Smiles and Waves


By Tinky Ningombam

Similar to the calm that settles in after the storm, the country seems to peacefully retreat back to their normal lives albeit normal problems. After all the war is over. But for the media, this is just the beginning of an interesting new episode in Indian politics. This is the first time in many years that we will have a PM that finally talks and talks with practised precision.

16th May was indeed a memorable day. Especially for our generation, the nifty thumb typists, the hunchbacked pirates, the cloud downloaders, the fast browsers (sic). I am sure the internet will have lesser content now that the campaigns are over and people are not dissecting every move, every wave or every word that has been uttered in this elections.

Politics has never been my cup of tea. Though I can’t help but follow particular political games for my own thrill. And this LS elections was undeniably one that I was not able to resist. And then there was the media and political analysts who coined terms and planted interesting analogies that reeled us further to the election bait. In the meantime, suddenly there was so much doublespeak that it seemed impossible to differentiate what was been said and what it meant. So spinning of words, trimming the edges, sugar-coating… name it and we saw it all. Anyways, I am also a big fan of Machiavelli, so all in all, good measure. Because prince or no prince, his theories have been time-tested.

Double Speak is part and parcel of the political arena for long. In that context, we are not privy to the power of euphemisms – the trickle-down effect of top-down censorship per se in politics. The popularity of the word and its implications is attributed to our famous author of “1984” and critic – Mr. George Orwell, who has espoused again in his “Politics and the English Language”

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness… the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Where there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms”

Being in a world not oblivious to doublespeak, I morphed myself occasionally into a conspiracy theorist, questioning every word said, every word left unsaid. Setting expectations in everything I saw or heard – every speech, every photo-op, noticing every posed picture or a TV cameo. Why was the image black and white? Why was the logo color-less and then blue and then saffron? Why put a certain political chief on a billboard? Why use a certain newspaper for an ad?

Campaigning is something that unfortunately takes a lot of meticulous strategy. The tougher task is to be aware of the million people like yours faithful dissecting candidates and their campaigns and might make presumptions that leads to choices. Because every little thing matters. And the ones who understood that, won.

In the whole scheme of things word plays also takes centre-stage. Be it by candidates, analysts, media or the common supporters. But again a lot works as I said earlier on the top-down trickle-down effect. One thing that stuck to my mind was the use of the word “decimation”, as used in “So-and-so party was decimated by so-and-so winners.” The modern usage of decimation is reduction, it’s a pretty censored word so to speak. But was does “decimation” actually mean? Now being a literary student who has read about Roman Empires, I could not help myself from imagining mass annihilation of soldiers. Because that is what decimation meant – Mass murder. And linked that with politicians, I don’t think that is a good idea (Don’t you think?).

Anyway, now that there is no prime time real-life political drama, my due diligence has shifted to binge-watching TV Series again. Currently the “House of Cards”, an American political drama TV series. Frank Underwood played by Kevin Spacey acts the perfect Machiavellian, a conniving politician who doesn’t rest till his ends are met. There are a lot of things that young ruthless politicians can learn from this series if they are not doing it already. Sometimes the idiot box is not as idiotic after all. I leave you dear readers, with one of the many, many great scenes.

Season 1 Chapter 7

Frank Underwood coins a message for Peter Russo who is running for office. Russo has just resolved to go sober from his alcohol addiction and go public with the announcement. When Doug Stamper, Frank’s Chief of Staff, reports of metrics that voters are willing to consider a recovering alcoholic, our protagonist Frank Underwood tells him to run with it.

Frank Underwood: It’s a risk, but it’ll make waves . Free coverage across the board. The narrative has to be redemption. A Phoenix from the ashes. Well, let’s not focus on the ashes. We don’t want people to think Peter was a disaster. No, no. We focus on the positive.

Doug Stamper: A “fresh start” and a “clean start” both did well in focus groups.

Frank Underwood: “Clean start” sounds too much like “clean slate.” I like “fresh start”.


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