Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #154 - Liberal Bigotry via Disparagement Humor, Agenda-Setting, and Priming

(Photo by Luis Alfonso Orellana on Unsplash)

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood


Emotional noise and shouting in the face of a sophisticated and complex web of propaganda is a great way of self-annihilation. But unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening in our society. We can see how subliminally things are being done. We are short on the factual articulation of the crime being committed and semantics that conveys the impact and its seriousness.

That needs to change.

Know. Research. Articulate. Learn. And share.

The tools of propaganda are complex, yet well crafted and tested. They are powerful and vindicated. The antidote to that has to be a serious scholarship of such abomination.


subliminal messages and stereotyping

It all started in the 1970s with the movie Deewar and Amitabh Bachchan’s character. The story was written by Saleem Khan (Salman’s father) and Javed Akhtar.

The injection of prejudice was subtle but obvious to a discerning eye.

The hero, Vijay Verma was portrayed as a gray character who does bad things, but he is good at heart. He is an antagonist and atheist, but he is good at heart. He questions his own gods. The character of Vijay Verma insults Hindu gods, but at the same time, he dons the badge of Islamic number 786 with respect. (Source)

After watching Bajrangi Bhaijaan’s strangely pro-Pakistan and anti-Indian and anti-Hindu treatment of the subject (where Indians, basically Hindus were portrayed as narrow-minded, conservative, and discriminating while Pakistanis were portrayed as open-minded and non-discriminating), Professor Dheeraj Sharma of the IIM-Ahmedabad decided to do data-based research.

So he did a random sampling of 50 films from each decade starting with 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s all the way to 2000s and 2010s. What his team found was shocking!

The results were shocking! 58% of the corrupt politicians in films were Hindu ‘brahmins’, 62% of the corrupt businessmen were from the Hindu ‘vaishya’ caste. Not just Hindus, but in around 78% films, women with ‘loose characters’ happened to be Christians. While around 74% films presented Sikh characters as laughable. However, 84% of Muslim characters were shown as strongly religious and honest (even when their character in the movie, was that of a criminal). (Source)

If you watch the advertisements shared in the tweet below, you will see that the bigotry identified in the IIM-Ahmedabad research for Bollywood movies is resonated in these ads as well.

making bigotry acceptable - disparagement humor

What is happening in the movies, advertising, and more important in the stand-up comedy industry is the use of disparagement humor.

Disparagement humor is humor that denigrates, belittles, or maligns an individual or social group (e.g., Janes & Olson, 2000; Zillmann, 1983)

This brand of humor is paradoxical in nature where it combines two things - 1. explicitly hostile and bigoted message; and 2. hostility wrapped in a “joke” to make it “acceptable”.

What really happens in a society as a consequence is that prejudice, bigotry, stereotyping, racism, sexism, and persecution are made socially acceptable. (Source)

Studies have suggested that the impact of disparagement humor on a society is devastating in terms of how it leads to a rise in divisiveness and violence. (Source)

An article by World Economic Forum explains how racism is spread across media (internet, primarily), but this framework also explains the bigotry and prejudice that is being spread across the Indian media against the Hindus as well. (Source)

We saw in our newsletter two days back on how bigotry is being normalized on the internet as well by making holocaust of a certain group as an aspirational goal for the millennials. And how such bigotry is rewarded by companies like Penguin Books.

Image

Here Subha Prasad Sanyal, a Harvill Secker (Penguin Group company) awardee, displayed a case of extreme disparagement humor. Ananya Ray, another bigot, showed immediate and ready approval of that statement. (Source)

What it did was to make a “person high in prejudice” (Sanyal) to adopt a mindset which normalized the underlying derision and criminal behavior and take it as a social norm.

What Penguin Books did, in this case, is award such a person such that it provided bigotry a platform of legitimacy.

Tanishq Ad - Media priming for religious stereotyping

Media priming is a very effective way to reinforce prejudices. Political media priming, for example, is said to be "the process in which the media attend to some issues and not others and thereby alter the standards by which people evaluate election candidates"

Another tool used along with priming is agenda-setting. Both together, create a powerful effect to perpetuate prejudice.

Linking agenda-setting and priming, Scheufele and Tewksbury (2007) surmise that “by making some issues more salient in people‟s mind (agenda-setting), mass media can also shape the consideration that people take into account when making judgment about political candidates or issues (priming)”. Based on psychological concept of availability heuristics, priming occurs because individuals do not take all information into consideration in judgment, but only those accessible at a particular point in time (Roessler, 2008). In essence, “priming refers to the effects of the content of the media on people‟s later behaviour or judgment” (Roskos-Ewoldsen, Klinger, Roskos-Ewoldson, 2007) (Source)

Judgment based on the available information (priming) which are selective in nature, specifically in news media due to the gatekeeping bias of the editors (which news to show and which to trash) promotes bigotry and prejudice.

What the advertising company did with the Tanishq ad, combined with the prejudice underlying other ads of a similar nature was to create a priming effect. It was a subliminal way to reinforce a certain structure of society, where only certain norms are acceptable. For example, the religious sensitivity of the Hindu bride in the Tanishq ad became relevant to her Muslim mother-in-law only when she was pregnant. Before that, the bride says apologetically that her ways are not the norm in the family. Even for her. And this small show of sympathetic “secularism” is a source of delight. A paragon of “Oneness”. A “Oneness” where cursory and occasional liberalism is the greatest instance of socially acceptable behavior.

Bigotry, laced with light tolerance, is the highest level of liberal attitude that Hindus can expect. And, should laud.

Which they didn’t.

And so, the stock of Tanishq’s parent company fell.

Whatever its reason may have been, the message went to every sane, perceptive person.

While we cannot be certain whether there is any link between the fall in stock prices and the calls for boycott Tanishq had to endure, Titan saw its collective wealth eroded by around Rs. 2700 crores. One Tanishq showroom in Gujarat condemned the ad and apologised profusely to the Hindu community for the offensive ad. (Source)

The champions of faux-liberalism, which thrives on agenda-setting and priming for the propagation of prejudices, stereotyping, and bigotry, were busy in their brand of prejudice - condescension and richsplaining.

People have a right to their likes and dislikes and show that via their wallets and choices of media. To deride or demonize them with a show of condescension is outright bigotry.

The rich and celebs are seeing the effects of the voice of the wallets and choices. Shows which were regularly in Top 5 are now fighting a battle to remain relevant.

This is the first time that Kaun Banega Crorepati is not even in the top 10, forget the top 5 shows in the nation, which was its natural place.

The fifth position has been taken by India's Best Dancer. However, what comes as a shock is that Amitabh Bachchan's Kaun Banega Crorepati has failed to make it top 10 list in its first week. The show is usually very hyped and manages to get the audience's attention. We hope it picks up soon. Meanwhile, Choti Sarrdaarni, Shakti Astitva Ke Ehsaas Ki, The Kapil Sharma Show have been faring well on the BARC List.  (Source)

We are at an inflection point in our society.

Will we allow divisiveness to be injected into our culture and society by promotion and propagation of the scourge of disparagement humor, agenda-setting, and priming - all in the name of entertainment and humor, or do we wake up and work for a better society?

Where bigotry, sexism, prejudice, stereotyping is not slid under the door into our social norms and made acceptable!

nota bene

Rs 120 crore for Kedarnath work: In a positive development, Rs 120 crores have been earmarked by the Shri Kedarnath Utthan Charitable Trust (SKUCT) for the construction work in the temple premises, reports Hindustan Times. As per the information was given by the state’s Tourism Secretary Dilip Jawalkar, the second phase of the construction work with a cost of Rs 120 crores will be completed in Kedarnath Dham, including 50 feet wide walkway, security wall, and other works. (Source)

China does not recognize Ladakh: Amid ongoing military stand-off at LAC, China on Tuesday said it “does not recognize the Union Territory of Ladakh” which has been "illegally" established by India. The remarks came a day after India inaugurated 44 key bridges in the border areas of Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir. While increasing its vitriol against India, the Chinese foreign ministry today said that Beijing stands against the development of infrastructure facilities that are aimed at military contention along with the border areas. (Source)

Solar is the Cheapest Electricity in History: The world’s best solar power schemes now offer the “cheapest…electricity in history” with the technology cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries. That is according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020. The 464-page outlook, published today by the IEA, also outlines the “extraordinarily turbulent” impact of coronavirus and the “highly uncertain” future of global energy use over the next two decades. (Source)

Time to rethink Columbus legacy: The Mexican government has removed a prominent bronze statue of Christopher Columbus and surrounded another with high metal fencing ahead of an annual protest that marks the explorer’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. The removed statue of the 15th-century Italian navigator, along with four Catholic friars, towered over one of Mexico City’s main traffic circles for decades. Authorities said it was taken away for restoration work on Saturday but added that it was also time for reflection about Columbus’s legacy, triggering speculation in Mexican media that the statue may not be returned. (Source)

experiencing the game-changing Atal Rohtang Tunnel

The Atal Rohtang tunnel is a game-changer in the Leh-Ladakh region. I have been to Keylong, Rohtang region and it is difficult terrain. Just see the map below to see how it is the ONLY way across the mountains!

This video is very informative yet fun. It shows what the Atal tunnel does for that region without being boring or throwing facts at you. What it shows will stick with you. Watch it!

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