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a paragraph in, already love it. You at your best. Your first sci hub link is broken - I think this is an alternate? https://ur.booksc.eu/dl/49215412/6b6cd0?openInBrowser or https://moscow.sci-hub.st/4804/2e0ba571e47b3f3d311829e07139660e/10.2307@4408848.pdf

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This is hardly ever discussed openly even in India but a lot of anger and pro-Modi flocking is driven by very high Muslim birthrates especially in very low SES and high religiosity Muslim households and Christian missionaries successfully converting a lot of lower castes and tribes (called SC/STs) into Christianity.

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Balakrishan Moonje was NOT a founder of RSS. You got this wrong. He was a leader of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS and Hindu Mahasabha disagreed a lot on many issues. From an Indian perspective, the Germans and Japanese were fighting British so it made complete sense to talk to those. It is easy to sit in judgement in 2021, but to look at what options did Indians have in 1930s?

Also, people seem to ignore the man made famine caused by British in 1940s that killed nearly 10 million Indians. That is a bigger figure than the Jews killed by Germans but then Indians are Brown skinned and Jews had white so I guess those murders are legit and Nazism is worse than British for a British colony.

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One thing people might enjoy while they are thinking about India is to watch some Arnab Goswami; something like India's Tucker Carlson.



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Buckle up and prepare to get flamed by Modi zealots :)

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Some alternatives to this book (more critical than this):

1. Gujarat Files by Rana Ayyub

2. Undercover by Ashish Khetan

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I've just realized I'm the perfect Modi voter. I mean, apart from not being Indian.

I started out very anti-Modi - see the link below. I have to say that I've come to like him more and more. Largely because... well, to be honest, for the same reason that Modi says many of his supporters like him. He's hated by a media whose standards of honesty start with the hitpiece on Scott and go downhill from there. I've also become utterly disillusioned with liberal secularists - I go way back in the Atheism movement, back to the days of Hitchens & Dawkins and when it all started going to hell with A+. So that probably makes me less harsh on Modi than I might otherwise be. He seems to have been less the 'hard ass Hindu nationalist' that I feared.

So, I get why Scott is suitably skeptical of this book. But I found myself reading the review and nodding and going, "well, makes sense to me".


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Educated class confuses -

- Writing fluently with saying something truthful and original.

This is a very fluently written piece.

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"I didn't intend this, and I don't consider it fair compensation for the level of reputational damage they did me."

Why would one care about this reputational damage? The NYT clearly jumped the shark crying wolf on racism and facism during the Trump years, and frankly anyone who is oblivious to this doesn't have an opinion on these issues worth caring about. (Obviously there are exceptions when it comes to career when you might have to care about about the reputation conferred by people whose opinions you don't respect. I am not aware that this is the case here.)

This piece by Freddie is instructive on just how insane the NYT has gotten on these issues:


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"I'm not a far-right demagogue and I don't want to be a head of government. But I did manage to piss off the New York Times last year, and they wrote a retaliatory hit piece against me. It accused me of being racist, sexist, elitist, all kinds of negative things."

That's an interesting claim Scott. But let's have a look at the actual evidence. The article is here so that anybody can read it and confirm my analysis. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/13/technology/slate-star-codex-rationalists.html

I searched for "racist" in the New York Times piece and here's what I got:

"He denounced the neoreactionaries, the anti-democratic, often racist movement popularized by Curtis Yarvin. But he also gave them a platform. His “blog roll” — the blogs he endorsed — included the work of Nick Land, a British philosopher whose writings on race, genetics and intelligence have been embraced by white nationalists."

Now, if you actually read this (have you actually read the article?) it never actually calls you a racist. It simply says that you have linked to another blog that they say is racist. Now, I notice that you've since deleted the link to Nick Land's blog, but it is a simple fact that you used to have his blog "xenosystems" linked prominently on your own blog roll and anyone can easily look at archives to confirm this, e.g.:


The article never says you are sexist, merely that you wrote an essay about the Blue Tribe and that liberals tend to get upset at sexists:

"The essay was a critique of what Mr. Siskind, writing as Scott Alexander, described as “the Blue Tribe.” In his telling, these were the people at the liberal end of the political spectrum whose characteristics included “supporting gay rights” and “getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots.”"

Is this what you're upset at? That they quoted your "analysis" of the "Blue Tribe"? Where did they call you a sexist?

The word "elitist" never seems to even be mentioned in the article ; let alone accusing you of being one! Where did they accuse you of being an elitist?

Anybody can read the article and see that your claims about the NYT calling you "racist", "sexist" or "elitist" are simply untrue. So the question here is; what are you actually upset about?

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"He went on a fact-finding trip to fascist Italy, met Mussolini, decided he had the right idea"

Quite a lot of people in the thirties thought well of Mussolini, including FDR and some of those around him.

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I'd suggest the Lance Price book is less hagiographic, as well as more up to date (2016). I haven't read it myself, but Price is a former BBC correspondent and comms adviser to UK PM Tony Blair, who has written some good independent punditry on politics and electioneering and some very well-received books like 'Where the Power Lies (2010). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lance_Price

I haven't heard of Andy Marino, and his author bio on Amazon notes only that he is author of 'American Pimpernel', anyway I'm slightly surprised Scott chose to read and review that one, and although it makes a convenient strawman, you might find the Price book more insightful and educational.

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Modi was very successful in Gujurat, and he was one of the few Chief ministers in India who seemed to care about industrialization and free markets. Apart from this, he is a genuine centrist Hindu nationalist(The one who would abide by the constitution). This is why many hindu nationalists love him(be it center or far-right) because he will be able to bring change. But I'm sorry to say his popularity has been in a major slump since 2016. Since 2016 his economic policies have been stagnant and nationalists are genuinely petrified for his appeasement politics be it with the SC/ST Act or OBC Reservations and the curbing of hindu festivals. Overall many in the nationalist circles are disappointed.

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One thing I have realised is that whenever we have video documentation available for any period or event, it is way more useful than reading up different versions of events. You can see the actual people who suffered or were perpetrators. I was just 15 when Gujarat killings happened and did not understand it too well, but I remember how so many people would justify killings of Muslims in the name of revenge of killings of Hindus in the train, and Modi was hailed because for letting it happen, that made him a hero of the Hindu right in India. In subsequent years, and eventually studying in Gujarat - Modi's governed state and then working there in a department of his government, I got even more interested in what all had really happened. I began looking for the places where Gujarat massacres had happened, and attended the 10th anniversary of Gulbarg Society massacre where people affected were telling their own stories. I then got to watch this documentary called Final Solution where both perpetrators and victims of Gujarat massacres are covered, and in a very thorough non-sensational manner. I strongly recommend this one: https://vimeo.com/329340055

I have never identified with left and there are huge problems with Congress, but I have grown up way more closer to RSS and even attended their training camps. What all is wrong with them has not been told to me by anyone else, but by their own words and actions. Modi is an extremely careful politician who knows what to say where. You will be hard-pressed to find direct anti-Muslim statements by him, and anti-Muslim violence and discrimination is societally driven through endless propaganda where all Muslims are clubbed as a monolith and defined through whatever worst has been done, therefore it makes much more sense for him to let such violence happen through society and Police, rather than openly call for it.

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The Franco thing makes sense. The Falangists were traditional fascists, Franco was a traditional military dictator who sometimes needed their support.

Wikipedia: "Although Franco adopted some trappings of fascism, he, and Spain under his rule, are generally not considered to be fascist; among the distinctions, fascism entails a revolutionary aim to transform society, where Franco did not seek to do so, and, to the contrary, although authoritarian, he was by nature conservative and traditional."

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I live in Gujarat. We are originally from Kerala ( Ruled by communist party of India) there are no jobs in Kerala. The govt and labour unions in Kerala are like the mafia to whom we have to pay to get stuff done. Most men in Kerala go to middle east like Dubai to work as construction labourer in horrible working conditions. The situation is so bad that Kerala is the only state where there are more women than men, since a lot of men migrate to middle east for labour work. The entire state runs on remittances. When I have a discussion with a Marxist they come up with their standard "This is not real Marxism"

Anyways, we shifted to Gujarat when Modi was the chief minister. The facilities in Gujarat are good. My dad went from unskilled job to skilled job and then ended up establishing his own small business which is doing good. Like Trump, modi has a strong support in Rural areas. However he is very unpopular among the upper middle class and those influenced by American wokes. Fortunately for Modi, Most of the India is Rural and the opposition is weak. He has good support in media too. In US except fox news every outlet is anti republican. Here every outlet is pro modi except one or too

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I think Westerners in general have a poor grasp of India. "Race" is not a salient hot-button issue in India the way it is in America: religion and caste is (though caste less so in recent years, as BJP has made inroads with "lower" castes in recent years).

I also think it is important to situate Modi in a context. BJP was on the margins of national life until the 1980s. The turning point was the razing of the Babri mosque in 1992, where there are now plans to build a Ram temple (conveniently scheduled right before next election). Jaffrelot's recent book on Modi and Hindutva is probably a better read, though even Jaffrelot has his flaws.

I think the comparison with Erdogan has a few flaws. For one, AKP strikes me as a one-man party. Modi does dominante the BJP (together with Amit Shah, a fellow Gujarati), but even if Modi were to resign tomorrow, there are other candidates, like Yogi in UP who is their Chief Minister. If you look at recent Turkish polls, the Erdogan looks to lose the next election. Modi is stll hugely popular.

In short, while it is understandable to focus on personalities (as US politics is very personality-driven) I think it makes more sense to view the Hindutva movement as a sleeping giant which slowly began to awaken in the 1980s and reached its crescendo with Modi but it won't end with him. This is a larger, more complicated, sociological story.

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Thanks for the review - great to know what book I can skip now ;-)

I recently picked up Malevolent Republic by Kapil Komireddi at a bookstore in Austin. I was able to read it in a day-ish and made for a good review of Modi’s tenure. I’d recommend it very much.

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Some very scattered thoughts:

(1) Re: Fascism, I don't think people are really aware how *acceptable* it seemed in the early 30s; this was the period between the wars, when there was a sense of cultural decadence (just like every other time when people get rich and then the bubble bursts) and attitudes were something like "okay, it's a bit extreme, but hey - Mussolini is getting the trains to run on time" and it was perceived in its different forms as bringing some kind of discipline and order, even if it was in a very heavy-handed manner. Also bound up with youth movements like the Wandervogel movement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wandervogel and more conservative, traditional ones https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Youth_Movement (which, ironically, were all banned when the Nazis did come to power and replaced them with the Hitler Youth).

Attitudes ranged from admiration to mild mockery ('oh well, foreigners, what do you expect?'). Nobody anticipated what was to come.

(2) I was sort of aware of Modi through seeing representations of him in various Indian movies. There's a 2019 movie (which I have no intention of watching) which is your full-on hagiographical biopic (trailer here to give you a taste of it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZjR2G2Qm8I

And it's not the only movie featuring/about him: https://thewire.in/film/bollywood-prime-minister-narendra-modi-films-series

(3) Going down the rabbit hole of following links about Swami Vivekananda is fascinating to the point of distraction, but the guy probably was ecumenical and liberal (for the time), and the vexed question of nationalism is one that reads very familiarly to me as an Irish person when it's "do we kick out the Brits, and if we do, what follows?":


There was definitely cross-pollination going on, as the Swami was influenced by Western Esotericism and in turn "introduced Hinduism to the West":

"Swami Vivekananda; 12 January 1863 – 4 July 1902), born Narendranath Datta, was an Indian Hindu monk. He was a chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna. Influenced by Western esotericism, he was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian darsanas (teachings, practices) of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world, and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. He was a major force in the contemporary Hindu reform movements in India, and contributed to the concept of nationalism in colonial India. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is perhaps best known for his speech which began with the words "Sisters and brothers of America ...," in which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago in 1893."

(4) I'm surprised that you didn't know about the forced sterilisation programme under Indira Gandhi, but then again, this is a function of being old enough to remember when it was being talked about. As an aside, shit like this is why crochety old reactionaries like me get twitchy when all the bright and airy modern discussion of "why is eugenics a dirty word?" occurs, because this is the kind of shit that happens when theory turns into practice and "there are too many of you low-quality types clogging up the planet" gets turned from words to actions.

(5) Yeah, I think the correct conclusion is that he's a demagogue, a populist, and a dictator who is pushing Hindu nationalism very hard for several reasons, and stirring up partisan strife as a result of that. I don't know enough about Indian politics to comment any deeper than that, but he also seems to fit into the model of corruption, dysfunction, and building a dynasty (though, given his marital status, he doesn't seem interested in having kids and handing on the reins of power to him): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jashodaben_Modi

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now a really great leader would have organized the villagers to build a boat....

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"For thirty years, since its independence, India had been a socialist state....In unrelated news, there was a food shortage." ha

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'educated elites cynically fanning racial discord so they could force minority groups to flee to them as "protectors"'

This is a tried and true political strategy, eloquently described by Emmanuel Goldstein:

"For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again."

The first part seems to accurately describe the fascist, liberal, and socialist revolutions of the first half of the twentieth century, while the latter part about a new Middle group seems to apply to the present US-- the new woke Middle using the Low to drive down the old deplorable Middle and grab power from the High.

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As I recall, what attracted a lot of new readers/subscribers was the claim that there was discussion from people across the political spectrum.

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Scott: two comments. (1) The Western perception of Modi is mostly filtered through the English language Indian press&intelligentsia, and that group loathes Modi and his movement, so you're in the position of e.g. having your impression of Donald Trump based solely on reporting by the New York Times, or having your impression of Hillary Clinton based solely on reporting by Fox News. I don't know what can be done about it. Obviously `go learn a few Indian languages and read the local language press' is not particularly actionable advice, either for Western journalists of for you. and (2) you are missing the aspect of his appeal that's based on backlash against affirmative action viz. whether rightly of wrongly, Hindus feeling `Muslims (and other minority communities) get all these special privileges, how come we're discriminated against in our own country.' Again, this could have some analogs to US politics...

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>He went on a fact-finding trip to fascist Italy, met Mussolini, decided he had the right idea

Mussolini had a lot more influence in the third world than is widely recognized. There are still significant parties in Latin America, the Middle East, and South Asia that were directly inspired by Italian Fascism. As in, "met with Mussolini, their founders wrote about how Fascism was pretty cool" inspired by. Interestingly many of them get coded as left wing now because they (like the Fascists) are pro-union and pro-welfare. Some of them are even genuinely pro-democracy at this point because they've realized "the poor people who are part of the national ethnic majority" is actually a pretty sweet electorate to have.

Also: I've been thinking about the portrayal of Hitler in Indian cinema recently. If you look at old WW2 cartoons Hitler's portrayed is kind of goofy. Yes, he's a villain. But he's not someone to be taken seriously. He's ridiculous. This changed in the 1950s as people became aware of the Holocaust. But this shift never really took place in India. To this day a lot of Indian cinema portrays Hitler analogs as incompetent and kind of goofy. It's not that they're sympathetic to him: he's always a villain. But there's no sort of deep reckoning with the people Hitler hurt. I suspect it's because India can (truthfully) claim to not be responsible for any of the horrors of WW2. They were British subjects fighting for independence and fighting the Axis. They had no agency and no involvement on the Axis side and therefore no responsibility.

But this creates a unique blindspot. One of the fuels of nationalism is the Innocence Myth. "Our culture is uniquely innocent and attacked by outsiders unjustly." Now, this can be true or it can be false. But the nationalists will never examine it that critically. The national innocence must be a matter of faith. Internal critique becomes siding with the outsiders. It's simultaneously a way to suppress internal dissent (out of touch hypercritical elites!) as a result and a justification to make demands of foreigners (colonizers!). This is why Holocaust Denial or Japanese War Crimes Denial is so important to their respective far rights. India really doesn't have an equivalent to those things but it's got skeletons in its closet. As any nation has.

Of course, this isn't unique to Modi. Nehru famously said Indians would never be dictators because they were too fair minded and humane.

> The real question is why she gave up her emergency dictatorship and called an election at all.

Because the Congress Party was not willing to support a dictatorship. Gandhi's choices were "call an election and probably lose" or "get replaced as party head." She chose the former. It was the right move: the party did manage to put her back into power eventually. Her rule ended because she was shot by her bodyguards after desecrating their holy site.

>Modi accuses the Congress Party of being the descendants of those Indians who did well under British colonialism, liked British colonialism a little too much, and basically Europeanized, - including a European-style semi-racist contempt for ordinary Indians.

This is a common charge against Indian elites. It's not true: they have an Indian-style totally racist contempt for ordinary Indians. (Or if you prefer, caste-ist/classist.) Again, national innocence myth. It can't be native to India. It has to be imposed from abroad.

>They survived as a democratic party by preventing any real opposition from forming, plus using their media connections to spread fear and division among people, plus occasionally just declaring martial law and imprisoning anyone they didn't like.

They survived because Social Democracy is a real and popular thing. They had a pretty standard left-democratic coalition of minorities and the poor plus the elites.

By the way, part of Modi's popularity is his right wing capitalist reforms have been really helping the economy. He says it's because of his economic brilliance. I say "hey, maybe you shouldn't have to fill out seven forms to install a toilet" is a really obvious reform. Though you do have to give him credit that he actually got it done.

This sounds suspiciously like what Republicans say about Democrats because it's the same critique. Modi even endorsed Trump.

>According to Modi, when he was growing up (the 1950s) there was little racial division.

I literally laughed out loud at this. Nope. No. Absolutely wrong. You should take this about as seriously as a white right wing politician saying there was little racial division in his childhood because he knew a Black person during the 1960s. See: the entire history of Pakistan.

Yes, there's riots and lynchings now. And that's bad. But even in colonial India there were serious tensions. The majority of the Indian Muslim leadership was so distrustful of the Hindu leadership they refused to support Indian independence until India promised they'd get their own independent state. Millions died in the immediate aftermath of independence.

>So how did Modi become famous enough to use the position as a springboard to national power?

Another reason they/you missed: Modi comes from a Backward Caste. There's a significant constituency of Backward Caste Hindus who almost default vote for the lesser caste candidate on the assumption they'll be more pro-low caste/less classist. (This was also probably the real reason he couldn't get into a monastery.)

>(questions about minorities and racism were less prominent in Erdogan's rise, making him a proof of concept that you can do this without them)

Turkey's minorities are grouped together in a coalition party that's dominated by the Kurds. They are in the unfortunate position that BOTH the left and the right are against them. Erdogan is no friend to the Kurds and he emphasizes this rhetorically from time to time. In India the Congress Party is pro-minority so there's a more clearly partisan bent. So no, they're both this way.

By the way, you know that English is an official language in India, right? If you want to know what's going on with Modi you can just... read contemporary Indian newspapers. Or watch their news shows. In English. It's not a translation, that's what the Indians listen to/read. You're going to get mostly elite views. But that's somewhat true everywhere.

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Great review, one comment/question for the Indian readers and India experts here. The obvious counterexample to the "there was little sectarian resentment until Congress created it" is of course the partition violence. I don't know what Modi's or Rushdie's boyhood was like, but it seems relevant that ~1,000,000 people were killed in sectarian violence in 1947.

My very limited knowledge is that Congress actively suppressed sectarian identitarianism in the early days of India, then made some bad decisions in the 1980s, but I'd be curious what better informed readers think.

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This article starts with Scott sharing his friend views Modi as fascist and then sorta just assumes this is true the rest of the article without justifying it at all...

I think Modi/BJP's popularity is not primarily caused by reactionary support due the media attacking him. My sense is that for almost all of India's history, the INC (and other Indians in academia, media etc) made it taboo for Hindu's to embrace high levels of ethnic nationalism when this is how a large percentage of Indian Hindu's actually wanted to feel. Eventually and especially with the change in media landscape, it became more acceptable for Hindu's to embrace ethnic nationalism and once this happened, the BJP was the obvious beneficiary of the change.

I really feel like the entire situation can be understood by looking at the Babri Masjid destruction/Ram temple situation. The reality is, for better or for worse, a large percentage of Indian Hindu's want India to be a Hindu prioritized country.

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the images don't display in the email version.

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Regarding college degrees at the monastery: This is a total anecdote from a random youtube person, but here he discusses how he tried to become a monk after high school and "give up" his material life. The monks told him he didn't have anything to give up yet, so he should come back when he was 30 and had a degree, because you have to have something material to give up for giving up your material life to be meaningful. https://youtu.be/mIHEtK3WktE?t=3043

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On thing i didn't see mentioned that my Indian friend keeps telling me about: The difference between Modi and Trump (who by the way I think is definitionally a fascist) is that Modi has actually does have excellent PR. He isn't doing the 'all publicity is good publicity' in the same way Trump did. You will actually rarely ever see Modi in a conference or campaigning as much as Trump did. He has, I've heard, a group of people who basically handle his image for him. You often hear stories of Modi doing some ridiculous stunt in the news, but you wont hear those stories from him.

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I am skeptical of any account of Indian sterilisation that follows the standard academic account of portraying the population control movement as a bunch of scheming imperialist racists.

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"... educated elites cynically fanning racial discord so they could force minority groups to flee to them as "protectors". This is probably how Trump would describe the Democrats if he was smart enough to think of it." I didn't vote for Trump either time, although I have in the past voted R for president. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I have to say that Trump absolutetly did this.

A quick Google search for "Donald Trump outreach black voters" returns a bevy of headlines that tell us Trump had outreach efforts, they were all phoney, and they are probably racist. Here's an article with a bunch of quotes where Trump said basically this kind of thing: https://www.chicagotribune.com/nation-world/ct-donald-trump-black-voters-20160819-story.html

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How does caste fit into Indian politics? Are the upper castes still elites? Who do they vote for?

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I had to chuckle when I read this

'In unrelated news, there was a food shortage'

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This was pretty brilliant for someone who does not have much familiarity with India.

Even though it gets some big things exactly wrong, I am very impressed.

A minor point that reminded me of how unfamiliar the author is with India is when he says "...he gathered all his possessions in a bag and ran off to the Himalayas to find Truth.", as if it was a big deal.

This is a very Hindu thing to do. I have a relative and multiple friends who have done this. I read a book by a psychiatrist about 25 years ago (if I remember this correctly) called "Another way to live". By Rajiv Kapoor (spelling?). It saw this phenomenon as an Indian method of dealing with depression.

Also, riots in retain parts of India are extremely common. This one seems to have got out of hand very quickly, because he was a new chief minister (took office Oct 2001, riots in Feb-March 2002). It appears there have been no riots since. Certain groups involved in the riots don't seem to have been under his control at that time, as he was so new. This is my understanding after speaking with experts I trust, who studied this very carefully.

Overall, fantastic and insightful essay. Delightfully funny, such as the line on D&D.

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Scott: As an intuition pump for (national) Indian politics, I offer the following analogy. Think of it as American politics, with (non-Dalit) Hindus -> (non-Hispanic) Whites, Muslims -> Blacks and Dalits -> Hispanics. The numbers roughly work, and the political dynamics also work, at least for national politics (regional politics is a more complicated beast). Meanwhile, the BJP is the party of the red tribe, with a coalition that includes Hindu nationalists, social conservatives and small business people, and the INC is the party of the blue tribe, with a coalition of minorities, lower classes and urban/anglophone elites. Also the sorting between tribes and parties is much more complete than in America. The last `blue tribe BJP leader' is probably Vajpayee, who stepped off the stage in 2004.

Also, the comment that `all the recent trends in American politics also happened in Indian politics, but ten years earlier,' is one that I have repeatedly heard over the past decade, from people familiar with the politics of both countries. I think I first heard it at the time of the Obama/Romney election although I don't recall where. Sometimes people say `twenty years earlier.'

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I'd be curious to know how many subscriptions you lost after the NYT piece came out. If it was a significant number that was simply outweighed by all the new readers, your audience could have increased in size at the cost of becoming more homogenous, which I'm not sure is a net benefit.

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The "buying votes with handouts to various ethnic groups" certainly sounds familiar. Jabbering about differing welfare statistics for various identity groups isn't unfamiliar to these Western ears, either. What a joyous multicultural future we have to look forward to.

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"But if I ever want to become Prime Minister of India, I know what strategy I'm going to use."

next article, "If you're so smart, why aren't you Prime Minister of India?"

Maybe media exposure just increases the volatility of outcomes. You might become Prime Minister of India, but negative outcomes could happen too. It's like putting thousands of people in a room. Sometimes you get a particularly generous person to give you a ton of money, but you're much more likely to get a ton of angry people.

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Be careful tracing the definition of Fascism this way. FDR made no secret of his admiration for (and willingness to copy) Mussolini too. Since FDR basically re-founded the Democratic Party . . .

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Gonna be honest. This piece gained zero value from having a mention of Donald Trump.

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This book review series should be called "Are they fascist?" Next up: Bolsinaro, Orban and Putin.

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How did the media switch and become pro-Modi? That seems like something tough to manufacture.

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Why was Kerala such a success story when it pursued socialist policies?

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This letter appeared in The Economist in 2014.

Controversial Modi

SIR – Your leader on Narendra Modi, the front-runner to be India’s

next prime minister, repeated accusations that have been thoroughly

investigated and found to be without basis by no less than a Special

Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Indian Supreme Court (“Would

Modi save India or wreck it?”, December 14th).

You said that Mr Modi refuses to atone for a “pogrom” against Muslims

in Gujarat, where he is chief minister. But what you call a pogrom was

in fact a “communal riot” in 2002 in which a quarter of the people

killed were Hindus—170 of them from bullets fired by the police. By

contrast, the more numerous 1984 killing of Sikhs after Indira

Gandhi’s assassination was indeed a pogrom, directed exclusively at

the Sikhs. With not a single charge against Mr Modi standing up to the

SIT’s scrutiny, it is absurd to ask him to atone.



Professors at Columbia University

New York

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I would call this an great review, in the same way that Americans say "Your English is great" to immigrants. (I don't mean this as snark, it is a genuine compliment)

A few qualifications

> If you look at size of the economy, Gujarat does slightly better; if you look at measures of equality or poor people’s ability to access services, Kerala does

Kerala is the only Indian state that never saw 1000 years of social and infrastructure erosion (no Islamic invasion, no British colonialism, mostly due to geographic location). Its entire economy is tourism (as a result of low erosion of HDI and literally being called "heaven on Earth") or working in the gulf. In terms of productivity being produced by the state, Kerala doesn't do that well.

> Modi's rise eerily parallels Erdogan's

I am so glad someone finally gets it to so degree. Erdogan is indeed the closest analogy to Modi. A few differences tho. Hinduism is ethnicity, history, native culture and religion. Because of this, the pro-Hindu movement is fundamentally different from religious movements in the west. The head of the RSS (Mohan Bhagwat) explicitly emphasizes nationalism, ethnicity and native culture as hinduism. They have been quite open to bringing other 'religions' into the fold as long as they accept the native culture aspect of things. This is a great summary by one of India's foremost traditional-journalist : Shekhar Gupta. (https://youtu.be/V_DXUd1MzCA?t=687). I would not be surprised if he was a reader here.

Indian politics 101 is incredibly complex. So, in 100% of cases, western people writing about Indian politics lacks all nuance. Hell, even Indian-Americans and many of the Indian academic elites do a terrible job. So for an American, this was Indeed a great review.

I am particularly impressed at how well you've grasped concepts around the deep rootedness of socialism in Indian politics and the self-destructive role of the Media in the rise of Modi later adopted by Trump.

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"though I’m also can’t ignore everyone else’s position that worsening relations are due to Modi and people like him."

should be

"though I also"

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On the definition of fascism, I'm curious, was Hitler a fascist? Did the Nazi party ever self-identify as a fascist party? Or did they say "Fascism is the name of what Mussolini has going on in Italy, but we are National Socialists, which is similar but not identical"

If anything it seems to me that we should use the term "Fascist" (which doesn't mean much) specifically for the Italian version and the descriptive term "national socialism" for the international movement as a whole.

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> I have a friend who studied the history of fascism. She gets angry when people call Trump (or some other villain du jour) fascist. "Words have meanings! Fascism isn't just any right-winger you dislike!" Maybe she takes this a little too far; by a strict definition, she's not even sure Franco qualifies.

Well, Franco doesn't qualify either. Words have meanings, and there's a field called history. Historians don't consider Franco a fascist (while his side did merge with fascist fractions, he had not adopted a similar ideology, didn't follow one, and was basically a regular dictator. Not every dictator is a fascist - a term that describes a specific ideology and set of practices).

Trump doesn't qualify several times over. He hadn't enacted any fascist policy. At worst he was a populist. Calling him a "fascist" is dilluting the meaning of the term to the point of homeopathy (for the benefit of provincial US contemporary politics). If anything Reagan or Bush laws - e.g. the Patriot Act - were far more in the fascist vein (though even those weren't informed by any fascist ideology).

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enough of it is true, both good and bad. Congress does believe in giving special rights , that is its way to win by doing nothing, as India urbanises and moves away from elites, its hard for them, they want socialism, they want their coterie to rule the roost and avg Indian to beg them for permissions. They are trying to tear the country apart once again by promising reservations in private sectors. You can see this in their election manifesto 2019 and 2014, which would have catastrophic effect on us. Religious strife started much before british, India had partition on basis of religion for goodness sake. Indian muslims are far from secular,(pew survery, 74 % believe in sharia) many can sense their fundamentalism. And many suspect that once their population comes to a certain size, they might be back to what they did before, partition or make governance ungovernable . We had various terrorist attacks in India carried by Indian mujahadeen. busted by intelligence of gujarat police when they came to gujarat to carry out their attacks while modi was the cm. As Jinnah the founder of pakistan said in 1946 speech, " we will have India divided or India destroyed". Only Indian state that is muslim majority is kashmir, where people often use stones to attack army even as it tries to carry out operations to fight terrorists. Also responsible for ethnic cleansing of hindu minority from the state. And congress, left, elites pretend this bigotry is imagined and not true and went further down the path of trying to brainwash people by scrubbing midieval history of islamist zealotry, temples were raided and razed to ground for purely political and economic reasons we are taught. And if anyone speaks out, they are nazi. On issue of riots, many riots have happened in India before modi and yet it was under his tenure media went big on. Not bad thing in itself because we need accountability but people can see the duplicity. And it is this duplicity and promise of corruption free ,duplicity free, pro entrepreneur governance that people voted him in. You will struggle to find 10 articles by Indian muslims by 5 different authors over last 20 yrs that can be termed as secular within context of their own faith, even on issues outside of India. they seek to question others, but have succeeded to be mum about wrongs in and from their own community, anywhere , both inside India or outside. You should consider an Index of religions that allow for some self criticism, for ultimately this is the only measure for a better stable societies and see what happens if they you get the most regressive group to live beside some mid level group. So, people go to the other side that promises Hindu/dharmic position for many people buy the idea that secularism is a charade. Also, no one in India is liberal, it is claimed by elites and passed on to their western cohort to make noises on their behalf, no political party in India supports freedom of speech, which is important if one ever wants secular project to succeed. Nehru, India's first PM shot down free speech in First amendment, only person who stood for free speech was member of hindu mahasabha, shyama prasad mukherjee , also the leader of first version of bjp, bjs. he died under arrest for his protest in kashmir, under nehru govt. since then, no one else believes in free speech. : ( . India has 3 problems, 1) religion, 2 ) caste, 3) bad economics. There is no option of secular, meritocratic , capitalist option . so everyone picks their poison.

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One of the most important points about Modi that touched even me, was Modi truly rose from one of the lowest castes and true poverty, to PM.

It was a good moment to see that people across all castes obviously voted for him. He is not at all Anglicized, and speaks broken English with a thick Gujarati accent...unlike his opponents in the Congress party who prefer English and occasionally speak broken Hindi.

It made me feel that Indians are finally shaking off their inferiority complex about being Indian. That is something unique Modi offers. He seems comfortable in his own skin with no pretentions of even knowing English.

If you grew up in India, you might see many signs that this gladdens many hearts and equally, angers others.

I think it might be a class thing.

Yet, Modi is not crude or unrestrained like Trump, but a disciplined politician. Even his worst detractors agree he is not personally corrupt. He is not at all grubby like Trump seems to be.

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Get over yourself. Has nothing to do with your nyt episode. The Congress is a party of elites. The BJP is a party of elites. There is no functional difference between the two. They are both parties of Hindu male chauvinists.

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"When all these demagogues who succeeded against all odds tell you what strategy they used, maybe you should believe them."

Or maybe you should not believe them, exactly for this reason. Or at least take it with a huge grain of salt. Because if negative coverage actually was a problem for them, claiming that it was the source of their success is a very convinient thing to do. Also don't these people later make sure to take controll over press in order to ensure positive coverage of their actions?

The idea that negative coverage is still coverage seems to have some merit. But with caveats. There have to be some specific conditions like huge distrust to media and/or polarization in society so that one can use it to their benefit. It probably requires a lot of prebuilt social capital as well.

While marxbro somewhat overstate the claim that NYT didn't explicitly call Scott sexist, racist and bigoted, technically he is correct. The tone of the article was of a mild (dis)interest with some dogwhistles of Scotts views being problematic. Although it was totally unfair, purposely done in a bad faith and Scott's detaste of it is justified even without all the doxing stuff, it doesn't seem to be a complete condemnation or cancelling. I think considering it as a strong evidence in favour of "demagogues are right about negative coverage" isn't correct.

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For some context on what kind of laws the conservative Hindu party in India is now passing, I'd recommend reading or listening to the recent NPR story about laws against "love Jihad" which in effect involve using police power to prevent interfaith marriages. I found it pretty upsetting.


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Is it weird that I didn't see the NY Times or New Yorker articles as hit pieces? I did subscribe after they came out, but I was generally aware of SSC previously and occasionally read it. I just saw them as interesting articles about a guy who writes interesting articles.

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> But if I ever want to become Prime Minister of India, I know what strategy I'm going to use.

Come on – Scott Alexander for President of the United States of America!

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I am surprised by the lack of intelligent critique written in English from India's press about Modi. It mirrors the frothing coverage of a certain former American president. Maybe there is something better in Hindi?

Many of his campaigning techniques are innovative: social media, holograms and murdering Bear Grylls with his bare hands (he had it coming). Like a good politician, he seems obsessed by the appearance of things. How does he think? Who is he as a man? A power-hungry functionary? A genuine patriot?

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"In unrelated news, there was a food shortage. Indians took to the streets protesting Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi). Gandhi was heavy-handed in crushing the protests, which caused more protests, one thing led to another, and finally Gandhi declared martial law, a period which has gone down in history as the Emergency."

This is factually wrong. Firstly, there was no martial law as that implies the army was called in. Gandhi "suspended" the constitution and used the police - arguably worse than calling in the army. Secondly, Gandhi's "reason" for declaring the emergency was a state court order requiring her to resign on account of election law violations. She could have appealed the order to the supreme court but resignation was a requisite which of course she did not want to do

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"In unrelated news, there was a food shortage. Indians took to the streets protesting Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi). Gandhi was heavy-handed in crushing the protests, which caused more protests, one thing led to another, and finally Gandhi declared martial law, a period which has gone down in history as the Emergency."

This is factually wrong. Firstly, there was no martial law as that implies the army was called in. Gandhi "suspended" the constitution and used the police - arguably worse than calling in the army. Secondly, Gandhi's "reason" for declaring the emergency was a state court order requiring her to resign on account of election law violations. She could have appealed the order to the supreme court but resignation was a requisite which of course she did not want to do

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For my first comment on AstralCodexTen, let me share some links.

Scott's review plus the comments by Deepa, Humphrey Appleby, and Erusian made me curious about English-language online media in India.

MediaBiasFactCheck.com claims The Hindu and Scroll.in are both 'mostly factual' (4/6) in terms of factual reporting. They have differing degrees of 'left-center' bias (beyond which there is 'left' and then 'extreme'). Times of India is described as 'mixed' (3/6) in terms of factual reporting, and has 'right-center' bias. Those are the three Indian news websites I've visited in the past which I could find rated on MediaBiasFactCheck. The other Indian news websites I've visited are ThePrint.in, TheWire.in, and Caravan Magazine. I believe all three are anti-Modi (i.e., MediaBiasFactCheck would call them 'center-left' or 'left'). Indian readers, does any of this sound inaccurate?

Some discussion I found about media bias and integrity in India:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-44280188 (news, UK)

https://southasianvoices.org/media-bias-and-democracy-in-india/ (analysis, Stimson Center, US)

For evaluating US media, the AllSides Media Bias Chart (https://www.allsides.com/media-bias/media-bias-ratings) and the AdFontes Interactive Media Bias Chart (https://adfontesmedia.com/interactive-media-bias-chart/) exist. I couldn't find a similar chart for Indian media. Has anyone seen one?

By the way, Scott, what do you think of looking into the AllSides and AdFontes charts linked above, and writing an essay on how effective they are in capturing US media bias? I bet I'm not the only one who would appreciate your analysis of them.

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If I were building a general theory of modern right-wing populist leaders, I'd start with signaling.

Modern right-wing populism (MRWP) is premised on the idea that voters see elite institutions (media, academia, technocracy, etc) as untrustworthy and/or hostile to their interests. You don't have to believe this is actually the case to observe that both MRWP leaders and MRWP voters very consistently *act as if it is*. So it's in the interest of MRWP politicians, up to a point, to *get those institutions to attack them* as a costly signal of their commitment to the anti-elite cause.

But this gets weird fast, because elite institutions are mostly in the business of signaling themselves. They exert political influence mostly by saying to voters "this candidate is good" or "this candidate is bad", based on their interpretation of the signals the candidate is sending. Some of the things elite institutions want politicians to signal are good, like "I am definitely not a racist" or "I will respond to crises in a predictable and reasoned way". Other things they want politicians to signal are... less straightforwardly good, and more about what elites want as a class.

The thing is, if you as a MRWP want to signal that you're against the elites, you can't just be against them on the complicated questions. Those make bad signals; that's why they're complicated. The true costly signal of loyalty to an anti-elite agenda is *refusing to signal to the elites that you are good*. It kind of reminds me of the point from the "Mazes" sequence (https://thezvi.wordpress.com/2020/05/23/mazes-sequence-summary/) that managers in super-perfect competition eventually have to signal loyalty by actively destroying their values, i.e. being evil.

When a MRWP politician refuses to signal conclusively to elites that, say, he's not a racist, the following explanations are possible:

a) he's a racist

b) he's not a racist but he's appealing to voters who want him to be a racist

c) he's not a racist, and his voters (mostly) don't want him to be a racist, but they do want him to be definitely not on the side of the elites and he's sending a costly signal of that

My claim is that c) is actually the most parsimonious explanation here, and the one we should default to in the absence of other evidence. a) has nothing to do with how MRWP leaders actually get power; since MRWP politicians have an incentive to send quasi-racist signals anyway, it would be an odd coincidence if they also all happened to be racists in their heart of hearts. b) does sort of explain how the signal is part of a strategy to get power, but not very convincingly; the extreme-right factions that want the politician to be an actual racist are also the smallest and the least likely to have somewhere else to go. c) is the only one that explains the signaling behavior without requiring us to hypothesize any additional facts beyond "this is a MRWP politician who wants to gain power".

The first two explanations-- a) in particular-- seem like classic examples of "murderism" as Scott has presented it: people taking a pattern of behavior they (correctly!) dislike and misinterpreting it as an inherent, self-contained tendency rather than the outcome of a system of incentives. So I suggest we should distrust them as models of MRWP leaders' behavior. This is not much of a consolation insofar as the signaling game will probably also lead to MRWP leaders doing bad things once in office. But it does suggest that there are better strategies available for responding to MRWP than "these are bad people who want bad things for the sake of badness, therefore they must be destroyed". Signals are not the territory.

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Very well written! But talk of Fascism is silly- save in West Bengal where Mamta has beaten the shit out of the Commies who ruled it for 30 years. Now she and Modi monopolize the seats in the Legislature with the Left and Rahul Gandhi's Congress left completely out in the cold.

Fascism was only desirable when thugs were needed to beat up Communists in the streets. Gujarat was and remains Gandhian because the Communists never had a presence there. Sadly, from 1969 to 2002 there were recurring Hindu-Muslim riots which were politically instrumentalized. However, there is no need for any fairy story about Congress 'appeasing' minorities. The truth is that Rahul Gandhi refused to take over as PM while his supporters refused to let Manmohan pursue reforms. This meant that Modi was the only candidate for the top job in 2014. It was literally a case of Modi or nobody. Sadly, this remains true to this day. Congress won't put up a viable candidate for the PM. The various regional Chief Ministers won't get together to nominate a 'Federalist' candidate who could implement 'subsidiarity' and solve pressing grass-roots problems. So India is stuck with Modi as it was stuck with Nehru or Indira.

It must be said that Pakistan is like Turkey, but India isn't because the Army will never step in to unseat a civilian administration. Mussolini, of course, was greatly admired by Mahatma Gandhi and Tagore- but not Nehru. Modi's RSS was an imitation of the Congress Seva Dal whose founders knew about the Black Shirts. But it was the Socialit Netaji S.C Bose who ended up in Berlin getting Hitler's to send him by U boat to the Japanese.

Indira didn't care a damn about the Western Press. Her 'Emergency' was very successful whereas Ted Heath's Emergency in the UK was a shambles. The head of the British Civil Service took off all his clothes and rolled around on the carpet of Number 10 screaming about a Communist conspiracy. By contrast, Indira locked up all her foes and the pro-Moscow Commies sang her praises. The RSS was whimpering and pleading with Indira to let them out of jail. They praised her as 'Goddess Durga'.

Why did Indira hold elections? The answer is she was afraid of her son's cronies. They might arrange a convenient 'accident' for her- with the help of the CIA. That's right! Indira thought the Americans would use her right wing younger son to get control of India. Incidentally, her elder daughter in law, Sonia, had better credentials with the Indian Left. They pushed for her to take over Congress which she did with great success. Appointing Manmohan as PM was a masterstroke. Sonia promoted Left-Liberal intellectuals who sadly scuppered the big reforms Manmohan proposed in 2012. This turned him into a lame duck. Still if Rahul had become PM he'd have won in 2014. But his daddy and granny had both been killed. He was understandably gun-shy. The question was whether Modi- the first poor 'backward caste' P.M- could do as good a job as Cambridge & Harvard educated aristocrat. The answer, strangely enough, was that he did a better job. Anglophone Indians suddenly realized that they had been wrong to treat their own people with disdain. The fact is even I- a Tamil- can understand Modi when he speaks Hindi. I can't, for the life of me, understand Rahul's English. Indeed, I now find that everything written in English about India by learned Professors is just silly or meaningless. We had a national language and should have used it to talk sensibly to each other.

The RSS has become a well respected civic organization like the YMCA or the Boy Scouts. It doesn't want to appear to be part of a power nexus because that will damage its ethos. Modi too wants to retire in a few years time and enter the Indian pantheon alongside the Mahatma and Ambedkar. Had Nehru retired when he turned 70, History would remember him kindly. Hopefully, Modi will escape from high office with the same dexterity that he entered it. But this has nothing to do with Fascism. As I have repeatedly proved, it is the Spanish Inquisition which is secretly at work. Underneath Trump's combover you will find Torquemada. Erdogan is secretly a member of Opus Dei. Wake up sheeple! There's an auto da fe headed your way!

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Disclaimer: I'm from the gujarati muslim diaspora

Scott, I know you love to write, sometimes without looking deeply into topics, but I believe you should have done some more research instead of publishing this. The most disturbing part is at the end you essentially declare yourself as some type of hero because you got more hits using a strategy just like Modi, but this ISN'T why Modi was elected. You should do proper research before writing something so disturbing.

> Four months after Modi became chief minister of Gujarat, there was a terrible riot. Muslims set a train car full of Hindu pilgrims on fire, and mobs of vengeful Hindus went around murdering Muslims for days, with further outbreaks continuing for weeks. By the time everything was done, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus had died.

This train burning is contested. So are the death figures. And it doesn't mention why the "Hindus" died. It doesn't mention the amount of people displaced. It doesn't mention the continuing tensions which continued for years and still continue to this day. In other words, you are repeating a biased take as if it were fact. You shouldn't repeat a biased take with disclaimers, you should instead say "I don't know enough to comment on this topic".

> The Indian Supreme Court found him innocent of the specific charges they were reviewing, but the decision was controversial.

An outsider may consider this good evidence, it's not. The court is known to be extremely corrupt.

> In other words, he says the media's attacks on him after the riots were so vicious and baseless that they made ordinary Gujaratis, who didn't like or trust the media, think he was on their side. The part about yatras refers to giant parades that Modi held during his campaign. The media played these up as scary fascist rallies, but as per Modi everyone had a good time and celebrated their shared Gujarati pride. When the papers kept saying that having Gujarati pride was equivalent to being a violent terrorist, all the proud Gujaratis who liked the parades realized the media wasn't on their side, and voted for him out of spite.

This story is, to put it simply, insane. You have no idea what the actual climate is/was like. The election was, absolutely, driven by the shared hatred towards muslims.

> For me the most interesting Modi/Trump parallel was the former's insistence that Gujaratis loved him because they hated the media who hated him. On the one hand, this is a convenient self-serving thing for him to say, because the leading alternative explanation is that they loved him because he was a violent racist and they were pro-violent-racism. On the other, it's hard not to remember the 2016 primary, when this was one of the leading explanations for how Trump suddenly rose to the front of the pack: the media hated him so much that they couldn't stop giving him free airtime.

This comparison makes no sense to me. Trump isn't actually a hardline racist. Just because situations can seem analogous on the surface with your incredibly limited understanding, it doesn't mean they actually are.

> But if I ever want to become Prime Minister of India, I know what strategy I'm going to use.

Hating muslims?

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Small typo: "Time his proved that"

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Recommendation: Shashi Tharoor wrote a less loving biography of Modi. It's titled "The Paradoxical Prime Minister."

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I'd like to point something out: Kerala government was basically playing life on easy mode, because they got (in fact continue to get) a large amount of money from remittances from people that immigrate to the Gulf, to spend on their welfare and socialist schemes.

Gujarat did not have any such luxuries.

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I'm starting to read this post.

Will correct as I go along.

1) B S Moonje's party was not precursor to Modi's party or its parent organization.

Moonje's Hindu Mahasabha is a different organization to RSS (BJP is political arm of RSS). Though both believed in ideology of Hindutva (which again is a very maligned word because people don't understand what it means)

And biggest leader of HMS, Veer Savarkar is a revered figure for all Hindutva followers. (To know more about him, do read Vikram Sampath's best selling 2 volume books)

2) Modi does not have any private helicopter. In fact he doesn't even have a private car.

Vehicles he uses are given to him by State in his capacity as Head of Government

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Some people are bringing Franco into conversation. Others someone else.

None of those labels fits on any politician in India. There's no fascist in Indian politics. In fact closest we came to fascism was that Emergency episode of 1975. But even Indira was not fascist.

If u are looking for "free speech loving, liberal, democratic leader" type politician, there has only been one: Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He was the tallest leader of Modi's party.

Other than him, all have cracked down on dissent during their tenure. Some softly. Some ruthlessly.

As for "anti-muslim" narrative, people need to realize dt Hindu-muslim relations in India will never be good. History of Islam in India is history of genocides, mass murders, forceful conversions, destruction of Temples and then partition of Homeland of Hindus.

Let me put it this way: take Hitler, Nazis and death count during Holocaust.

Now multiply Hitler with 50 (dts approx no of barbaric Islamic rulers).

Multiply Nazis with 100 (dts approx no of entire elites of those Islamic regimes).

Multiply death count with 1000 (dts no of Hindus/Sikhs/Buddhists/Jains brutally killed for being non-muslims).

Entire civilizations wounded. Over 40000 Temples destroyed and mosques built upon.

U think these traumas can go away? Not a chance.

I'm not advocating for any violence against anyone but certain things can never heal unless other side acknowledge wrong was done.

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