I have not been much part of the discussions about some recent events which have attracted public outrage. Late August to most of September it was the Indrani Mukherjee case and off late it is the Dadri beef murder. I would have thought there would be far more important and deeper issues for the public to outrage over. These could be with regards to the functioning of the government in power or in opposition on issues of national importance or even far more important existential local issues.
For me it has been of great anguish to see the kind of ridiculous statements in the past eight months coming out of Indian climate hawks and the overall despondency over India’s climate change response. But clearly there is no public outrage over that.
It has been almost my continuous state that I generally am not interested in most of the public outrage issues. The 2G scam, the coal scam and so many others in the UPA government which made news ad nauseum in the past few years on television and print to me were well calibrated diversionary tactics. I would speak about it privately and sometimes publicly but clearly the mass media had been co-opted very well in a ‘manufactured outrage’.
At any given time there is always a certain capacity in citizens in terms of time and energy to experience outrage over public events and to engage in discussions over them. It could be X amount of hours a day or Y amount of calories that you decide you will give to outrage.
From the point of view of any political party it would always make sense if they were able to control where people expend their outrage. X hours of time and Y amount of calories a day. If you can direct this energy on your own chosen issues – decoys – then you succeed in the public not having any capacity left to express outrage on issues which threaten your political power and question your performance on critical issues.
There can be the following options
1) People read and follow important public matters through multiple sources like papers, TV, diverse websites, committee reports, journals and decide which are the issues which need to be outraged upon and accordingly spend their energy out of their independent volition.
2) There could be a political control room run by very intelligent people who closely analyse the psyche of the people and monitor their habits, time availability, sensibilities etc. This control room then develops a ‘stack’, an inventory of issues which they will introduce every few days into the public realm in a well coordinated sensational manner. This issue will then become the sole talking point for the bulk of the population.
People will share their thoughts and opinions on the issue on face book. Fight with those whose views are different or those who have attacked their own views. At one point get fed up of the fighting and retire away for a few days or having become hardened and cynical. All in all having expended their x and y.
The control room could either dig out forgotten cases and make them big like the Indrani case or create new events, which in my belief is the Dadri case.
This control room also has an important task at fire fighting. At any point there can be aspects of government/political functioning which have the potential to ignite widespread outrage and it is up to the control room to ensure they are able to quickly respond with diversionary events.
The first option is a rarity. As a norm citizens are a slave to the television and it is their sole source of information, opinion building and time spent. Most citizens are incapable of understanding public policy and issues which really matter but still possess the energy for outrage and it is important for political parties – especially those in power – to ensure that their energy is not tapped into by those who would like to make them intelligent towards the more important issues.
In my opinion issues like Indrani Mukherjee and the Dadri beef murder fit in exactly into point number two. Was or is Indrani Mukherjee and her doings such an important issues that it should be the sole topic of public discussion for 20 days? The Dadri beef murder though shocking is clearly a case where the control room could have directed the murder so as to ensure that all discussion on social media, print and television is swamped with this single issue. I don’t know which is the issue/issues being covered up.
It is up to people to be cautious and ensure that they the outrage that they are experiencing is not coming out of a factory and they are not just another sitting duck consumer consuming a product that has been well marketed to them.