January , 2019
Propaganda warfare now extends to cinema
16:08 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

Critics have found fault with the three films released this week, which are overtly political. One is on the former prime minister who is depicted as a ‘paper tiger’ or a puppet of a ruling family. The second is on the strategic strikes on the Uri border which is propagated by the present government as an answer to Pakistan’s dabbling with India’s security. The third film is a biopic on the present prime minister.

Cinema is a powerful medium and political parties throughout the world, in different strategic periods of time, have used it for its own benefit. Most remarkable are the German propaganda films which were used during the World Wars to make the public understand the uses of war. Even children films were made to improve tolerance among the kids.

So there is nothing new in using cinema as propaganda. Since the elections are round the corner, it is quite obvious that the political parties will use all the different media platforms. The opposition parties will cry foul because they are losing out in the battle for effective use of the media for election propaganda.

The ruling party has throughout its tenure been one step ahead in utilising the media to the hilt for its propaganda purposes. Their use of the social media has been tremendously successful. Whether it was right or wrong – such questions of morality are not relevant here. In the age of ‘post truth’, fake news is a reality and every media house today is forced strategise to tackle this menace. Reports keep revealing that the sources of fake news are not so much the media houses as the political party offices. The ruling party has ostensibly hired bands of IT people to keep track of ‘dissenters’ in the media; and the memes and trolls act as the ‘guided missiles.’ This is propaganda warfare that has already opened up in the social media; and the opposition is evidently in the backfoot. Now the ruling party takes up another powerful propaganda tool: cinema.

The opposition parties have not always been very innocent. We have noted in the Press Council of India report how several newspapers and television programmes during their regime had carried ‘advertisement’ of their candidates disguised as news. Promotion, self-propagation was clandestinely done in the pre-social media era. Social media however broke these barriers of fact and fiction. Advertising and news can now go together in social media. According to social media norms it is not unethical. The ruling party has taken full advantage of this content overlap in the social media. The opposition was slow in realising the strength of the social media as a propaganda tool.

The IT cell of the ruling party has pointed their gun at the opposition much in the model of the Presidential election of the US. Barack Obama won his battle – and so did Donald Trump –  largely by effective use of the Facebook, YouTube and the rest. Now Narendra Modi adds the cinema. What is wrong in it? The army, navy and the air force are not the only tools of warfare. Media too is a strong – and effective – weapon, especially for fighting elections.


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