Book- Bullsh*t Busters: And Other Propaganda Demolished
Publication: Indus Syndicate
Price- Rs 100
In the age of the cow, a bullsh*t buster is a most useful tool. This slim volume — you can fit it easily in your coat pocket once the weather permits one — can give you the ammunition to deal with the many ridiculous WhatsApp forwards, ill-informed Facebook comments or even some “expert” analysts on prime-time debates. While it may not deal in the child-begetting powers of peacock tears (it is not after all, a comic work) this compendium of facts will allow its user, if they happen to be against the dominant discourse in the country today, to marshal facts to match their rhetorical flourish, or even help make up for the lack of it.
The format of the book is simple enough: Each page busts a common notion that members or supporters of the Hindutva right often articulate, and has become, in certain circles, accepted fact. The “bullsh*t” that is “busted” ranges from the idea that the Aryans are the original inhabitants of India, to the idea that caste discrimination and untouchability came to India with Muslim invaders and that Article 370 grants Kashmir “special powers” and is anti-national. Each political myth is then sourced and debunked, using a range of resources from news outlets and academia. In fact, for those interested in more than just a cursory glance at the book, the references section provides a wealth of interesting details and can be the starting point of hours of useful self-education via Google.
In terms of its format, Bullsh*t Busters runs the danger of being accused of setting up straw men. Rather than articulating the tropes of right-wing propaganda itself, the book would have served its end better by sticking to actual quotes — and there are enough to make the case — by right-wing elements in public life today. Also, at times, it seems too broad — the themes it tackles take away from the book’s core. The LPG subsidy and Direct Benefit Transfers, for example, while certainly contentious, are hardly in the same universe as RSS ideologue MS Golwalkar’s declaration against Christians, Muslims and Communists or the myths about Muslim fertility.
At its core, however, Bullsh*t Busters is an act of optimism. Its assumption — in a world of social media wars, Goebbelisan repetitions and the already gratingly cliché age of “post-truth” — is that people can still be swayed by facts and context. It is easy to dismiss that as naivete, but the other option is far more frightening — that argument cannot be driven by reason, that our public discourse can only be determined by the degree to which an ideological camp is able to amplify its message.