In the good old days, what was vitally crucial in politics was a contestation of facts. Rival parties would debate the details of policies, defend their postures and falsify or verify the facts in an attempt to win people’s support. This old traditional form of politics is now replaced by a modern political culture called Post Truth Politics in which political parties ignore objective facts and focus on emotional appeals and advocate personal beliefs. When the BJP says “Waah Modiji Waah”, or SKM says “Dyang Ki Dyang” or SDF says “Dekhyau?”, they are simply appealing to people’s emotions. These are simplistic methods to manipulate public emotions. In other words, they are simply oversimplifying reality. The SKM should realize that they cannot run the government Dyang Ki Dyang. Formulating policies, implementing them, providing jobs, regularizing temporary jobs and giving 10 thousand rupees as monthly unemployment allowances cannot be executed Dyang Ki Dyang. The SDF should have realized that a group of slogan shouting supporters wouldn’t tell the full story of what their grassroots support base looked like in North, East, South and West Sikkim.
“The SKM should realize that formulating policies, implementing them, providing jobs, regularizing temporary jobs and giving 10 thousand rupees as monthly unemployment allowances cannot be executed Dyang Ki Dyang. The SDF should have realized that a group of slogan shouting supporters wouldn’t tell the full story of what their grassroots support base looked like in North, East, South and West Sikkim.”
Be that as it may, the Sikkimese people seem to enjoy these kinds of political tactics. This is not a Sikkim specific problem. It is now a global trend. Sometimes I feel so badly for Rahul Gandhi as he really tried hard to improve as a politician. He even dared giving live press conferences and exposed himself to an open forum where he was peppered with some of the toughest questions imaginable. Now compare that to Modi’s one and only press conference in five years where Amit Shah docked every single question for him. The Prime Minister gave a bhashan before the conference and sat and watched Amit Shah answering for the rest of the time. But poor Rahul braved them all. Sometimes he failed to impress with his answers and other times he came up trumps with brilliant answers. But despite it all, the nation would thoughtlessly dismiss him as all brawn and no brains ‘Pappu’. By sharp contrast, many times, Narendra Modi’s below average and even anti-intellectual utterances (plastic surgery of Ganesha, genetic science in the birth of Karna in ancient India), were blindly and overtly applauded. That’s how emotions can twist things in post-truth politics.
The whole game is designed in such a way that people are not only manipulated into ignoring facts but they are also hypnotized into accepting obvious lies willingly.
Post Truth Politics is a spinoff of a generational regression. It is a reflection of either one of the two following realities. One – people are too lazy and not intellectually inclined to subject themselves to the rigours of fact-finding. Two – people are only emotionally involved in politics and so they are only interested in what appeals to their emotions.
Let me put forward some examples to illustrate how post-truth politics is catching up in Sikkim:
Alarmism: All the parties in Sikkim are sounding the alarm. The SKM says that Sikkim has been destroyed completely by the SDF government. They are not willing to acknowledge any good things done by their predecessor. The SDF says that SKM has begun to destroy Sikkim completely and has failed to do anything good. People do not seem interested in asking them to come up with facts.
Wilful lies: When Sikkim’s new Chief Minister, PS Goley, was asked about the unfortunate incident in the Legislative Assembly where some hecklers abused the former Chief Minister while staging a walkout, he famously said, “Tyo Malai Thaha Bhayena” (I didn’t notice). Ironically, the entire house heard it except him. The SDF party always says that they will not accept any winning independent panchayats into the party fold but after the election, they are invariably inducted back into the party.
Dominance of Social Media: Because people are emotionally more active than intellectually, social media can so easily manipulate people’s mind with misinformation and disinformation. Public opinions are formed by social media users feeding on people’s anger, jealousy, hatred, resentment, love, admiration etc. Reasoned arguments, intellectual investigation and fact checking have become dinosaurs banished to a notional Jurassic park. There is no denying that some of the active players in social media are highly intelligent, well read and sensible people. Some of their posts are enlightening. However, when one scrolls down to read responses, it is almost like diving into a cesspool (septic tank if you like). Some people with the filthiest, violent, communal mindset and terrorizing attitudes vomit out their responses. People who have never read anything other than a few headlines in the daily newspaper and people whose deepest thoughts have been composed of musings over why they have had protracted constipation take it upon themselves to share their opinions in the name of responding. Public debate is hijacked by such angry, unthinking, frustrated, and idiotic but die hard party supporters. Such a trend of spreading democratically dysfunctional misinformation can have a negative impact on democracy at large.
Instant Gratification: This is the most worrying reality of contemporary politics. Personal attacks, to a certain extent, are perhaps a part of political rivalry. But baring the private lives of politicians by publicly divulging excruciatingly minute details of events or talks held in private is cheapening both politics and the politicians. Too much dirty linen is hanging out there in public and now is the time to stop doing it at least for the sake of aesthetics in politics, if not for morality’s sake.
Use of Children: Nothing can be more disturbing than seeing people posting pictures of children holding the flags of political parties. A childish innocence and bliss must be cherished and nurtured but only a mindless idiot would ever use a child to garner public sympathy for electoral benefit.
I have no idea if Sikkim can do anything to check these phenomena. The entire world is irredeemably engulfed in the whirlpool of post-truth politics. We can only caution each other that democracy, worldwide is in danger. We must give heed to Jürgen Habermas, the German philosopher who says, “A ‘post-truth democracy’ […] would no longer be a democracy.”
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