My smear is more righteous than yours in Dhume’s Worldview

Sadanand Dhume, a well trained argumentative who by his own admission has written for international publications for nearly two decades — first as a journalist and then as a columnist and has again on his own accord grown used to the usual charges flung by some of those who happen to disagree with me. In a recently published personal story on medium titled How the BJP’s Smear Machine Works” Dhume goes on to conclude “Organized online smear campaigns are what we have come to expect in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. As long as BJP President Amit Shah empowers the likes of Malviya, it is also increasingly the reality in Narendra Modi’s India”, exuberating the spirit of self-righteousness which says my smear is more righteous than yours.

Being the natives of a post-colonial society like India, we are certainly condemned to a variegated kinds of insecurities in the Dhume worldview who takes a pole position by asserting that when your work is in the public eye some people will respond by attacking your person or your motives rather than your argument. Investigating the person and his motives has been quite central to the domain of warfare. And in today’s era of perception wars, Dhume cries wolf when his persona is scrutinised alongside his arguments which are shallow to the core and accrues largely from his professional obligations.

Dhume might not have made a fortune through Twitter Hate Credits but he certainly has made moolah by interpreting India in a condescending demeanour which does suit the foreign policy objectives of his pay masters through his characteristic smear campaigns against Indians. When he chooses to say, “In India, these kinds of allegations are common to the point of banality. They are the first resort of many people on social media. It’s hard to think of anyone who writes about politics or policy who has not faced something similar”, he does make his paymasters dance. The lesser Indians scavenging on the banks of filthy Yamuna being interpreted by a greater Indian sitting on the banks of a flowing Potomac, the imagery is just next to being perfect.

Dhume’s masterly sophistry lies in his adept deployment of the tactic of covering up sinister footprints by confessing it out in the open at once. He does this by inserting the innocuous disclaimer “my views are supposedly always those of my “white masters” at the American Enterprise Institute, where I work, or The Wall Street Journal, where I publish a biweekly column on South Asia”. Hold and behold, you have silenced your critics at once, deflected their attention away from your motives as well as your settings. Being an Indian by birth and having lived in an ‘insecure’ society till the graduation level, he knows quite very well that Indians can never retort to the level of Turks or Russians or else he would have either gone under cover or changed his desk. He can therefore go on and on.

The subject matter of his contention with Amit Malviya, the head of Bharatiya Janata Party’s Information Technology Cell, who has accused Dhume of plagiarism, and Dhume’s 6 pointer clarification to this effect, is a matter warranting an elaborate analysis which I wish to pass in this write-up whereby I wish to contest the conclusions which Dhume intends to propose spinning the entire purport of the anecdote, posing himself to be some kind of a victim and revealing his deep state connections by suggesting, “Unlike many people, I have the resources to fight back against innuendo and intimidation.”

It’s interesting to hear him pontificate when he goes on to create a hypothetical scenario, “But imagine for a moment that you’re a reporter for a small Indian publication, or working at an unknown think tank. Say the wrong thing and an entire online machine — complete with WhatsApp groups, fake news sites and tens of thousands of dedicated followers — can swing into action to undermine your reputation”, specially when the democratically elected President of his very own country of adoption ascribes almost on a regular basis, the epithet of “fake news” to one of the prestigious media establishments. The online machine which Dhume mentions is somehow the creation of his comrade-in-arms who are in full time well paid positions to take on the perception warfare by their eclectic skullduggery. Their insidious WhatsApp groups used to syncronize the narrative coupled with their Twitter shots giving leeway to their long hand commentaries is now a standard operating procedure whose dynamics are just very well established.

Yes, this perception warfare carried out by the chosen natives like Dhume, need elaborate documentation as Dhume chooses to refer to his cabal, “The Los Angeles Times recently wrote about this here. The Financial Times reviewed a book that looks at the BJP’s social media operation here. Fake news-busting site Alt News has chronicled attacks on the noted Indian columnist Tavleen Singh for sharing a photograph of the squalor of Adityanath’s hometown, and the wild-eyed allegation that TV journalist Barkha Dutt had hitched a scooter ride with an Islamist terrorist”. This technique of cross-referencing an echo-chamber to achieve the impact of a resounding chorus as if it is the dominant view of the 7 billion plus global citizenry is a unique invention in public discourse to rule over the narrative.

The tens of thousands of educated youngsters on Twitter, who are working hard somewhere or the other for their respectable living, have got a hang of this spinning which Dhume and his cabal retorts too. Being in their voluntary capacity and supercharged with their emotional heat, their expression at times get a bit obstuse when it comes to a sophisticated discourse. Nonetheless, beneath their provocative syntax, a profound semantics of objectivity thrives & sustains, which is the real cause of consternation of Dhume and ilk. The harakiri of tampering the narrative and make it play to the tune of their masters doesn’t succeed leading to an immense showdown.

Dhume doesn’t blink a moment when he goes on to further his insinuation whereby he says, “What’s important here is not the allegation, but what it says about the BJP. Heading into the 2019 general elections, the party clearly recognizes the power of social media to destroy reputations and intimidate critics. No other political party in India is as well-organized, or as willing to play dirty”. If a party’s appeal both in ideology & performance is so very high that it gives rise to such an indomitable following, that tens of thousands of its volunteers fizzle out any attack on its foundations, it’s a matter of great satisfaction and adds greatly to the reputation of Malviya that he is able to thwart the dirty attacks of the likes of Dhume masqueraded as objective journalism. In a quid-pro-quo situation, if Dhume plays dirty, why does he expect Malviya to hold to his virtues of nobility and end up defending his dubious reputation.

Dhume’s victim mongering continues when he further elucidates the origins of his trouble, “My own problems with what I call the “Hindutva Troll Army” erupted last year after I criticized Modi’s decision to suddenly scrap 86 percent of India’s currency notes by value, but they have deepened after I expressed my concerns about the BJP’s appointment in March of Yogi Adityanath, a hate-spewing Hindu monk, to lead India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh”.

Dhume wants to have its cake and eat it too. When he wants his freedom to accord the epithets of “hate-spewing Hindu Monk”, he should give way to the creative expression of Indian youth, whom he defines as “Hindutva Troll Army”.

I just fail to understand Why should Dhume’s smear be more righteous than that of Malviya?