In this age, there are infinite ways of receiving information, from corporate media-houses, independent researchers, and journalists through vlogs and blogs etc. However, despite that one thing hasn’t changed, i.e. our dependency on the Big Brother for information. We even cross-check our information derived from other sources with the Governmental ones. This is because of the government’s moral responsibility towards the flow of information, as well as the vast resources that are available to it and the authority it wields.
But what if the Government’s information is tainted with ‘fake news’ and ‘false narratives’? A bummer, right? Especially about something very crucial. Well, history shows that it is especially during these tough times that the Government will use misinformation and misrepresentation of truth to sway the public opinion. This “all is good” tendency of the Government when it actually isn’t, makes it difficult for the public to discern the truth in times of crisis.
Here are the three such situations when the Governments has tried to say ‘All is good’ when everything was going down in flames.
1. During Wars
Wars are a trying period for not just the soldiers and the Governments but for the normal public too. Trying to hang on to a normal semblance of life, securing rations and supplies for their families is very problematic. On top of this, the public paranoia about safety, fear of ‘perceived’ and ‘supposed’ future invasion makes the public morale quickly take a dive in these difficult times, and sometimes, their trust in the establishments erode. To stop this from happening the Government tries to paint a rosy picture of the thorny reality in front of the people.
The best example for this would be in the U.S.A. during the Vietnam War under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Even though the state knew it was fighting a lost war, it tried to put on a brave face to let its people know that they were still hanging in there and the victory was still in their sights. Despite periodic anti-war protests from the public, the Government refused to accept the ground-realities or real chances of a loss. American troops were demoralized due to the nonstop fighting;’, and the war cost too much to the economy of America too since a lot of money was poured in for the training and supplying the South Vietnamese with professional Vietnamese soldiers’. And all this while the government kept saying how it was alright, even though it was far from it.
It seems that the U.S. hasn’t learned anything from its previous experiences even in the 21st Century. Even today, it keeps endorsing its War on terror when all it has done, is steadily destabilize the Middle-east and Afghanistan. This war costs the U.S. millions of dollars and squanders away the lives of its soldiers and yet it thinks victory is within its hands and keeps persuading the people about it too.
2. During Financial Crises
Financial crises are subtler than wars, so most people might not have a clear idea, sometimes, any idea about how testing the future is going to be. On the other hand, managing a country’s finances is an absolute responsibility of the country’s government. And when the government tries its hand at feeding the common man with a supply of false optimism, the crisis catches the people not just unawares but also with a distrust of the Government.
In India, 2016 was a very remarkable year because the two high fiscal reforms shook India’s economy to the absolute core. They weren’t crises in the complete sense of the world, they were not due to any bursting of a financial bubble, or misallocation of funds but simply policy-making decisions that had devastating impacts. The Goods and Services Tax was a tax reform which integrated all indirect into one tax, while demonetization made all the higher bills like 500 and 1000 illegal. These two reforms had far-reaching effects on the lives of the people and yet the Government instead of actually remedying it through new infrastructure, better policy-making, glorified the struggles of the common man as he went through his day.
Both of these together saw an immense cash crunch which virtually halted many economic activities. People had to stand for hours in queues at ATMs and banks to exchange the now illegal tender into legal tender. Sometimes hospitals refused to take the patient due to lack of money in the just-made-legal tender. People even lost their livelihoods because either they couldn’t afford tax or afford to have an accountant explain it to them.
And yet after all this the Government refused to take any responsibility for the pains cause, but the Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to go through this and undertake this pain invoking strong feelings of patriotism. He painted a picture where everything was or would be alright. They made it seems that the inconvenience was worth it for the sake of the nation. Actual stories of the people’s struggle were not brought to the light by the Government.
3. During National Emergencies
With National Emergencies and civil unrests, it is relatively easier to ascertain the truth in the information since there might be other independent sources covering the same issue. However, there are times when the Government itself gags the media and any scope of an independent source smuggling information to the public is tossed out of the window. In these situations, whatever the Government disseminates is guzzled by the population as hard facts and cold truth.
Between the periods of 1975-1977, a National Emergency was declared in India by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi on the grounds of an internal threat to India’s national security. This means the concentration of all the ruling powers in her unchallenged hands, suspension of civil rights, and postponed elections. Furthermore, Mrs. Gandhi made sure that the press was heavily censored by cutting down public resources to the press and arresting the reporters. Even intellectuals and thinkers weren’t spared. Anyone who dared to dissent was thrown in jail. Gross human rights violations by the Government took place during that period.
While this was going on, the Media was under strict orders for a favorable portrayal of Mrs. Gandhi. Videos featuring her talking about the benefits of the Emergency to the people, promoting values like punctuality were featured to the masses. This ‘All is good’ attitude of the Government, while about a lakh people were arrested, forcefully sterilizations, robbed of their civil liberties went and brutalized by the police, was really appalling.
So, the takeaway that these incidents offer us is that sometimes Big Brother is extremely treacherous, and will only give us the information that we want to hear, but not what we need to hear. And it’ll do this despite the fact that the masses are entitled to the truth of the situation, especially during the times of crisis like these.
That’s why remember that if your Government says it’s okay while something huge is going on, maybe its really not okay. And maybe it’s time to change your source of information.