When Hazare first staged the fast at Jantar Mantar in April, the backdrop had a small image of Gandhi dwarfed by a larger portrait of Mother India, an icon often identified with right-wing organizations. His PR managers decided that he needed a more inclusive image to draw a larger appeal within the country. So in his second fast outing at Ramlilla grounds, Mother India went into the dustbin to be replaced by an oversized portrait of Mahatma Gandhiji.But the branding exercise of Anna as a modern day Gandhi commenced much before that. His PR managers ensured that Anna Hazare first meditated at Rajghat before launching his fast to take advantage of the photo-ops. This blended well with the public perception that the fast itself was a Gandhian tool of protest. These symbolisms were all necessary to the morphing of an Anna Hazare into a Gandhi. What's significant however was that Anna found no need to go back to Rajghat after his fast ended. He achieved what he came to realize - fame, recognition and unelected power. Gandhi had served the purpose to Anna and as in the case of a used toilet paper, could now be dispensed with. Observes Mahesh Bhatt, the film-maker:
"Gandhi is a national symbol and you can’t blame Hazare for using him to market his movement. The way Hazare is using Gandhi is similar to the movie industry’s franchisee business. When we made Murder 2 this year, we connected it to the first Murder, and so used an earlier successful brand as a springboard to another success.”
That's what exactly the Anna Team did. They used Anna's first fast at as a springboard for a second fast designed to generate a much larger impact. The build up of Anna as Gandhi was further reinforced through the suggestion that fight against corruption was equivalent to India's second freedom struggle in a country. So here was the subtle association with Gandhiji once again as he led the country’s independence struggle. Anna’s fast came at a time where people were already angry against the mega scams exposed. The Anna movement just needed to tap into this latent energy of this foul public mood to create a groundswell support for them.
Here enters the media to offer itself as a force multiplier for reasons of their own. Past research indicate that media coverage can help fuel a person's example bias with widespread and extensive coverage of unusual events. In one experiment that occurred before the 1976 US Presidential election, participants were asked simply to imagine Gerald Ford winning the upcoming election. Those who were asked to do this subsequently viewed Ford as being significantly more likely to win the upcoming election.That's what the heady mix that the concoction of Gandhiji; second freedom struggle and fight against corruption was designed to actually generate. The connotative definition of any word can be denotative in effect. However, of far more importance is that the connotative meaning of a word can also have a strong emotional content. In other words, the audience can also respond emotionally rather than intellectually to hearing or reading a word. And this is exactly the effect of the 24x7 media hype of the Anna's fast created. It drummed up an ambience of emotional frenzy in the country.The net outcome of this combined PR stunt and media blitz conferred on Anna, a largely undeserved, irresistible aura onto the self-proclaimed messiah. That it succeeded partially, if not momentarily, is indicated by TV news channels beaming sound bites of excitable sections of our society, particularly youngsters, breathlessly affirming how they were moved by the second Gandhi.Now a messiah has to offer some kind of salvation. So we saw the Jan Lokpal Bill marketed as an ultimate solution to banish corruption, the magic wand which our Prime Minister honestly admitted does not exist. The Anna Team here was taking resort to propagating nirvana fallacies i.e. the logical error of comparing actual things with unrealistic, idealized alternatives. Voltaire dismissed nirvana fallacies through his famous quote - "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien" or "The perfect is the enemy of the good". In contrast, Anna gives an impression that legislation is an effective way to fight corruption, when documented evidences globally point that it is not. One blog gives an excellent insight to why this is so:
"No reform against corruption can derive strength from good intentions or ‘independence’ without clear accountability. Hence the Lokpal debate cannot be about a single agency, office or officer. Instead it has to be about a system of Government and a culture of governance rooted in the principle of accountability.
A strong and effective Lokpal Bill has to be one that takes a holistic view of structural reforms to the Constitution and systemic reforms to how laws are enforced and justice delivered.... The current political crisis in Indonesia is a stark pointer to the inadequacy of all of these proposals. In an interview to the Jakarta Globe on August 25, the chairman of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Committee admitted that fighting corruption was complex and the need of the hour for Indonesia were systemic reforms and bureaucratic reforms. This late wisdom coming nine years after Indonesia’s version of a Lokpal came into place.”As we know, Humpty Dumpty was very good at self-definition: "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less." (Carroll, 1960). Such a fallacy is very popular with people who wish to mislead, and is particularly effective when using those slippery words that have no concrete referent. Anti-corruption is one of these words. Most people will agree that anti-corruption is a consummation devoutly to be wished. However, when the Anna Team manipulatively used the term to get their audience to agree with their desire to wipe out corruption, they really meant that the nation should do this only by accepting their draconian bill, drafted by their handlers, Ford Foundation. The bill itself however appealed to a minute section of society who were under the illusion that under a dictatorial Lokpal they can experience democracy as it should be and a corruption free society!
And the demagogues in the Anna team used this technique with great effect as they combined its use with another advertising technique called "Argumentum ad Populum" or "Argument to the people." This is appeal to emotion to convince people to accept what they say. Basically, it is telling people how wonderful they are and how what they think (no matter what they think) is right and proper, and anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot and a fool. Since most people prefer to be considered right and proper, rather than an idiot and a fool, they will agree with those who tell them they are Aright and proper. So their predictable propaganda goes something like this:
“For more than 40 years, parliament has failed to pass a Lokpal bill. People have been demanding and in fact we have been demanding for a strong Lokpal bill but they simply do not listen! When we speak, they should listen to us”
Note what happens:
- the people in the crowd are right;
- the Anna Team member making the speech has included themselves in their number;
- there is no evidence given whatsoever -- what the "people" say is right, no matter what they say.Hitler used the same argumentum ad populum technique in building up the attitude in the Germans of the 1930s that they were the master race and that blacks, homosexuals, Jews, and handicapped people were inferior and should not be allowed to live because they were not like the master race (that’s how 14,000,000 people ended up in death camps). The same technique we saw used in India to whip up frenzied passion that led to the destruction of the Babri Masjid.It is no coincidence that the Anna team went further to encourage black and white thinking, inducing people to overlook the complex interplay between multiple component elements of the problem, and as a result, reduces complex problems to a pair of binary extremes. The operating rationale was rather simple - One cannot argue away emotions because they do not respond to logic. Thus if you can make your audience agree with your point of view on an emotional level, your opponent's logical arguments won't sway them about why they shouldn't feel that way.To muzzle any dissent against them, the Anna Team further made it look as it was immaterial that one was against corruption. What matters is as long as you do not approve of Anna and his Jan Lokpal Bill, you were instantly branded corrupt or a Congi stooge (a psychological pressurization or bullying tactic that Anna's PR managers borrowed from George Bush's now famous "You're either with us, or against us" line). But even as their PR strategy was masterfully executed, they must have been conscious of the flaws of their bill as illustrated by their anxiety to get the bill passed at the shortest duration without discussion. To the credit of our parliament, cutting across party lines, they recognized bad rubbish when they saw one, they gave it a thumbs down.This outcome thoroughly upset the calculations of the Anna Team. Arvind Kejriwal boasted "If Anna says it is the right thing, people will rubber stamp it." Kiran Bedi declared “Anna is India and India is Anna”. Both were not simply off-the cuff and unrelated remarks but carefully contrived to paint Anna as the supreme moral authority - a sort of an Ayatollah character - in the country whose proclamations people meekly accept without questioning. The "argumentum ad vercundium" technique uses the appeal to tradition or authority in support of some contention. "If it was good enough for grandpa, it's good enough for me" is a capsular example of the argument. In this case, if it is good for Anna, it should be good for you. Govind Talwalkar observes:
“Like the Iranian religious supremo, Anna Hazare demands supreme power and he dreams that with the present dysfunctional government, he could wield power from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and everybody would just obey his fiats”
Advertising often uses the argumentum ad vercundium - getting famous actors, sports figures, and even politicians to endorse products and services. They are presented as authorities on the products as though they are experts. In fact they usually have no expertise, knowledge, or even regard for the quality or appropriate use of the product for the consumer -- they simply say they use it. That is enough.Parliament's rejection of the Jan Lokpal bill illustrates that there are even limits to even what manipulative advertising can do. The message from Parliament was clear and sound. They will not bow down to a man who thinks he is India. It was they who were the representatives of the people. If Anna arrogates himself the authority of Supreme Ayatollah of India then he suffers from a delusion of grandeur personality. Like Mark Anthony’s speech, they praised him only to drive the dagger into his heart! And three cheers to them. Viva la democracy!