"Why don’t we have space to do longform?”
June 26, 2020 9:58 AM   Subscribe

The Messengers: One Small Magazine’s Fight for the Indian Mind (The Virginia Quarterly Review): "The implications, if true, meant major election fraud in the world’s largest democracy. Did they want to look into it? Jose glanced at me, almost helplessly. He had never imagined that his little magazine, with limited funding, a staff of thirty-eight people, and an inclination toward fiction and poetry, would ever become one of the only outlets breaking major, sensitive political stories in a country of over one billion people. “This is the job for leading newspapers and weeklies, but nobody was stepping in to cover them,” he told me after hanging up the phone. He couldn’t help but feel obligated. “How are you supposed to respond to stories which are journalistic but nobody else is doing them?”
posted by not_the_water (12 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
The more I learn about Modi, the more horrified I am and the angrier I am at Western media and politicians who seem ok with him. The staff of Caravan are very brave.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:53 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]

This is such a good piece and it's a shame that it will get slept on in a community like Metafilter (partly because of its length and partly because its set outside of the Western world). The BJP's rise in India is terrifying and unlike what is happening in the US or UK, Modi just seems to be consolidating more and more institutional power and increasing in popularity.
posted by Ouverture at 12:18 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]

Boy, if you're depressed at the trajectory the US has taken over the past four years, this article shows it could be much, much worse.

I do some freelance work with a company based partly in India. One of my colleagues went back to India from the US just before India locked down. When he was in California he was very secular. Since he went back, every time we chitchat he drops more and more Hindu nationalist comments in the conversation. He's also become much more unthinkingly anti-poor. It has been a weird and upsetting transformation to watch. I feel like this article has given me way more insight into why that change is happening.
posted by rednikki at 1:15 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]

This is really excellently written, and pulls together a lot of important threads. Thank you for sharing.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:16 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

The RSS is terrifying, and I even know people who claim to dislike the RSS but who somehow still manage to support the BJP. In fact, I even know people who claim to dislike the BJP, but still support Modi. It's all very unsettling.

(I mean, granted, it's easily possible/likely they all secretly like the RSS as well but still)
posted by aramaic at 1:26 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]

this is some infuriating Designated Mourner shit and a superb fucking article.
posted by lalochezia at 2:53 PM on June 26

I semi jokingly tell people who ask me if I'll go back home to India, that it depends on which fascists get to me first, the American ones or the Indian ones.

Things are only going to get grimmer with the economy in the dump even pre Covid-19 and now China flexing its muscles and giving Modi a black eye. Something's got to give and he might just start another round of organized destruction to soothe his ego.

This kind of bravery is amazing when you see what passes for the media in India.
posted by viramamunivar at 10:47 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]

if you're depressed at the trajectory the US has taken over the past four years, this article shows it could be much, much worse

No, it shows that it is much, much worse.

The trajectory that the US has taken since the Reagan presidency has always been part of a larger worldwide drift back into authoritarian ultranationalism as the memory hole continues to swallow those who lived through World Wars I and II.

Things that happen outside the US do actually happen, and usually at greater human cost than things that happen inside it; the US being the world's third most populous country doesn't alter the fact that twenty times as many people live elsewhere.
posted by flabdablet at 10:53 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]

the more horrified I am and the angrier I am at Western media and politicians who seem ok with him

It's been really, really weird watching the Australian media agreeing not to mention the BJP's dangerous fascist nutter contingent since their head narcissist eventually managed to get them elected. I guess that's just all of a piece with him being all palsy with totally corrupt ultra-rich fucks like the Adani brothers.
posted by flabdablet at 7:28 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]

For him, the RSS’s targeting of intellectual spaces was a symptom of the “closing of the Indian mind”—a process that had been occurring, in all corners of the country, for more than a century.

Is this what the Great Filter looks like? Same bullshit, all over the world.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:28 AM on June 28

I think it's really easy for folks in the US (including myself) to analogize politics internationally through an American lens, and really, while we're part of the grand swell of right wing authoritarianism, we aren't illustrative of all things and we aren't the end all and be all of political shifts. I can't favorite flabdablet's point hard enough.

I don't want to make this into a US thread, but my partner, who is Indian, has worked very hard to explain to me why he feels India and the US are in different places, and why he feels hopeless about India right now in a way he doesn't about the US. He feels like there is still a vocal opposition with meaningful power in the US, and that Trump hasn't won the "hearts and minds" of most of the US. When Trump leaves, there will be a lot of political and cultural undoing to make things better again, but there will be political and social will to make that happen. He doesn't think the same thing about India. I sent him this article and he said that for him, it crystalized the reality that when Modi dies, so what, the RSS and everything they've set in motion will still be there and he doesn't believe the opposition or enough people in India have the power or really the will or interest to change things. What is happening in India, according to him, is scarier and broader and bigger and involves a more foundational and all-encompassing shift. We've been dating for nearly a year and a half and since I've known him he's cut contact with his parents and extended family, two college roommates, and an ex because they've all gone from being politically liberal or moderate, religious Hindu or atheist but not extremists, to legitimately believing (or at least, actively espousing) RSS talking points. He has lived in the US for about ten years and we spend a lot of time talking about how he does not recognize "home" anymore and does not know what to do about it because he feels so hopeless and powerless about how things have changed. He comes from a very privileged Brahmin family and he's acknowledged this is a reality lots of people have always known or experienced, but I think it's underscored for me that there is a seismic shift in culture and politics in India in a way I can't quite conceive of in the US right now.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:03 AM on June 28

(let me also say I don't want to speak for anyone, but rather to share what I've gleaned from conversations with him where I over-identified with his experience as an American reeling from Trump, and how he explained why that was problematic)
posted by ChuraChura at 7:16 AM on June 28

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