Hidden Persuaders!?

Sometime back I read about the book “Hidden Persuaders” written by Vance Packard in 1956. It is interesting to note that the observations made almost a century ago seem more relevant today! At least in India….May be I am wrong Hidden persuaders are keeping their “iron grip” on the masses, almost everywhere like a curse! May be their ‘kind’ varies! Somewhere it is glamour, at others it is power, still others are followers of a religion…some others are simply salesmen!

The author of the book believes that the right of privacy of our minds and of our existence as dictated by our inner self is a basic and important human right. But the Persuaders have “invaded this privacy of our minds”. The author asserts that ‘it is this right to privacy of our minds – privacy to be rational or irrational – that I believe we must strive to protect”. Unfortunately, that striving is visible nowhere. We seem to be simply being led as the kids followed the mythical ‘pied-piper’.
And unfortunately today, in the age of consumerism and electronic media, in the age of IT based instant communication, this right is being violated with impunity. Marketing is the new name for such hidden persuasion. Consumers and citizens all over the world have been reduced to hopeless and hapless victims of the alluring charm of the hidden persuader, who cheerfully lends his services to anyone, REPEAT, ANYONE, FOR A PRICE!
Film and sports celebrities are the worst culprits in this regard. They take upon themselves the responsibility of ‘persuading’ people from all walks of life, specially the youth and kids, to buy/use and project the items as crucial to one’s image/pride/beauty/macho-ism, including presenting oneself as progressive! So Amitabh Bachan sells himself to sell an oil of dubious credentials and Hema Malini swears by the purity of the water cleaned by the purifier of a particular brand! The list is long!
I  wonder as to why these charming persuaders sell their conscience to be-fool their unsuspecting fans? The fans because of whom they stand where they are? Only for a few ‘more’ bucks? Also, the moot question is – why are the people so gullible?
In the political arena, Hitler was one of the pioneer persuader who sold the idea of German superiority to the gullible (or too nationalistic) Germans. So much so that they were convinced that the Jews ought to be wiped out from this earth! Political leaders of South Asia, many African and other countries have sold the idea of their National superiority to be at war with the neighbours perpetually! India and Pakistan wre included in that list. So is USA under Trump! The danger to a religion is the most saleable argument to these persuaders.

It also defies logic as to Why intelligent people consider their pride and self image so fragile? Why do they get trapped by the sweet talk, knowing fully well that the celebrities are doing it only for money which is included in the pricing of the product? And politicians are doing for snatching power from their opponents?  People often ignore their own rationality for dubious claims of the charmers! But why?


Fascism Risk

Dictionary meaning of Fascism describes it as a political regime having totalitarian aspirations, ideologically based on a relationship between business and the centralized government; business and govt. control of the marketplace, repression of criticism and opposition, a leader cult and exalting the state and/or religion above individual rights. It was originally only applied to Benito Mussolini’s Italy.

According to Wikipedia, Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete and they regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict to respond effectively to economic difficulties. Such a state is led by a strong leader and Fascism rejects the assertion that violence is automatically negative in nature and in fact, views political violence, war and imperialism as means of national rejuvenation! Strangely enough, most fascists don’t like to be called as such because the term has gained notoriety historically…Particularly after Hitler’s genocide of Jews.

Dr. Lawrence Britt has written an essay in the Free Inquiry magazine, Spring 2003 issue listing and entitled “Fourteen characteristics of Fascism.” This he did after studying the regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and Pinochet (Chile). These regimes have been, almost unanimously, acknowledged as being fascist and have 14 elements in common. Fascist regimes tend to have:

i. Powerful and continuing nationalism.

ii. Disdain for the recognition of Human Rights

iii. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as unifying

iv. Supremacy of the military

v. Rampant Sexism

vi. Controlled mass media.

vii. Obsession with national security

viii. Religion and government are intertwined

ix. Corporate power is protected

x. Labor power is suppressed

xi. Disdain for the in intellectuals and arts

xii. Obsession with crime and punishment

xiii. Rampant cronyism and corruption

xiv. Fraudulent Elections

Unfortunately, most of the countries tend to come under this obnoxious tag…even the world’s most powerful and populous democracies. Masses are willing to be swayed by parochial nationalistic aspirations and space and willingness for dissent is shrinking by the day! Democratic values are at the risk of being abandoned for more populist appeals. The humanity today stands at the crossroads! God be with the liberals!

Nationalism is not the end in itself!

A lot of air is polluted these days. Unfortunately, the ideological air is polluted more than the environmental air! Indian ideological air today seems to be infected by those ideas that claim to be based on or draw strength from a “holy” concept called nationalism. An old saying goes that excess of everything is bad. Add to this the fact that even noble ideas out of context can create havoc! Excuse me for saying so, but NATIONALISM as it is in the air today seems to be doing more damage than good. In any case, at best of times it is a parochial concept that robs the much better idea of humanism.
Remember, Hitler killed millions of Jews on the pretext of German nationalism. Aurangzeb committed atrocities on the people in the name of Islamic nationalism and the same is being done today by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. Just as two wrongs can not make one right, every action cannot be ‘sanctified’ by engulfing it with the holy cow concepts, presently nationalism! To take pride in ones nation is a laudable idea but to force everyone to share my intensity is not. If we lambast Muslim rulers of the yore for their hegemony, how can we justify similar behaviour on our part? Equating every action with my own sense of nationalism is not going to achieve the purpose I espouse. So…let the thousand flower bloom. May be that enriches your own nation.


In “The Discovery of India”, J.L. Nehru describes how East India Company took charge of India. It is astonishing to learn as to how a handful of merchants hoodwinked the entire nation that boast of being the oldest civilization into submission…..And we talk of Chanakya neeti now! Pt Nehru fails to explain as to why we failed to implement this political thought which recommends unabashed use of “saam, daam, dand, bhed” to acquire political power. One reason I can think of , which Pt. Nehru also hints at but does not buy wholeheartedly, is that India was not a unit …a NATION …It was divided into thousands of self proclaimed municipalities who had very little common interest in protecting the nation from the outsiders. They were only interested in their own welfare for which they made pacts with them at the cost of others.

India seems same even today. Every state wants to be independent of the center for everything except for central grants. Every caste wants India for its own members…every religion detests members of the other religions. I wonder where is the INDIA-the great nation? Despite the claims of the politicians of all hues, half of the population does make both ends meet! Most don’t have a root on their heads, no health care worth the name, no education. I wonder who is growing at 8% per annum ?