The Left’s “astroturf dissent” on the web and why the Right should be wary

Remember the early UPA 2 years? Those were the days when nobody in the media dared to open his/her mouth against Sonia Gandhi and the Opposition was numb. The arrogant Chidambarams of the world would condescendingly tell the BJP that it would not come to power for at least another 10 years.

It is around that time that dissent began to surface sporadically on the internet. Without any organization, coordination or planning,  people began to take to whatever medium they could lay their hands upon … Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, etc to express their dissent. The use of the internet as a platform for political expression in India was still new. Narendra Modi was the first to understand its potential and harness it effectively. The liberal media was too fond of itself to notice the sea change happening around it. The Congress was too busy counting its booty.

By the time the liberals realized what was happening, it was already too late. They had been reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, not even enough for an official opposition.

The Right Wing still has a decisive edge when it comes to the online space. But the worst mistake that the right can make is to fall for the same sense of complacency and self-satisfaction that proved to be the undoing of the left.

Because the sands are shifting in the online playground.

Taking lessons from its bitter 2014 defeat, the Left has invested lots of time and energy into building a string of online fortresses. We can easily reel off the names : Scroll, Wire, Catch, Quint, Newslaundry, the India edition of Huffington Post and so on. One should really add Firstpost and DailyO to the same list because of the overwhelming majority of pro-left articles on both of these websites.

Unlike the right with its humble beginnings on social media around 2009-10, these left wing websites are no amateur operations. The typical person who writes for these websites is a professional journalist with a fat pay package. In contrast, the right wing on the internet still has not moved too far from its origins with common folk spending their spare time after work to indulge their hobby of political writing.

And there are signs that the leftist “string of pearls” is beginning to come together in a concerted effort to choke the right. Today, a sundry JNU student making yet another anti-Modi speech to a handful of comrades at JNU can get an audience of thousands, even hundreds of thousands … and potentially millions, thanks to Newslaundry broadcasting them live.

(Side question to JNUSU : How come your General Secretary is talking about Najeeb’s killers at 4:08? How do you know that Najeeb is dead? Do you folks know something that you are hiding from Delhi police?)

The left’s propaganda team is scouring the length and breadth of this country in the search for “talent”. One  forgotten news anchor, who made most of his name working with Doordarshan in the old days, has been recently been dredged up and rehabilitated on the internet. He now has his own (almost daily) show on the Youtube channel of the Wire, from where he launches bitter diatribes against Modi and calls for “honest, fearless  reporting”. You know … perhaps the kind they would do at Doordarshan during the Congress years.

A leftist comedian in some corner of the country starts something of a “talk show” to further anti-Modi propaganda. Merely two or three youtube episodes later, the “show” gets featured on Scroll.in for a massive publicity boost.

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Yeah… that high five with Congress leader Priyanka Chaturvedi seems about right.

And so do these left wing sites go on, aiding and abetting each other. A piece that appears on Altnews one day is carried by Newslaundry the next day. Purely on the basis of Whatsapp forwards and social media posts by people they refuse to name, The Wire puts up a piece that claims the BJP is trying to insult Rabindranath Thakur and to push Bengalis to give up their tradition of fish eating.

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Not a single shred of evidence is provided that the Whatsapp forwards even existed, or that they have been endorsed by the BJP. But the “story” catches the attention of the Huffington Post and its contributing editor Sandip Roy now writes another article demanding that the BJP steer clear of “anti-fish propaganda”.

By the way, the original Wire piece went on to get 26000 shares on Facebook. Oh and the reason I am using the internet archive for the above screenshot is to show the original headline of the article. Someone at The Wire must have realized later that the piece is embarrassingly devoid of credible references and slyly changed the headline to “Hindutva goes after two icons… ” in place of “BJP goes after two icons …

Yes … and I say this with considerable joy … those on the right still enjoy a massive edge on the internet. It says something truly remarkable about the amateurs who have managed to hold off a vicious coordinated all round propaganda of left wing websites.

It also says something truly embarrassing about the professional abilities of the keyboard journalists of the left. Despite their 24×7 efforts, their fat pay packages and well heeled media startups, they are still losing to a clutch of amateurs, part-timers and hobbyists. How pathetic is that!

But this does not mean that the current state of affairs is going to last forever. There is bound to be an inflexion point. At some point in the future, a well fed professional army of news propagandists is bound to turn the tide against its ragtag adversaries.

The Left’s so called dissent may be “astroturf” and the online right wing may take pride in being closer to “grassroots”, but the right’s edge is bound to erode. The left’s propaganda team is  well equipped and professional. And growing in resources, organization and experience every single day.

So what is the right supposed to do? The onus here is naturally on the BJP to create its own professional ecosystem. So far, the progress made in this direction in the online space appears to be minimal.

The election of 2019 is drawing near. The one thing that we know for sure is that the number of people using the internet as their source of news is increasing exponentially.

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And we can never underestimate how much bigger the paradigm shift could get in the mere 20 months left for the election.

Of late, the BJP has made conspicuous progress in building its ecosystem within cable news, especially English language cable news. This has come as much needed balm to the online right wing, which at one time used to see English language media as Enemy No. 1.

But has the BJP limited itself to neutralizing only the threats of yesteryear, long after the old medium has lost its sting? Online is where the action is and the right wing could pay dearly for being “missing in action”.

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9 thoughts on “The Left’s “astroturf dissent” on the web and why the Right should be wary

  1. CW….Brilliant, creative, and informative analysis!!

    Until BJP wakes up and has its professional SM warriors ,people like you,mediacrooks,opindia and so many others have to carry on the fight!!

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  2. many time i told in past and i am now telling again that ki bjp leaders should wake up and make you chief of some number of online sites like wire, scroll, dailyo, newslaundry etc. they should given finances and give you many assistants like they did to arnav goswami. you can overall supervised them.
    you should also be able to started many sites with professional writers. only you and mediacrook are top in this field but mediacrook writes only once monthly. you singlehanded how much can you write.
    postcard, opindia, rightlog etc are good meaning peoples, but see how poor they are compared to leftie yellow rags like newslaundry etc. hope bjp leaders woken up soon and hire you and similar peoples to mke standard right wing online sites.
    you post once a day, but firstpost, wire posted once in 1 hour or 2 hour.
    hope some top bjp leaders are wake up soon. if necessary somebody canvas or lobby with top bjp leaders.
    quick and no to time to lost.

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  3. Very valid points, CW. But unfortunately, the few RW sites – satyavijayi, postcard, rightactions.in, rightlog.in etc. are pretty terrible on both content and quality of language etc. … more like e-pamphlets. Even Swarajya while being better is quality, is quite shy about it’s supposed right leanings. Opindia is relatively better but not very prolific. Better online forums of expression are sorely needed for RW ideas to take root – your blog and mediacrooks being two good examples of the kind of platforms we need.

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  4. There are any number of leftist websites but it is anybody’s guess if people are reading any articles there. The number of articles on my social media feeds from these sites is zero. And this in spite of having a wide enough circle there. The audience for these sites may be mainly JNU students and sociology/arts students from elsewhere but that’s about it.

    The problem for the leftist media sites is that they have become too easy to identify and ignore. If the first article you read on a site is attacking Modi, then the second article attacks Modi and so on, it is easy to learn to avoid the site. The leftist sites lack variety, depth, substance and intelligent analysis. Every article begins and ends with lal salaam. It gets tiring and boring and annoying after a while. Quantity is no substitute for quality. Also people do not want these annoying desh drohi type articles anymore. The situation is similar to the one on TV channels. There were a plethora of leftist TV channels but Republic came and quickly took the majority of the viewership. If one right wing TV channel can bring down all the leftist TV channels, one good right wing website can bring down all the junk producing leftist websites.

    The opposite effect is also happening because of social media. A lot of bold right wing articles that would never have seen the light of the day earlier now are available in plenty. There are microsites (like OGSaffron on Twitter) that are giving beautiful messages in tidbits. The Lefts failure to master social media can be seen by the almost negligible amount of followers they have there.

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  5. I believe that even though Leftist paid Fiberals keep on churning anti-Modi/anti-BJP articles by “dime-a-dozen”, I have noticed in the comment section, most of the contributors are RW kind who attack the authors furiously. The positive side effect for us is, even leftist Fiberal TV reporter had started covering attacks on RSS members from a RW perspective.

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  6. I agree with Messers Kannan and Josh. These leftist propagandist sites (including altnews, not mentioned by Chaiwallah) are just an on-line version of the left-lib echo chamber. They may be well-funded but the content is the same old drivel. As Mr. Kannan says, they are easy to spot and to ignore. And as Mr. Josh says, no one seems to be reading them other than right-wingers who happily bash away both the authors and the content

    The basic shortcoming of lefties is their utter inability to THINK! All they can do is to rattle off a bunch of predetermined talking points like a parrot. This is so not just in India but even in the US (on “news” channels like CNN). This is why even a moderately intelligent right-wing commentator is able to make mincemeat out of them. Now that Republic TV is on the air taking an unabashedly pro-BJP line, and Times Now has decided to follow course as a matter of simple survival, not only do these on-line leftist portals not matter in the least, but even the other English TV channels are irrelevant.

    I am surprised that Chaiwallah cares so much about the amateurishness (as he perceives it) of right-wing voices on-line. Isn’t he confusing the ability to write god English with being a profound thinker (something that he has rightly criticised in the past)?

    Twitter and the English language Internet as a whole have very negligible impact on our electorate, which consists mostly of “vernacular” language speakers. But the preponderance of pro-BJP voices on Twitter and other on-line forums has had a major impact (as I have said previously) on my coconut friends. Such people don’t care about Article 370, Ram Mandir, uniform civil code, RTE etc., but DO care about national security, corruption, and how India is perceived abroad by their white-skinned counterparts. These people are now solidly pro-BJP. It is to the great credit of NaMo that he has been able to offer something even to such persons. The lefties can try to put lipstick on a pig called RaGa, but it will still remain a pig, and even my coconut friends have finally realised that.

    In short, let the lefties squander their money on these web sites. The only effect will be to empty their coffers.

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    1. Agree with Prof. Vidyasagar that the Lefties cannot think.The lady Satarupa in the video above begins with “Inquilabi lal salaam”. The real inquilab needs real ideas and real thoughts and the Left lacks such thinkers. Perennial calls to violence and disruption is not real thought.

      The lack of deep thinkers among the Leftists is because of the utter poverty of the Marxist ideology itself. This violent ideology can be summed up in a few lines – Lie through your teeth, propagate violence and bloodshed in the name of equality, talk and work against the country and society where you live. No matter how many Leftist websites they create, if this is all they can talk about, then they will loose in India. In fact they have already lost. India has rejected the thought process of the Leftists as inferior and not worth considering and hence their numbers are decreasing with each election.

      The utter inability to think is why the Left is unable to penetrate Hindustan which has had many great thinkers, even in Bengal from where most of the Left cadre seems to come from. The thought stream of the Left met the mighty thought stream of Hinduism honed over 6000 years. The Leftist thought stream was no match and it fell flat.

      The Hindu thought stream is precisely the reason why Modi is able to bring lots of new ideas to the table. He is steeped in the culture of the land and has absorbed from the great thinkers like Vivekananda and added his ideas. The **only** real competition for Modi can come from someone who is a greater Rajarishi than Modi and if such a person exists then Hindustan can only benefit from such a positive clash of ideas.

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  7. Just to follow up on my previous comment let us recall what happened to”Gadhanand” Dhume. Here is a guy who is employed by the Wall Street Journal, one of the world’s most prestigious publications, and is associated with the American Enterprise Institute, a leading think tank. During the early days of the Modi sarkar, he used to write moderately sensible and balanced articles. But something snapped inside his head — perhaps it was riding pilion with Burqa which suggests that dhimmitude is a communicable disease — and nowadays he writes rubbish and gets royally trolled on twitter. So, if someone with his impeccable credentials cannot survive attempts to peddle rubbish, we need not worry about the anonymous water-carriers for the proliferation of left-wing websites.

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  8. Surely, it is a great concern that we are still jalebi kandoi and not confectioner, no matter how much we like jalebi. See jalebi, individually made. Sloppy, insufficiently packaged, not subject to presentation, abstract, toiled, oiled? Confectionary is mass produced, well packaged, subject to advertisement, employment creator, potential to become brand, exportable to different regions and countries. When we will learn basics of political marketing and remain amateures for life?

    Like

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