Friday 7 March 2014

Three Jeers For Sedition

This is the springtime of our discontent.

As I have mentioned before on this site, India (while still notionally secular) is morphing into a de facto Hindu theocracy, and fascism is on the rise. Like all breeds of fascism, it rests on two poles – a mythologised national identity on the one hand and a hatred of minorities on the other.

The hated minorities of the moment, of course, are the Muslims.

One of the standard accusations against Muslims is that they are, allegedly, all closet Pakistanis (I have actually heard this stated openly by an educated and apparently highly sophisticated Hindu gentleman: “Scratch a Muslim and you’ll find a Pakistani.”) And since they are all closet Pakistanis, any and all evidence which can be stretched, twisted or invented to support that idea is of course stretched, twisted etc to support it.

And one of these “proofs” of Muslims being Pakistanis is that Muslims, allegedly, cheer for Pakistan in cricket. This is something I’ve been hearing for at least twenty years now. That many Muslims have played cricket for India doesn’t matter. Muslims cheer for Pakistan. Even when they don’t.

To those who don’t know India: why cricket? Well, it’s about the only “sport” India can play well on the international level, and is heavily marketed here. Personally, I believe it’s not a sport at all, but organised criminal activity, but if I were to watch cricket I'd probably support Afghanistan.

This absurdity reached its height a couple of days ago, when Pakistan beat India* in a cricket match in Bangladesh. This match (allegedly; I do not watch cricket matches, just as I do not watch Oscar awards and similar rubbish) went through several swings of fortune until Pakistan won. Does it matter that Pakistan won? Well, to some people, it mattered a great deal.

Among these people were the students of a private university in the town of Meerut, in North India’s Uttar Pradesh state. Among those students were 67 Kashmiri Muslims who were guilty of cheering for Pakistan. (They themselves claim that they were reacting to the other students, who were hooting and taunting them while it looked like India would win the match. I can believe this completely; I have often seen Indian Hindus make it a point of celebrating loudly outside Muslim homes when India won cricket matches against Pakistan; and this was at a time when India was more secular than it is now.)

As a consequence of this grave sin, the Kashmiri students were expelled from the university (apparently at first only for three days), forced out of the hostel by police in full riot gear, and accused of sedition. Sedition, by the way, is punishable with between three years to life under Indian law.

Let that sink in for a moment. Cheering for Pakistan’s cricket team means you’re guilty of sedition against the country.

And this is supposed to be a democracy.

In order to understand the sheer scale of the idiocy of this action, I’ll have to explain something:

Kashmir, as I’m sure the reader of this is aware, is a state in contention between India and Pakistan. Since the late 1980s, an insurgency has been sputtering along in the Indian controlled part of the state. At first this insurgency was largely composed of native Kashmiri fighters, but by the mid nineties the Indian armed forces had largely either exterminated them or forced them to surrender. Since then the fighters in the state have mostly been Pakistani jihadists and mercenaries, with a sprinkling of Afghans and a few others from across the world. But there’s still a fair amount of bitterness among the Kashmiris, which explodes into the open now and then.

Now, as I said, the Kashmiri part of the insurgency was almost completely destroyed twenty years ago, and ever since then the violence levels have been dropping slowly and steadily. The old “revolutionaries” of the insurgency, those of them who are still alive, are ageing and ineffectual.  The new generation, which grew up as the fighting began to abate, could, and should, have been won over by the government with a little inclusiveness and support. The Kashmiris were once staunchly pro-India, as Pakistan discovered to its cost in 1947 and again in 1965. With a little deftness, the new generation could have been made pro-India again.

Instead, what we’ve had is something so perfectly calculated to turn someone like this

into someone like this

that if it was the result of a deliberate plan they couldn’t have done better.

After an intervention by the Chief Minister of Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, the sedition charges have been dismissed, but the students are still expelled and still liable to prosecution for “promoting hatred between communities”. In other words, as far as their careers go, they’re screwed. They’ll never be able to work or study freely outside Kashmir again. Meanwhile, of course, Pakistan has grabbed the golden propaganda opportunity dropped into their laps with both hands and offered the students places in Pakistani colleges.

Of course, the implications of this go far, far beyond the immediate fate of these 67 Kashmiris. It’s proof of the way India is fast becoming a fascist society, where intolerance for any kind of dissent is rising steadily. If the Hindunazis win the next elections, due for April and May, the situation will get exponentially worse.

If cheering at a cricket match is reason enough to accuse someone of treason, where does one stop? There is an international trade fair going on right now in this city, and there are Pakistani stalls along with others. To extend the absurdity to its logical conclusion, if I went and bought something from one of those stalls, I could be held guilty of treason because I am trading with Pakistanis, paying them money which might go to support terrorism. Even talking online to Pakistanis can be made actionable.  

Please do not imagine I am joking about any of this. Things are bad for those of us with common sense, and I am afraid they are going to get a great deal worse. It takes much greater effort to deradicalise a society than it takes to Nazify it, and there is no sign of anyone making the beginnings of that effort.

I don’t know whether we will see things improve again, in our lifetimes at least.

[*There’s a delicious irony in the fact that the Board for the Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), a body whose finances and internal workings are extremely murky, successfully argued in a court of law a few years ago that there’s no such thing as a national cricket team, just a team comprising Indian players who represent the BCCI. So the people turning cricket cheering into a Tebbit loyalty test are asking everyone to cheer a private club team. Eat your hearts out, Manchester United and Boca Juniors, Real Madrid and Arsenal.]  

Thursday 6 March 2014

Handling Hasbara: Recognising Zionist Propaganda

You’ll see them on online fora which have anything at all to do with the words “Palestine”, “Israel”, “Zionist”, or “Jew”. In fact it’s extremely likely that just by including those words in the last sentence, some of them will come to have a look at this article in order to see if it needs their attention.

And then they’ll begin their work, which has only one focus, and one only – to completely wreck any discussion which might rouse sympathy for the Palestinians or even potentially criticise their master and employer, the (illegitimate and so-called) State of Israel.

The existence of the Hasbara propagandists isn’t even something new; we’ve seen them around for years. They used to go into full operation only at times when the Zionists were in the news, as when they invaded Lebanon in 2006 or Gaza after that. But in recent times they seem to be active all the time, without cease. The fact that the Zionist entity is under fairly unrelenting pressure these days – fast losing the sympathy of Europe, and even Obama occasionally making grumbling noises – may have something to do with it.

[If you’re wondering, no, they won’t be able to work their mission here, for the simple reason that full comment moderation is enforced and I’m not going to let them start.]

So how does one recognise when one is faced with a Hasbara propagandist and not merely a common or garden Zionist partisan? There are several clues, none of which is itself diagnostic, but which together paint a fairly clear picture:

The typical Hasbara propagandist (or HP for short) will begin by testing the waters. In a new thread, where there aren’t as yet too many comments, it (I say “it” because HP can be male, female, or a team of individuals, as I’ll mention in a moment) will say something base-level, like “God gave the land to the Jews, so they have a right to it.” I suppose that this stupendous piece of logic must have, at some point, worked with someone, though I have not seen that happen. Unless everyone is stunned into silence by this lunacy, there will be, of course, dismissive responses. If it’s a Zionist Partisan (ZP), and one so stupid that it has extended such an idiotic argument, it will usually withdraw at this point, perhaps after condemning everyone as anti-God or something equally puerile. (More sophisticated ZPs will never extend an argument of this level of idiocy.) The Hasbara propagandist will never withdraw.

In fact, one of the most identifying features of HPs is that they will never withdraw. Even if derided, provided with links and evidence, they will never, ever, quit. Even when the most indefatigable ZP has left the field, shamed or worn out, the HP won’t leave. The HP, in fact, is doing a job, and the longer it carries on, the more it’s earning its money. Only when everyone else has been disgusted or exhausted into leaving is the HP content. (This is an important thing to remember when reacting to HPs, as I’ll discuss later in this article.)

If the HP’s “God gave the Jews the land” argument fails, it will move to other, also very basic arguments. A few of these – this is very, very far from a comprehensive list – are:

*Jews “bought” the land from the Palestinians, and did not expel them with massacres. That Zionist historians like Ilan Pappe themselves have refuted this notion makes no difference; the reason why not, I’ll tell you in a moment.

*The Palestinians do not exist, and never did. (That’s particularly rich considering the Zionists are nowadays inventing fake “Jews” like the Mizos of India in order to find new immigrants. This might as well be the place for me to record my own conviction that the Jewish people does not exist, and probably never did. There are Jewish peoples – just as there are Muslim peoples, and Christian, and Hindu – with their own lives and cultures; this was particularly brought home to German Jews who were expelled to ghettoes in Poland and discovered themselves hated outsiders among the Polish Jews, with whom they had nothing in common. And these were Jews from two neighbouring European countries with a common border! The single, unitary, Jewish "people" is a modern Zionist myth, with a manufactured past, just like Hitler's Aryan myth. But then the Zionists and the Nazis have the same right wing ideology, so it's not strange.)

*Speaking out against Israel is inherently “racist” or “anti-Semitic”. This is, in fact, an argument which will be trotted out in each and every discussion about the Zionist entity. That there are many, many Jews who are against the so-called state of Israel will be handled in two ways: they’re either “self-hating racial traitors/kapos”, or they are an insignificant minority to whom nobody listens.

*The Zionists “civilised” the land and made better use of it than the Arabs did, so they deserve it. I haven’t come across this excuse in the recent past, though a  couple of days ago I did see a white American claim that his ancestors had “conquered the land from savages and made it a great nation.” Maybe the racist overtones are so clear that the Zionazi regime asked its HPs to stay away from that for a while.

*Jews have a large number of Nobel Prizes than Muslims, so they are better. This is one of many attempts the HP will invariably make in order to divert the discussion from the crimes of Israel into a Jew-versus-Muslim debate. They depend on the fact that Muslims are now considered a legitimate target for hate (like the Jews themselves were not so long ago, and the blacks before them) even in what passes for the mainstream. How exactly this has anything to do with the subject is never made clear, especially since the Jews who won Nobels are all from Westernised scientific backgrounds, totally acculturated to their nations’ scientific temper, like Einstein for instance; and like him, most of them were atheists, only notionally Jewish.  How many Nobel Prizes did Torah-reading, kippah-wearing, children of rabbis from Poland or Hungary win?

*The Zionists are a bastion of “democracy” and “freedom” in a Muslim sea. In this argument the HPs may cite people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, proven liar and professional “atheist” shill for ultra-right-wing American Christianity. How this democracy and freedom squares with the vile treatment of Palestinians, and the atrocities against African refugees, is never made clear. Again, the intent is to move the debate into an anti-Muslim platform.  

*Israel gave Gaza to the Palestinians, and all it got for that was terrorism. That Gaza was never the Zionist entity’s to “give”, that the Zionists themselves helped spawn HAMAS, and that turning Gaza into a giant concentration camp isn’t exactly giving anyone anything, isn’t something that will register.

*Jews are threatened by Muslim terrorism from groups like HAMAS which rain Qassam rockets on the Zionists, so any and all security responses are justified. This is another argument that will be trotted out, each time, every time. You will never be able to have a discussion without coming across it. The fact is, of course, that Qassams are pipes stuffed with explosives that would have a hard time blasting a hole through a sheet of cardboard, and that more Zionists are killed by peanut butter allergies than by them. But facts aren’t germane here.

*That Muslims, in the form of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, “sided with Hitler in the Second World War”. This is a powerful weapon against the ignorant, but only against the ignorant. The Grand Mufti was a discredited figure with no domestic following, let alone being a representative of all Muslims. Besides, there were plenty of Christians, including, notoriously, Pope Pius, who also dallied with the Nazis. And most devastatingly, the Zionists themselves engaged with the Nazis on several occasions. I’m just pointing these things out for the facts. I don’t say that these will have any effect on the HP if you trot them out.

*The state of Israel will “always be there”, no matter what (you) think. This is the fall back option when every other argument has played itself out. Well, seeing that the sun will turn the planet Earth into a baked cinder in about a thousand million years, “always” is stretching it a bit. In fact the very balance of Arab versus Zionist birth rates and demographics would argue that the “state of Israel” will be swamped long, long before that.

There are many more arguments, all of which are along the same lines. I won’t bother with them except one, which I will put at the very end of this article for reasons that will become obvious.

Now, if you look back at those points I made, you’ll notice that they have a mix of the utterly nonsensical with the (relatively) more substantial, though ultimately hollow, “arguments”. There’s a reason for this. Each and every one of these arguments is easily refutable, if you want to take the trouble of refuting them. But there is no point refuting them.  By the time you have finished countering one argument, the HP has already moved on to the next. It will, if you cite sources, attack those sources. It will attack you, personally. But it will make no effort to provide solid information countering what you said, ever, any time.

There is a clear reason behind this. The purpose of the HP, as I said, is not to provide information about the Zionists or even to change peoples’ minds about them; the Zionazis in power in Tel Aviv are realistic enough to know that the actual actions of their “nation” are indefensible. The purpose is to muddy the issue and exhaust all comers, so that the discussion is kept shifting away from the central point, which is, let me repeat, the crimes of the Zionist entity. As an analogy, let’s consider the hypothetical case of a concentration campcommandant who gassed a million people. Suppose you try and discuss his actual crime, but your opponents keep on and on and on about how some Jew allegedly undercut his father in business or how Aryans “created western civilisation” or how Jews “murdered Christ.” Is any of this even remotely germane to his crime of gassing a million Jews? Of course not. But has this quite successfully derailed the discussion from its original focus, which is, let’s repeat, his act of mass murder? Of course it has. You’re so busy countering the rubbish that you have no time for the main idea. And that is precisely the point.

The HP’s great difference with the ZP is, as I said, that it will keep going. You can’t successfully counteract its lies because by the time you counter one it will have moved on to the next one. If you provide sources it will attack the sources, accusing them of bias, not the information therein. Facts do not matter to it. Nor will it have to necessarily have to take time off to rest, because unlike you – a normal human with basic biological needs and the necessity of earning a living – it is earning a living by keeping you occupied. And it does not have to take time off to eat or sleep because it’s often not a single individual, but part of a team. As such, when one HP leaves off, another will take over, using the same fake identity, and carry on the fight.

As such, when confronted by an HP, what is the right thing to do? How should you counter its lies?

In one word, the answer is: don’t.

For the reasons I mentioned above, arguing with an HP will get you nowhere. You will be forced to make a choice: either stick to the main focus, in which case the HP will accuse you of ignoring all the “facts” it’s pushing on you; or get mired in countering those “facts”, and lose sight of the main focus.

If you come across an HP, this is what you should do:

Point out to the rest of the online forum that the person is an HP, and give the reasons (you are welcome to post a link to this article if you wish). Then ignore the HP completely. It is not in your own interests to waste your time and raise your blood pressure to fight with a professional liar whose only purpose is to waste your time and raise your blood pressure.

As a conclusion, I’ll post the final HP “argument”, which it fondly imagines is the clincher:

*The Holocaust Holocaust Holocaust. Any sane person will admit the Holocaust happened. Any sane person will also say that this does not excuse the crimes of the Zionist entity. In fact, I’ll let a far, far better person than me say it in his own words:

Peace and happiness to you.

Further reading, for those who don't want to believe the links between the Zionists and the Nazis:

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Raghead Special: Greetings Card

You know how all the comics characters ultimately move to merchandising? From Garfield to Dennis the Menace to Spiderman, they all seem to end up as toys or greetings cards or on stupid online memes.

Well, who am I to buck the trend? Only, I am not going to literally buck it, because Raghead won't like it if I make any money out of him. Raghead isn't about money.

So, in three splendiferous versions, here is your free downloadable Raghead All-Purpose Greetings Card/Meme Background Picture. All you need to do is download and add a caption of your choice.

First, here's the Black and White Woodcut Version:

And here we have Raghead in (some) Colour:

Or, in greys, if that is to your taste:

I hope your victims readers are happy to be greeted by him. It's an honour rare and deep.

As long as he doesn't shoot them, that is.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

That Sinking Feeling

New carrier Vikamaditya

The Indian Navy is a curious beast.

Now, as a glance at the map will show, the southern half of India thrusts out like a tapering finger into the ocean, the tip almost touching Sri Lanka. It is, therefore, a maritime nation, and with several major and a great many minor ports, its commerce lifeline is by the sea.

Of course, there is a very large chunk of India with land borders, but as far as overland trade goes, this country has almost zero. To the west is Pakistan, and with Pakistan India has a grand total of one road crossing – at Wagah in Punjab – and a railway service which runs only when the respective governments are in a good mood. To the north are the Himalayas, and across them the Tibetan plateau. Even if India didn’t have a running sore of a border dispute with China, the practical limitations of trade routes across the hills seal off that as well. And to the east are Bangladesh and Myanmar – corrupt, poor, embroiled in strife, and with infrastructure crumbling on both sides of the border.

So, yes, the only viable trade routes remaining are from the sea.

Considering this, you would imagine that the Navy would be very important in India’s strategic calculations. Perhaps not quite as important as the other two services, but at least with a clear operational role and trained and equipped to fulfil it.

You would be wrong.

The Indian Navy is, basically, a ceremonial force. It’s just about capable of green water operations. That’s not something to condemn, actually, because a green water navy can be perfectly good at its job if it’s clear what the job is and is focussed on it.

But the Indian Navy seems not to have the slightest idea what role it’s supposed to fulfil. Is it basically a coastal defence force, a glorified coast guard committed to defending against attacks by enemy military forces rather than fighting smugglers? Or is it a blue-water force in the making, capable of projecting power over oceanic distances? And if it is the latter, just what kind of strategic objective would be fulfilled by building a blue-water navy capable of projecting force over said oceanic distances? What Indian interests could possibly be served by owning the ocean off, say, South Africa or Tasmania?

There doesn’t seem to be an answer.

If anything, the Indian Navy is marked by a strange vaingloriousness for a ceremonial force. It has three aircraft carriers at the moment – an ancient British light carrier which had fought at the Malvinas in 1982; a refurbished Russian medium carrier; and a third indigenous medium carrier in building. I’ve asked in the past just what these floating airfields are supposed to achieve in case of a war in the Indian situation that can’t be done more easily and cheaply with land based aeroplanes, and I never found an answer. They are prestige platforms, nothing more. [And that means, as well, that in case of an actual war, the carriers are almost certainly not going to be used. The possible loss of a prestige weapon is a major loss of prestige.]

Even in the past, the Navy has never exactly covered itself in glory. It had no role to play, of course, in the Himalayan wars of 1947 and 1999 (against Pakistan) and 1962 (against China). It sat out the 1965 war against Pakistan in harbour, apparently because the government of the time was afraid that to risk a sinking would affect national morale.

Only in 1971 did it emerge from harbour, and even then its success was mixed. In the East, the then lone aircraft carrier, the old INS Vikrant (the new carrier being built is the new INS Vikrant) was kept hidden in the Andaman Islands out of fear of the Pakistani Navy’s sole long range submarine, the PNS Ghazi. The Ghazi, however, obligingly blew herself up on the eve of hostilities while trying to mine Visakhapatnam harbour, freeing the Vikrant to launch a few air raids on the East Pakistani ports of Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong. These too were prestige raids, since the Air Force had knocked out the Pakistani Air Force and was already bombarding those towns.

Meanwhile, missile boats from the Western fleet made a daring night time assault on Pakistan’s Karachi harbour and sank a couple of ships, but after the frigate Khukri was sunk by the Pakistani submarine Hangor, the Navy spent the rest of the war staying out of the way.

The recent scrapes the Navy has been in have involved “anti-piracy” operations off the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden in 2008, in the course of which it sank a trawler it thought was a pirate mother ship . Meanwhile, terrorists from Pakistan hijacked a trawler off the coast of India, immediately after a major naval exercise to boot, sailed it to Bombay and then launched an amphibious assault which shut down the city for three days...all without the Navy being able to even detect, let alone stop, it.

So, it would be accurate to say that the Navy is more a decorative force than a practical one. As such, it does not need the same level of professional leadership as the air force or navy, and it does not, emphatically, have the same level of professional leadership. Unlike the other two services, the naval top brass is comparatively politicised. The nadir was reached in 2000 when the then chief, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, was dismissed from service by the then Hindunazi government acting on the complaints of one of his subordinates. Among the charges against Bhagwat was that his wife was an alleged “card-carrying Communist”. According to the media, one major reason for Bhagwat’s dismissal was that he was pressing for indigenous design and production of equipment rather than go for expensive foreign purchases which didn’t ultimately do the job they were supposed to do.

 Not only is the Indian Navy, indecisive of its role, improperly equipped for any realistic situation it can be expected to handle, and politicised at the top, it is also appallingly accident prone. Especially in the last few months, the accident graph seems to have shot through the roof. It started with the sinking of a submarine in Bombay harbour, which blew up and went down with the loss of eighteen sailors. Since then, the navy has had several instances of ships running aground, fires, and one instance where a ship had actually shelled the Western Command naval headquarters by accident. And in the latest incident, another submarine had a fire while under water, resulting in the deaths of two officers and injuries to seven sailors. It’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll ever return to active duty. [A list of some of the recent accidents is here.]

A most curious thing happened as a sequel. The naval chief, Admiral DK Joshi, at once quit, assuming “moral responsibility” for the spate of accidents. Just how this resignation is supposed to help, I’m sure I can’t tell you. Will ships stop catching fire or running aground just because the top man quit? Obviously not. So just what did this resignation achieve, except get Joshi out of the line of fire before even more accidents happen?

Even more curious was the government’s response. The Defence Minister, a political hack named AK Anthony who has no military background, accepted Joshi’s resignation immediately and with suspicious haste. At the moment of writing, the navy has an interim chief; a replacement for Joshi is yet to be named.

Why was the government in such a hurry? This is speculation, of course, but I believe the answer lies in the fact that elections are imminent – elections which the current Congress Party-led regime is almost certain to lose. The last army chief, General VK Singh (check that link for some interesting information) has just entered politics on the side of the Hindunazis, and asked all veterans to do the same. I think that the Congress may well try and put up Joshi as a candidate to show that the military is not against it, and hopefully draw away some support from the Hindunazis.

And meanwhile, the navy will keep getting that sinking feeling.

Ex-Admial DK Joshi on the carrier Viraat

Note: I will be writing about the situation in Ukraine – which I am watching closely – in a couple of days. No prizes for guessing on which side my sympathies lie. So far, by the way, every prediction I have made about it has come true; there has been no fighting, the Ukrainian armed forces have fallen apart, the Europeans have balked at taking any actual action against Russia, and Obama’s threats have been treated with the contempt they deserve. The only remaining predictions pertain to the situation if Russia makes a full-scale invasion of Ukraine – and that is almost certainly not going to be necessary. Anyway, watch this space.