#RightSideUp: 'Howdy, Modi' Hangover, Greta Thunberg, 'a Liberal Puppet'?

A weekly round-up of voices from the right.

New Delhi: The festive season is upon us in full force and as neighbourhoods across the country get ready for the pomp that accompanies October, Kashmir remains sequestered with the mouths of its people taped shut despite 59 days having passed since the reading down of Article 370.

This past week, the hangover over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Houston rally persisted. Joining the feverish reporting we’ve been witness to since before the event was Kiran Muthal, a freelance writer who lives in the US. In his first ever article for Swarajya magazine, he writes on how the ‘Howdy, Modi’ event “has shown the power of the Indian diaspora in measure and spirit”.

“The diaspora is India’s human capital and power abroad – an instrument to build strong international relations through track II diplomacy. After coming to power in 2014, Modi has invested heavily in the diaspora.”

Gushing about how all of “Modi’s public receptions are free events, underlying the fact that we don’t have to pay to see/listen to our PM”, he says that the “Indian American community has doctors, CEOs and entrepreneurs, making it easy to raise the required funding”.

“The diaspora is India’s human capital and power abroad – an instrument to build strong international relations through track II diplomacy. After coming to power in 2014, Modi has invested heavily in the diaspora.”

Yet one voice stood apart from this kind of effusive, back-bending style of reporting, one that has been drifting away ever so slightly from a position that had once been taken on Modi and the BJP a few years ago. Tavleen Singh, a weekly columnist for the Indian Express‘ Sunday edition, and a self-proclaimed fan of Modi and the idea of a new India free of the Congress, wrote how coverage of the ‘Howdy, Modi’ event has left her feeling “slightly ashamed”.

She writes:

“I switched channels endlessly (both Hindi and English) in search of one that was reporting the tour without hyper-ventilating and my search was in vain. In the old days when the only Indian TV channel was Doordarshan, reporters exhibited a certain dignity and decorum when they were being obsequious and slavishly sycophantic. Even this was absent in the reporting on our supposedly independent news channels.

Almost the first rule of journalism that I was ever taught was that the relationship between the press and government was fundamentally adversarial. This does not mean that we should spend our lives finding fault with everything that the government does, but it does mean that we must avoid behaving like paid propagandists.”

Also read: #RightSideUp: ‘Howdy, Modi’ Wins Hearts; ‘Vicious Fangs’ Exposed at Jadavpur

For Swarajya magazine, G. Kishan Reddy, the minister of state for home affairs and a BJP MP from Secunderabad, attempted to break down the difference between Modi 1.0 and Modi 2.0:

“Modi 1.0 was about solving basic issues, Modi 2.0 is consolidating on the foundations laid in the first term.”

He explains how the changes to Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the National Investigative Agency (NIA) show how the Modi government “understands the need for unshackling our investigating agencies so that they can conduct free, fair and impartial inquiries”.

Where Reddy mentions Kashmir and Article 370, it comes armed with the false quote attributed to Dr B.R. Ambedkar that even vice president M. Venkaiah Naidu had erroneously used in an article in the Hindu. You can read The Wire‘s fact check here.

Going back to praising his boss, he writes:

“The spectacular gains of the governments’ socio-economic agenda ran parallel to the efforts in securing the national security agenda.”

Greta Thunberg, ‘a liberal puppet’?

Right-leaning websites are having a field day over climate change activist Greta Thunberg’s protests, some even descending to name-calling the teenager and calling her a ‘liberal puppet’.

Mint carried a couple of opinion pieces this week that tore into Thunberg and the role she has been playing at the centre of the climate change debate.

In one, Sandipan Deb, whose articles have previously found their way into #RightSideUp, writes about how the “world is applauding the global-scale exploitation of a child who needs therapeutic care”.

“Hard-left ideologues are using children to blackmail the world into paying heed to their dangerous agendas…This is child exploitation on a global scale which we are applauding and awarding. We should be ashamed.”

Deb writes of how Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 was “deeply disturbing”:

“The feral rage, the doomsday sermon delivered with messianic zeal, the distressing reminders of her young age. It leads me to ask a few questions.

She has admitted to suffering from Asperger’s, obsessive compulsive disorder and selective mutism. This is a girl who needs special attention, yet her parents and her radical-left handlers appear to be carting her around the world and exposing her constantly to high-stress situations to serve their own purpose, causing God-knows-what long-term damage to her. If this isn’t child abuse, I don’t know what is. And, the cleverly crafted perversity is that, with a child being the bearer of their propaganda, adults can be shamed freely if they criticise anything she says.”

Deb then patronisingly talks of how thousands of children around the world went on strike last week “to blame grown-ups for the ‘climate crisis’, roaming the streets, shrieking about something few of them had any clue about”.

Making light of the gravity of the climate crisis at hand, he says if he was a “well-off school kid”, he would have joined too as it would have meant “no classes, freedom to take selfies, while publicly abusing parents, have some pizza, then go back to the parental home’s comforts, almost all of which exist due to fossil-fuelled power”.

After railing on any who support action against the impending crisis for being fools who have no idea of what Thunberg and ‘climate justice’ really stand for, he moves on to provide a juvenile understanding of what the movement is about. In an abysmal attempt to explain his position, he writes:

“In sum, Thunberg represents a movement that wants us to revert to a pre-industrial world, with no room for innovation or progress. This is not laughable fantasy. It has been tried out, in real life. By Pol Pot. He killed off 25% of Cambodia’s population in the process. This is what a misguided vision can result in.”

Calling out Thunberg for creating “panic”, he then gives his own simplistic point of view of what in his book would actually tackle climate change:

“What we need is not crazed leftist plans that will keep the poor helpless, but greater research in green energy that can create alternatives that are cheaper and more attractive than fossil fuels, so we can lift a billion people out of poverty faster. Global warming will then automatically taper off. We need patience and confidence in human ingenuity, not venal fear-mongering.”

In a second, albeit tamer, article, veteran journalist Manu Joseph explains why Bill Gates “is practical and uses science to find solutions, while Thunberg is an endearing pied-piper”.

Gates has been in the news since the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation decided to award to Modi. The article attempts to explain why “despite the differences between Thunberg and Gates, people are led to believe that they are on the same side in the war to control the climate” and why this is untrue.

Also read: #RightSideUp: Modi 2.0 Report Card, Netflix in the Red

OpIndia also didn’t lose the opportunity to pour out some bilious content. In an article written by one Shwetank, Thunberg’s protests have been described as a “creepy drama juxtaposed with her tender age and sickness”.

“We are watching the blatant abuse of a vulnerable child used as a human ideological shield for their hysterical propaganda. Greta’s age matters as children are not our political mascots. I wish she gets back to school that she bunked and got famous for it.”

“Greta Thunberg is a victim of indoctrination and child abuse, NOT Climate change!”

Shwetank does the courtesy to say climate change is “real”, but quickly moves on to attacking “vile vermin left-liberals and hypocrites whining and playing victim today over a ‘poor-16-year-old’ are pathetically disappointing”.

After a few half-baked flawed arguments, we get to the crux of what bothers Shwetank: a perceived insult to India’s ‘beloved’ prime minster.

“A few months ago, Greta Thunberg was also seen sermonising Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The fact is, PM Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat, has done so much more than any world leader to mitigate climate change. Now Modi, as the Prime Minister, creates the opportunity across India to benefit from his committed renewable energy-friendly policies. It is he who opened up the possibility that India becomes a leader in cost-competitive renewable energy.”