The reportage on the alleged hacking attack to influence the 2016 US presidential election and Trump’s suspected Russian escapades is not far from Evelyn Waugh’s narrative.
The British writer Evelyn Waugh probably foresaw the state of journalism today when he wrote his hilarious novel Scoop.
Written in 1938, almost 80 years ago, the novel sought to expose the vainglorious and mindless side of journalism in England.
It focuses on an imaginary war-torn east African country, the ‘Republic of Ishmaelia, and seeks to depict Fleet Street’s hunger for sensation and so-called “exclusive” stories.
The nationalists and patriots, rebels and revolutionaries, Russian Bolsheviks and rulers create such fantastic mayhem that no one knows exactly who is fighting whom and for what. Yet, a reporter completely ignorant of the country and with no experience in ‘war journalism’, writes reports for ‘The Daily Beast’ that make headlines back home in England.
Over 100 international correspondents had gathered to report feverishly on civil war in a country none of them knew anything about.
I would like to quote a cable the reporter in the novel sends his editor, his first proud moment of filing copy in the glorious tradition of foreign war correspondents:
NOTHING MUCH HAS HAPPENED EXCEPT TO THE PRESIDENT WHO HAS BEEN IMPRISONED IN HIS OWN PALACE BY REVOLUTIONARY JUNTA HEADED BY SUPERIOR BLACK CALLED BENITO AND RUSSIAN JEW WHO BANNISTER SAYS IS UP TO NO GOOD. THEY SAY HE IS DRUNK WHEN HIS CHILDREN TRY TO SEE HIM BUT GOVERNESS SAYS MOST UNUSUAL LOVELY SPRING WEATHER BUBONIC PLAGUE RAGING
The editor promptly sacked him, but did journalism improve?
Waugh wrote the novel when there was no debate on fake news, post truth and the cyber-riot. That started much later, after the arrival of mobile phones, and the advent of the global anarchy of social media.
The reportage on the alleged hacking attack to influence the 2016 US presidential election and Trump’s suspected Russian escapades is not far from this scenario.
The highly paid cyber cells, created with the exclusive purpose of spreading lies and innuendos, writing defamatory mails, 24×7 trolling, altering historical fact, and even rewriting mythologies, morphing photos, and feeding misinformation to the so-called mainstream newspapers or TV channels, are now a multi-billion-dollar global industry.
But what is even more hilarious and shocking is that the BJP bigwigs beat these cyber gangs hollow with their absurd claims pitching mythology as fact: “Sita was born in a test tube”; “Sanjaya in the Mahabharata used the internet and all kinds of remote devices”; “gaumutra can cure cancer”; “advanced aviation technology was used during the days of Ram, for example the Pushpak vimana”; “genetics and stem cell technology was so advanced that 100 Kauravas could be born to one mother, Gandhari”; “Ganesha’s elephant head was a fantastic feat of plastic surgery and organ transplant”; “gravity was known thousands of years before Newton”; and so on.
Not just writers of epics, even science-fiction greats like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke would be put to shame by all this creative stuff.
True, even for Waugh, this would be totally unfamiliar territory, more so than the Republic of Ishmaelia. But he would have definitely found in this enough material to write a couple of sequels to Scoop, and go beyond the novels of Amish on Shiva and Nagas.
Mythologies as history, scriptures as genuine philosophical texts, Vedic wisdom as science, the Ram setu as an example of magnificent undersea architecture, and the history of Ayodhya determined by Supreme Court judges instead of through excavations or by historians. All this shows the gullible masses can believe anything and even vote on this basis.
If India was a great superpower in the old days, they believe, so it can be again, irrespective of membership of the UN Security Council or the Nuclear Suppliers Group, or the huge section of population living in utter poverty.
Highly educated people with foreign degrees and doctorates, privileged persons in high places, and those from the economically well-off sections of society, argue with extreme stridency as to how the leadership of Narendra Modi and the rule of the BJP, under the politico-philosophical guidance of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), are restoring India’s ancient glory.
Therefore, the next election is not between the BJP and the opposition’s ‘mahagatbandhan’, or between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi; fascism and liberal democracy; Hindutva and secularism. It will, in fact, be a contest between the forces of great ancient glory and those of modern capitalist or socialist degeneration. It will be a war between ancient history and modern civilisation.
Modi and Mohan Bhagwat are confident that ancient history and wisdom will prevail, demolishing the Nehruvian continuation of Renaissance.
No wonder then that former President Pranab Mukherjee chose to attend and address an RSS convention. He wants to remain relevant to the present. The future is irrelevant anyway.