some Indians, but it’s not China’s fault.
As the US considers India a chess piece with which to check China while Indian government has been maintaining its strategic autonomy. However, extreme nationalism in Indian media will affect India’s evaluation of its own relations with China. China respects India’s interests and feelings and has never been provocative toward India. However, public opinion in India often targets China, putting the two countries at odds.
Often there are calls to “punish China” and “boycott Chinese products.” This is not the attitude that New Delhi is supposed to take toward a country whose GDP is four or five times that of India. The power gap between China and India is much larger than that between China and the US, yet India is more arrogant toward China than China is toward the US.
As a mainstream Chinese media, we reiterate that China respects India’s interests and rights, will firmly support India’s efforts in countering terrorism, and be persistent in developing friendly cooperation with India. Meanwhile, we hope the Indian media will abandon radical nationalism, objectively view China-India relations and promote rational development of bilateral relations”.
The reality is that India’s vast media landscape is growing ever more hostile, hysterical and manic in its calls for blood against the citizens of vast nuclear armed nations. It goes without saying that the attitude among mainstream and alternative Indian media sources has been a direct cause of the ongoing mob violence against Muslim Kashmiris in Jammu and even against Muslim Indians outside of IOK.
India likes to present itself to the wider world as a peaceful and even magical place whose only problems are caused by foreign powers. The reality is that in sowing campaigns of supreme hate based on utter disinformation, domestically aimed Indian media reveals an ugliness that those interested in truth, transparency and justice ought to be aware of. In the age of the internet, India can no longer speak out of both sides of its collective mouth. That which is most incredible about Indian media is its shameless promotion of internal sectarianism, foreign war and counter-productive hostility. It is time for Indian media to be named and shamed in order to try and reserves this damaging trend.