A lethal mix of prejudices

In India Hitlerism and Islamophobia both are at their peak

Farrukh Khan Pitafi November 07, 2020
The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi

As you read these lines, vote counting continues in the United States. Do we know who is going to win by the end of the prolonged political and legal battle? No. Do we have an idea who might? Yes. In any case, it is too early to write the political obituary of Donald Trump. One, he is not going to give up without a fight. Two, even if he loses he is not a usual political phenomenon and may bounce back in 2024. Three, while the American conservatives might be keen to move past him, his base is very loyal and may keep him relevant for a long time. That said, it looks like Biden will be very, very unlucky if he cannot make it beyond the finish line.

So, instead of speculating about the outcome let us resume our discussion from the last time. The world of conspiracy theories and how a mix of the worst rumours from history, an overactive imagination of storytellers belonging to the culture industry, and cutting edge technology keep fuelling them.

In my last piece, we discussed QAnon's claim that there exists a global cabal that among other things kills children to obtain a chemical from their blood needed to stay young. Do you want to know how old is this aspersion and what is its source? By a happy coincidence, I was reading Ian Kershaw's Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris that I came across the passage about rumours against the Jewish community of Vienna during Hitler's early youth. The community was accused of the ritual murder of children. Bear in mind that as a product of an ossified prejudiced mind these caricatures of a community which for a long time has been history's favourite whipping boy are no better than Borat's depiction of the Jew. But who pauses to fact-check propaganda in polarised times. People need a scapegoat to blame for their miseries and once one is located they keep weaving the most ridiculous yarn possible.

The point of this little example is that propaganda and conspiracy theories are short of perverse material. All they have to do is to sift through the backyard of history. Another remarkable example is the near-universal prevalence of propaganda material against the American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros. This is where the left-right divide has done the most damage. The people on the right need someone to blame and many including Benjamin Netanyahu have found Soros as the target. Both are Jewish but as this kerosene meets the fire of existing prejudice in the West it becomes the story of a rich powerful and evil international cabal. Just to refresh your memory, early and rather moderate Nazis used to say that ordinary Jews were separate from the rich Jewish class which was exploiting the world — i.e., Ford's international Jew. But such lines in the sand are soon forgotten in the rage of a witch-hunt. Remember, mostly lower and middle-class Jews ended up in the Nazi camps not the ultra-rich.

This idea of an international cabal is a useful device. Every society has its fair share of the rich. This elite class is usually inaccessible to the common citizens for scrutiny and is well connected internationally. Its power and lack of transparency to the ordinary citizen generate a thousand misgivings. Then there is what I call the Ford syndrome. Every rich man or woman comes across someone richer than them. When a self-made man comes across people with generational wealth and fails to bond, this cultural difference or rejection can often lead to a culture shock which might eventually result in prejudice. Henry Ford was a rich man. But his prejudice against the moneyed Jewry did humongous damage to humanity. It is said that Hitler had his picture mounted on his wall.

It is also important to remember that global wealth today is not concentrated in the hands of one family or people belonging to one faith. Muslims, Christians, Jewish people, Hindus all have an ultra-rich among them. Hence while the talk of an international group of puppet masters may target one community disproportionately its origin that lies in the anger of the lower classes is sooner or later hijacked by racial and cultural prejudice and is often used by the rich to settle old scores. Interestingly those who set out to fight the 'puppet masters' most often become some ventriloquist's dummy. Just notice how conspiracy theories like QAnon stem from anti-Semitism, or prejudice against any cultural group, gather dust, of Islamophobia, and eventually turn against their Christian benefactors too.

In India where Hitlerism and Islamophobia both are at their peak, you do not even need an immediate stimulus to bring out hate. So what if Muslims today are helpless and destitute. Centuries ago Mughals and Muslim raiders from Central Asia attacked India and ruled it. That should be enough to subject them to collective punishment. Likewise, the helpless Christian community in India is collectively punished for the alleged crimes of the British Raj. The fact that the Indian ruling elite now sees an opportunity in the talk of a clash between the West and Islam and China, strengthens its hand in dubbing all peaceful Muslims as terrorists and part of the problem as well. That is why it so aggressively condemned the Congress Party when it used terms like saffron terrorism against Hindu extremist groups.

I must say I find Indian NSA Ajit Doval's claim about Muslim extremists as mercenaries ready to be bought quite ominous given the recent incidents of terrorism in Europe right when political stakes couldn't be higher.

You must recall that in a few past pieces I highlighted how Savitri Devi, often dubbed as Hitler's priestess, gave Hindutva its Nazi colour. I have also pointed out how her particular brand of Hinduism declaring Hitler as the avatar of Vishnu is now giving today's neo-Nazis a religion to adhere to. And I have also mentioned that Trump's former chief strategist and Breitbart's executive chairman Steve Bannon is spouting similar nonsense. Since then Benjamin R Teitelbaum has written a book titled, War for Eternity: Inside Bannon's Far-Right Circle of Global Power Brokers, seeking to connect dots between Savitri Devi, Bannon, his circle of influence, and the ethos he believes in. I am currently reading this book featuring hours of Bannon's interview. Although the narrative takes many summersaults it confirms one concern I have voiced. Like Savitri Devi, this lot in seeking to revive the pre-Christian West, and hierarchical society, is bound to turn against all Abrahamic religions. The journey that started with Huntington's metaphysical thesis now threatens to unite white supremacists and Hindutva extremists against today's West. The chickens of hate have come home to roost then.