How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts


How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

A narrative is a story – a written or oral account of events. It is not static and can be expanded, elaborated and embellished over time. Narratives can be a benign form of entertainment, or a powerful tool in changing the way people make sense of themselves and their world. Narratives are built as people interpret and link together a sequence of events across time. Since humans live in a complex world, multiple stories can occur at the same time, and the same experience can lead to many different conclusions. Political elites know this and, consequently, make sure that they control the narrative-building process.

Narratives as political tools

Political narratives provide a framework for interpreting the existing political realities. The media and ‘intellectual’ elites play a key role in shaping these narratives by controlling the means and methods of information generation and dissemination.  Moreover, they often use innuendo and selective reporting to author and re-author narratives. An event occurs, the news is reported. Then a new twist is added and echoed by others. Seemingly ‘innocent’ details are added to made the new story more vivid. The hope is that eventually the altered story will become the dominant narrative. In the following sections, I will use three case studies to illustrate how this is done systematically:

CASE 1: Multiple bomb blasts occur at the Mahabodhi temple in Bihar

Despite specific prior warnings by the Intelligence Bureau, security measures were not adequately strengthened to prevent the blasts at the shrine. As the news broke, most responded with shock, while some resorted to spin-doctoring.

Initial reporting:

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

A little while later, a narrative began to take form implying that BJP and Narendra Modi were somehow responsible:

Step 1: Mention two events ‘innocently’ in the same breath

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

Step 2: Let someone draw more direct links

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

Step 3: Certain journalists from the mainstream media echo the view (the journalist cited below example is from Kafila). 

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

Step 4: Members of the political elite echo the story (Digvijay Singh is a senior leader of the Congress)

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

Mr Singh later went on to say that non-BJP States should be on high alert, implying the role of Hindu outfits in the terror attack (see this link). Thus, an ‘innocuous’ comment builds up into a full-blown narrative. Even if nothing is ever proven, the subconscious link between Modi and terrorism is created at least in the minds of some people.

CASE 2: Hyderabad blasts

In the earlier example, one could of course argue that the initial comment by Sagarika Ghose was an innocent remark that should not be over-analysed. However, this is a pattern that is repeated over-and-over again. Here is another example of a similar situation relating to bomb blasts in Dilsukh Nagar, Hyderabad a few months earlier. Coincidence?

Step 1: Mention irrelevant detail – in this case meat shops – to subtly suggest that Dilsukh Nagar has a large Muslim population (therefore the possibility that this is a case of Hindu terror).

Step 2: Some usual suspects build up direct links:

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

Dilsukh Nagar is in fact a Hindu dominated area. Times of India carried an article, which reported that the area had been on the Indian Mujahideen radar since 1999 (see link). The police believed that the initial target was the Sai Baba temple in the area (see link). However, all this information is incidental. The Main questions that are begging to be answered are: What was the need to make any innuendos at a sensitive time? What happened to good old reporting of facts? Who is fanning the flames of communal divide and why? What is the need to bring in religion constantly and poison people’s minds when terror has no religion?

Case 3: Narendra Modi gives an interview to Reuters

In the interview, Modi is asked about his view on the 2002 riots. He used an analogy to the effect that as a human he would feel pain even if his car were to run over a puppy. Therefore, it is but natural for him to feel pain for the loss of human lives that occurred during the riots.

Step 1: A rival politician deliberately misrepresents the comment:

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

Step 2: A prominent member of the ‘intellectual elite’ picks it up and builds up a story in a series of tweets:

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

Step 3: The usual suspects take up the chorus and there is a lot of noise

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

Step 4: Another prominent member of the ‘neutral’ media keeps the pot boiling (note the use of quotation marks below)

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

Step 5 : Other politicians take up the narrative and score political points (Priyanka Chaturvedi is a Congress spokesperson):

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts

But what actually happened in the interview? This is what the Reuters journalist who took the interview had to say on the matter:

How India’s elite manipulates your thoughts


It is quite interesting to see how a narrative is built up and sustained by a small group of people. The examples used above are from twitter, but many of the key players are prominent media persons as well. Thus this story-telling is being reinforced thorough newspaper columns, television debates and academic seminars. While the cited cases are new, this process has been going on for decades.

The only way to change this system is to recognise what is happening, and build counter narratives. The alternative stories may not be enough to change a person’s initial opinion. However, these will eventually be catalysts for a more thought-based approach, rather than blindly relying on what is being told to us.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are the author's personal opinions. Information, facts or opinions shared by the Author do not reflect the views of Niti Central and Niti Central is not responsible or liable for the same. The Author is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

Offstumped Report

  • Sam

    Firstly, the days of these so called elits are numbered. Secondly, readers and general public should avoid them altogether. If they do not have an audience they are bound to change. Thirdly, their real motives need to be exposed. People like sagarika, javed and dickvijay are enemy to the Indians. They must be brought to justice for causing a tremendous harm to India. India had a glorious past and bright future. But these leftist and islamophilic traitors are causing great harm to India. Avoid them. Ignore them. And bring them to justice. Only and only then there will be some change. Otherwise, India will have a dark future where all of us will suffer.

    Bande Mataram!

  • Anantha Nageswaran

    Good show, Smitha. You are not letting them get away with their mischief. You are doing a great educational service.

  • AK

    Superb articles!!!
    Please make sure this reaches a wide audience….

  • Alok

    You have taken a nice and nuanced view. The fact is much more cruder – the Indian media has given to lying and COMPLETELY twisting anything that Modi says! If it was any other country, they would have been sued for spreading intentional lies!

    In fact the fundamental of Indian media reporting is wrong (and I am not talking about the illegal monies and gratifications they would have gotten) – all these so called “elite” journos mix News and Opinions. In any respectable news organization in the world, it is well accepted is that news is JUST FACTS. Report it as it has occurred. If you want to give opinion (which can be pro-BJP or pro-Cong; pro-Right or pro-left), write a separate piece and call it so. E.g. take a NYT or a WSJ in the US. One is pro-Democrats and liberal (NYT) and the other is pro-Republican and conservative (WSJ). But if you read news stories in them – they are pretty similar. Factual. I still remember during Iraq war, WSJ used to support Bush a lot – but all in editorial/opinion pages. In the front page news, there would be articles which will relay facts as they were on the ground in Iraq. Sometimes news would be very critical and present sad facts of lives lost in Iraq but the opinion piece inside will claim that the US still did the right thing. At the least the news was kept pure. This basic “Hippocratic” principle of journalism is NOT followed by these so called high profile journos of this country – from a Barkha Dutt to a Karan Thapar to a Sardesai to a Arnob…Please dont call these guys “elite”.

  • Kishore Chandra Das

    Spinning yarns at the behest of their paymasters to perpetuate a phony system by hoodwinking the public is the main occupation of these people. These ‘usual suspects’ have been doing it since years and especially since Modiji has come on to the political centre-stage. It is good that more and more people are able to see through such charade now.

  • phani

    Hi Smita Barooah.
    Great work. Things we see passively daily are most dangerous.These poisonous people target those people first. Majority of them say they just watch headlines. These people target those majority by publishing seemingly corrected headlines.
    Keep up your work. you are not just writing some article but saving our great, grand India from these vicious poeple.
    May God give you all the strength.

  • kovi

    This itself is a manipulating post !!! :P.
    Completely from BJP pov . You simply ignore the anti-congress topics on twitter which are also manipulating and not real . !!!!! If you want to be a real journalist show both sides of the coin .

    • Ravi

      kovi – how many mainstream journalists, elite, liberals, secular are on Twitter building a narrative against Congress ? Almost zilch ! It is the thinking masses who are not willing to gulp down all the crap fed by elites – they are the one questioning Congress on Twitter. And that’s the exact reason why mainstream media elites hates social media so much. They are getting exposed every day.

    • R Prasad

      I would have supported your comment if you have provided one example or at least one shred of evidence. Stating mere claims doesn’t help.

    • Rajen

      Kovi – We are not talking about isolated examples here&there. The mere enormity of the leftist/communal onslaught against right(yes, both meanings)-thinking ideas/events beg for such incisive analysis to expose the hidden agendas. Regarding your call for neutrality, please note NITI Central is a right(again,doubly so)thinking platform unlike MSMs who by their very nature are supposed to be neutral and unbiased. In fact if such Media were independent and original, there would have been no need for these alternative platforms. Congrats to Sandhya for such great service to the nation. We expect more from you and also hope to reach a much wider readership.

  • Murthy

    This line of research and analysis is what is needed to expose India’s main stream media and its political masters.

    International media and foreign diplomats are now aware of the lack of integrity in most of India’s print and TV media.

    All thoughtful Indians, whatever their religious or regional backgrounds should ask themselves: “When a dominating media descends to such dishonest manipulation of news, can that ever be in the long term interest of India, her socio-economic welll being.”

  • Indian

    Great article.
    Its a very nice way for you to nail these mischief makers.

    I really feel that unless a harsh punishment is not given to such mischief makers, they will continue to thrive by playing around and leading the agenda of their masters.

  • Raghav

    Hi Smita,

    Very interesting fact finds. Really appreciate your effort in trying to bring the truth out and educate the public.

    Just a small correction though, in your write-up you had mentioned Dilsukhnagar as “Dilkhush Nagar”, probably this is just a typo error, request you to have a look and correct the same.

    Jai Hind,

  • Karthik

    I hope it is sarcastic. If not, why call them “elites” at the first place? It is synonymous to gift-wrapping stinky trash!

    • Rajen

      In fact, I feel such charlatans don’t deserve to be called “Elites”

  • R.Venkatanarayanan

    What Smitha says at the end of her analysis is the important thing. Counter-narratives must be started and built up patiently.Accuracy, decency, and elegance must characterize the counter-narratives.This is not easy unless some bright individuals are dedicated to this job. Emotionalism in response should be avoided. Results may not be immediate. But sooner than later people will find out the truth and also find out who are pursuing their unfair agenda to poison minds.

  • Bitsy

    Comments are bound to be there…Unknowingly these creatures are making this Man more Popular. Infact, he should be.

  • Jitendra Desai

    Reason why we have “Niti Central” Smita !Only way to remove darkness is to light up a lamp.As SAM has stated above, we need to stop watching these channels [ I have].We also have to learn from Gujarat experience [ I am from Gujarat].These same people have been busy spreading such canards since 2002.Yet, people of Gujarat have been voting for BJP-Modi. People are learning fast and becoming wiser by the day. Like they don’t trust a politico’s word, they have stopped trusting these media. They listen to their own inner voice and exercise their choices correctly on voting day.During 2012 Gujarat assembly elections, local and national- print and electronic media were against Modi.Congress had propped up GPP to eat in to Hindu votes.Yet people ensured victory for BJP-Modi. Expect similar voter behavior this time – across the country.Like SHISHUPAL they too have crossed the limit.[Refer Brinda Karat’s article in TOI today].They are due for punishment.By JANARDAN called JANATA.

  • Ajay

    Same goes For Misrepresentation Of NaMO as RAMBO … First planting a fake story which is literally impossible just to create Image of “Feku” around Narendra Modi. And in turn trying to attacking the credibility of achievements in Gujrat by NAMO.
    You can also cover RAMBO story planted by congress in same article

  • A

    I stopped watching NDTV and later on, any channel that Rajdeep Surdesai was associated with. Ditto with their underlings. Stopped reading Times of India and The Hindu. We need neutral news channels desperately, as most of the MSM is bought and paid for.

  • Srini

    Good that you not only posted facts but also posted screenshots so there is no doubt.

    Keep exposing MSM who are guilty of not following free and fair news.

  • Aith Est

    And now, what a master stroke from Modi. the 5/- ticket for rally surprised congress to the core to understand the implications it causes. Majority of indian masses are still in the notion that anything costing more is better. so, the 5/- rally will definitely strike chord with them, coz they feel something better is coming this time, instead of the cheap rallies that happen every year. More so, the 5/- is collected for flood relief, where else is such transparent collection of public money for a relief cause?

    Now congress is in a corner to think how to pull crowds, definitely their charming prince cannot pull or keep the crowds. If they give money, biryani to get crowds, it registers themselves as cheap among the masses.

    None of the media is covering the fact that the 5/- will go to flood relief, all they are covering it that Modi is charging 5/- to listen to him while Congress is trying to understand the implications.

  • G.T.Jadeja

    This exposes the true color of the so called ‘sickularists’ media persons who believe that they belong to elite class but in reality ,they are crooks and on the pay role of the corrupt Congress party.How come they do not raise their voice against dynastic ruler who rules over the country for almost six decades.Very well researched article.Many thanks

  • Sunjay

    Jared Diamond in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), writes “Societies in which the elite are capable of insulating themselves from the consequences of their actions, those are societies that are more likely to do themselves in by failing to have solved their problems, because the elite insulated themselves from the consequences of their actions. Or cut-off from the problems that they are creating and lack of motivation to solve them.”

  • rajesh

    I stopped watching news channel couple of years ago. Since, January this year, throw out TV from my home.
    It helps me concentrate on useful things. Better informed now

  • Manoj N

    Excellent work Smita!! thank you so much for all this hard work and risk. I have stopped watching mainstream news ever since 26/11 attacks. The coverage was live and was helping the terrorists.. and the following radiagate scam.. despicable!! It is these mainstream (paid)news channels that awoke in me the curiosity to know more about Gujarat and Modi.. and ever since i’ve begun to know about his work. I have become his fan! Leaders like him come once in a lifetime. We need him more than he needs us.

  • Yudhveer Singh

    Dear Smita… A Wonderful read.Only wish people from the rural background too understand this web of lie that is getting bigger and bigger by the day, that’s relayed all through the day..In fact these channels and news reader need to be shamed.The likes of Barkha Dutt ,who every one knows is a big fixer, so are the likes of Veer Sanghvi, which is just the tip…This S.Delhi cocktail gang along wix these bureaucrats and the Cong party poppers whose main claim to fame is not the L.S way but the R.S way, r the main culprits…Besides the Hindi news channels which do the twisting to such an extent are the worst and quite crude, lacking in class and quality..Do these channels who ask all sorts of funny questions and make up the most horrendous stories would ever dare to do one show on Sonia controversies that have skirted her , the way they do it for Modi or any one from the BJP….If they can dare to ask the question about Advani being sidelined, why don’t they have the gumption to ask the congress , why only Gandhi’s for the main job, is there any dearth of some real good leaders in Congress , after all this is a democracy not some parivarik rajya but for that the nation needs to awaken.India unfortunately has always been asleep , where people have varied interests and it’s these interests that take prominence.

  • Royston D’souza

    the fourth pillar of Indian democracy is in urgent need of jornous like you. Keep it up the downfall of congress & Its pimps has just begun.

  • Royston Dsouza

    the downfall of Congress has just begun, truths cannot be hidden anymore under the veil of secularism, thank you so much for such awesome journalism .

  • ss

    It’s farcical to call DigGI raja to elite, he suffers from chronic oral diarrhoea

  • Vijeet Rathi

    Very well presented. What one must do when someone comes to know of some ‘remark’ by anyone is to go and find out the source and the context in which it was spoken. The best way to avoid misinterpretation is to avoid social media until you fully know what he/she meant by his/her statement.

  • sanjeev

    Superb article to expose the Paid Media and the Dynasty’s agents. When 4th Pillar of Democracy dies, the future of this country is bleak. When the Media which is supposed to be NEUTRAL is playing to the gallery of CONG and the self-styled conscious keepers of this country in the form of journalists and celebrities sing to the tune of a particular Dynasty, when 2/3rd of population is kept in the dark about the DARK SECRETS OF CONGRESS and UPA, when the Intelligentsia mass has sold their soul to the DEVIL, only 1 thing I remember and trust: The powerful sloka from GITA: YADA YADA HI DHARMASYA GLANIRBHAVATI BHARATA

    O Bharata, whenever there is decline of righteousne
    ss and rise of evil, I manifest Myself. Lord Krishna…

    Only GOD can save this Great Country… I think the diya bujhne se pehle jor se jal raha hai.

  • Kalyan

    Excellent analysis. But the so-called educated elite who watch the TV channels you are referring to are not game changers.And they do not really matter.

  • SeethaRamaraj

    Thanks Smitha for exposing true culture of CONgress

    The war is between well-researched information and manipulative allegation.

    CONgress & their goonies know that they are no match for a just war on social media against BJP. So, They are extended their dirty tricks to Social media viz. twisting the facts, spread misinformation, false allegations, etc.

  • whitemonk

    Well done. Excellent article. I come from the world of business. Narratives really matter even in business. It is not a coincidence that journalists and management consultants call their work “stories”.

    “Narratives and planted and twisted by a set of dishonest people” is itself a great narrative. I personally do not have high opinion of Digvijay Singh, Barkha or Sagarika – and I am sure there are millions like me. There is no way I am going to follow these kind of people on twitter. But you are right that they are able to successfully influence atleast a small set of people.

    How wonderful it will be if Modi comes to power for 5 years one year from now. I will tune in to twitter to see what Digvijay, Barkha and Sagarika have to say then :-)

  • shiney

    Amazing article. Thank you, completely agree with it.

  • Pratik

    Great Article! Let us all spread this article & tear apart this filthy system…

  • SupportNamo

    Thanks for this brilliant article! Shared on FB!

    Let it go viral :) Please keep writing such articles.

    Thanks again!

  • Harry Potter

    Great job!
    Not that people didn’t know of it all this while but because it’s a tough task to painstakingly collect all the data from secluded sources and present it in a coherent manner.

    Love posts that are factually oozing with incisive analysis.

    But, the only thing the ruling party and media have to say is 1. Modi is Maut ka Saudagar even though after repeated cases in different courts under different justices do not implicate him 2. Muslims who the supreme court has sentenced to death are innocent. Proof, facts? Of course, no facts!

  • Sanjeev Patra

    We need to cut down the tentacles of Paid Media and their impact on gullible masses. The public think and assume whatever they are being shown on TV, it might be true. But it is only enlightened media like NITICENTRAL which work as the Nation’s REAL and HONEST and IMPARTIAL Watchdog on the Govt. When all the channels, news media, publishing houses, celebrities are sold out, and talk like CONG’s parrots 24×7, the people will ultimately believe such untruths. We have to do something to expose this 67 years of dirty nexus between CONG-MEDIA-CORPORATE which are fooling this nation. The Country is actually run by a mob of people, It is called Mobocracy and not DEMOCRACY any more.

    I would like to quote Sri Aurobindo from Human Cycle:
    In Sri Aurobindo’s vision real democracy depends on three postulates: universal education, transition from infrarational to rational and character building. If any of the three is lacking the true democratic order cannot manifest. To rationalize human society through universal education seems to be the ideal remedy; yet because of the system’s intrinsic contradiction this too may fail. Sri Aurobindo warned:

    “But a rational education means necessarily three things, first, to teach men how to observe and know rightly the facts on which they have to form a judgment; secondly, to train them to think fruitfully and soundly; thirdly, to fit them to use their knowledge and their thought effectively for their own and the common good. Capacity of observation and knowledge, capacity of intelligence and judgment, capacity of action and high character are required for the citizenship of a rational order of society; a general deficiency in any of these difficult requisites is a sure source of failure.

    The Media is directly impacting the people’s capacity of observation, judgement and create a false sense of feel-good factor for CONG during the election. They did it successfully in the run upto 2009 election. NOW MODI phobia has severely disturbed their good equation and their own survival is at stake now.

    I request Niticentral to start their own TV channel and be a saviour of democracy.

  • Suvosree

    Paid media, paid personalities, what next for a free democracy. A speechless prime minister and a Minister for Misinformation. Frank Kafka here we come, a Bollywood version of the Castle, guess the caste.

  • prabudh

    the bet article of all times //

  • Balasubramanian Sanjeevi

    The moral of the story is only one thing. The story of the main Stream Media like NDTV, CNN IBN and other Congress mouth pieces are “narratives” and not news. When they get desperate they of course cant waste time with subtle narratives, but just perpetrate green lies. So any thing coming from the Indian media especially channels like NDTV, CNN IBN, Headlines Today etc. and newspapers like Hindu, Times of India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express (new) are ALL “narratives” at best or blatant lies at worst. Indians have to take this as unstated and implied statutory warning. The purpose of reading/viewing must be only to uncover and decipher the “narratives”, which is of course more challenging than discovering lies. So goes the “free” media of the world’s largest democracy.

  • Kaushik

    sabki bajegi, all the propoganda is coming out in the open. These same people are spewing venom everyday on Twitter, nobody gives a shit about them, its only they who think people will be influenced on what these Libtards think.