Politics of populism and Internet

By Dr Atique Ur Rehman
Political culture and practice of governance in Pakistan is already a disaster, apparently rising to new levels of incompetence, deception, dishonesty, cruelty and greed. There seems to be no sympathy for masses among ruling elite. The combination of egotistical and incompetent leadership of the country, lack of vision on part of bureaucracy, is eating the country. Internet is fueling the chaos in a society which believes in conspiracy theories and enjoys political controversies more than they enjoy anything else.
And yet, paradoxically, at the same time, people continue to live their normal lives, carrying on their business as usual, to varying degrees, albeit increasingly living out an intensification of partisan sentiments. One might hope that we could find a more measured response to this contradiction between panic and normalcy and more effective forms of both opposition and popular persuasion.
Speed and virility of info through internet has given rise to extremist tendencies and politics of populism in the world. The case study of ex US President Donald Trump and politics of populism and BJP’s governance of extremism prove the hypothesis that internet is fueling extremism, hatred and politics of populism.
Donald Trump’s irrationality, bombast symptoms of his personality, his populism, illiberalism and nationalism , cynical appeals to existing feelings of abandonment, resentment and rage were reason of chaos in US, during his tenure as President.
Looking at BJP politics in India, exhibit more the downward trend democracy is witnessing due to populism. Utter Pradesh ( UP) is the most populous state in the country with 234 million people. It is considered decisive state in election of government in the center. Uttar Pradesh is poorly governed state with minimum basic facilities. Yet,
it didn’t seem to matter enough to the people because BJP win election here merely because of Hindu nationalism, an ideology of Modi led government.
Modi embodies rightwing populism, a modus operandi he shares with former President Donald Trump, former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and former Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. Each of these like-minded politicians share a propensity for anti-establishment and anti-elitist rhetoric, claiming everyman personas to appeal to the masses. But Hindu nationalism provides Modi with a specific ecosystem of support that differs from rightwing populist movements in other nations.
Modi and the BJP are part of a Hindu nationalist movement that has burrowed its way through Indian society since 1920s, building an organizational infrastructure, a collective identity and an ideological common sense that make up the bedrock of its political power in India today, says professor Alf Gunvald Nilsen, University of Pretoria.
BJP’s politics of pluralism poses a formidable challenge to Indian democracy, with many believing that a clash of identities based on language, caste, religion, ethnicity and tribe would bring about its demise. Modi’s Hindu majoritarianism is an anti-democratic attempt which has transformed India into a monolithic Hindu nation from which minorities and dissidents are forcibly excluded. BJP leadership’s collaboration with Indian tycoons, Adani, Tata, Ambhani, to deprive Indian nation of their wealth, has complicated the democratic dispensation of second most populous nation on earth.
Internet has facilitated the manipulation of resources by powerful and elite and fast spread of vendetta in India, as it helped Trump to pursue the politics of populism in US.
Internet is fast changing the political and social landscape in Pakistan as it is doing in rest of the world. Official statistics reveal that 70 million users of internet have increased in Pakistan during last five years. Various research papers show that during this period popularity graph of political parties have fluctuated in Pakistan. However, how far these conclusions of research are true, we will have to wait till next elections. But, it has proven again and again that internet is helping to proliferate hatred, extremism and politics of populism.
Extremist tendencies surge in a particular group through algorithms. The internet phenomenon of algorithm engrave further deep the social constructivism. Liking and disliking emotions achieve epitome of worship and hatred respectively through algorithms.
We only hope that the use of internet only restrict to have political advantage only and it is not carried further to solidify hatred and extremism within society. So far, this optimism does not seem to be coming true. True democratic practices need to be put in place aggressively by political elites to counter the tendencies of extremism and politics of populism.

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