By Prof Shazia Cheema
Every art form is the propagation of personal belief and ideology. The impact of that form could be positive as well as negative.
During and after the cold war, propaganda acquires the connotation of negativity and becomes synonymous with maligning, untruthful, and destructive. The very base of propaganda, positive or negative is semiotics. Propaganda requires meaning-making tools and all the aspects which can create meaning become a resource for propagation.
Let me simplify it— A word, a brush, a picture, a gesture a melody, all is meaning-making tools and their use cannot detach from personal biases and that is the beauty of it, having numerous expressions coming from uncountable individuals create our collective knowledge. However, this human cognitive ability can be played like all other brain functions. Our cognitive system can be manipulated with the help of manipulation.
Manipulation is the informed use of meaning-making tools under the shadow of controlled agenda, for instance, if I require you to believe what I want you to believe I need to attach my half-crafted truth to your half-existed truth, with this connection you will not believe. I repeatedly admit that the human mind is a super machine thus near impossible to be fooled but possible to fall victim to prudent manipulation.
Manipulation is an art and a science both and fundamental element of propagation. Cognition is higher-order brain functioning like thinking, reasoning, remembering/ memory function, inference /interpretation, judging, decision-making, and problem-solving that requires language, imagination, perception, and planning (Bednarikova, 2013). Every individual cognitive system operates in his/her unique way, so they interpret the world around them on an individualist basis, and these interpretations shape feelings and behaviors (Kåver 2006). Thoughts are considered the source of emotions and actions. These emotions and actions are hierarchical in nature, and that hierarchy is based on three levels. Aaron Beck names them “layers of thought processing”. It is critical to understand “thought processes” to understand propaganda (Beck, 2012). According to Aaron Back, the first layer is made up of core beliefs;
Core beliefs are also known as schemata from the intimate level. Core beliefs develop early in life, and a constant application of these beliefs reinforces them again and again, and they become deeply ingrained until adolescence (Friedberg & McClure 2002). Core beliefs/image schemas are not a part of conscious processing, but they strongly influence our cognitive process. “To maintain cognitive balance our experiences are continuously filtered and distorted so that these core-believes, our absolute truth may remain intact” (Kåver, 2006).
The central layer is called intermediate beliefs, also known as rules and assumptions. This process helps us to interpret our immediate environment under strict parameters set up by image schemas or core beliefs.
The outermost layer of our thought process is automatic thoughts. They can be identified easily; they are quick, spur of the moment thoughts and clearly interpret our deeper cognitive layers. Image schemas and rules/assumptions determine the shape of automatic beliefs (Friedberg & McClure, 2002). Automatic beliefs are of two types, positive and negative.
Indian propaganda in its sheer desire to harm Pakistan forgot the basic principle of manipulation,
To sum-up to create desired automatic thoughts the link between intermediate and core belief is crucial. Propagandist research on target population studies their core believes, gauge the flexibility of intermediate beliefs than work on the most excepted meaning-making tool, after this lengthy academic process than they plan the required automatic thought and instill them primarily connecting them to the target populations core belief. Anything not connected to core belief can never be perceived as an automatic thought. That’s why propagation in the form of manipulation is a sensitive, delicate process that requires experts in the field.
I dug deep, the more I got confused because despite of linking our core believes to the automatic believes, the Indian propaganda machine experimented on creating core beliefs; let me revise they are some sort of default schemata not meant to be consciously created.
Indian propaganda in its sheer desire to harm Pakistan forgot the basic principle of manipulation, if not entirely that partly because a recent report the EU DisinfoLab uncovered a massive operation targeting international institutions and serving Indian interests. One can say that it is another MIG21 fiasco with a wounded pilot.
It is worth noting that foreign media including BBC report that the independent, non-profit disinformation watchdog’s latest report illustrates in graphic detail the web of more than 750 media in 116 countries; over 550 website domain names registered; the resurrection of dead people; the impersonation of EU institutions and direct control of more than 10 NGOs accredited to the UN Human Rights Council, utilized for the purpose of pushing fake news and false Indian propaganda against Pakistan since 2005.
As a cognitive semiotician, I got thrilled to understand the deep mechanism behind this propaganda, the more I dug deep, the more I got confused because despite of linking our core believes to the automatic believes, the Indian propaganda machine experimented on creating core beliefs; let me revise they are some sort of default schemata not meant to be consciously created.
The detailed study of the report gives us information about; dead people having meetings with the alive ones. Non existing NGOs feeling the suffering of Baluchistan and Gilgit Baltistan. Imaginary meetings and conferences discussing minorities of Pakistan. Dead are writing an article to discredit Pakistan and much more.
My point of interest is not why India is having this semiotic war with us, it is expected and accepted my point is who was the engineer of this propaganda, how he designed an entire communication war strategy not keeping in mind the basic human cognition in mind. Human core belief about the dead is nonexistence, no more, not there so how a dead man talking to living can connect to intermediate beliefs and if it is not connected to intermediate believes that how it can generate targeted automatic thoughts.
This particular Indian propaganda unit does not seem an amateur venture because according to EU Disinfolab;
- a 15 year-long operation running since 2005;
- 10+ UN Human Rights Council accredited NGOs, mostly resurrected;
- The resurrection of Prof. Louis B. Sohn, a prominent figure in human rights, deceased in 2006;
- Several identity thefts, including the name of Martin Schulz, former president of the European Parliament or the photo of James Purnell, a former UK Government minister;
- 750+ fake media outlets, covering 119 countries;
- 550+ domain names
Apparently, it appears a high-end warhead that is covering almost all the faultlines of Pakistan, existing and imaginary, and a full-fledged operation to obliterate Pakistan’s reputation and tarnish Pakistani’s emotions. Mare ambitious thinking cannot damage the enemy, the surprising scale of the project itself is evidence of the malicious agendas purely based on hatred. India has become so reckless in his hatred that he is funding massive resources on such a comic proposition.
Explained in EU InfoLab words:
- Extensive use of student interns, here speaking at the United Nations on behalf of one or more of these NGOs;
- Resurrection of shuttered organisations (NGOs, media) and deceased persons (Louis B. Sohn);
- Use of Regus virtual office addresses or simply fake addresses whenever an address was needed;
- Misleading representation of the views of individual MEPs as general support or official position from the European Union;
- Maximization of negative content about Pakistan online, primarily using a network of fake local media across the world.
This fresh attack from our neighbouring India. I consider this as another kind of friendly shooting down of another Indian chopper and let’s put the kettle for another warm cozy tea to ease the embarrassment of yet another unthoughtful and over-ambitious venture.
Islamabad took serious notice in a usual dignified manner by a call on “the United Nations and UNHRC to immediately begin investigation and de-listing of the 10 fake NGOs created by India to malign Pakistan. Additionally, Islamabad calls on the EU Parliament to begin a credible investigation into the manipulation of the EU Parliament and its legislative process by these fake organizations involved in anti-Pakistan propaganda under a fully funded disinformation and influence operation, run by India. Pakistan foreign office also call on international news agencies especially Reuters to reconsider their existing partnership with ANI news agency – now proven to be pushing fake news from two fake Indian created websites repeatedly.”
Pakistan’s office of foreign affairs is fully conscious of the fact, that “Truth cannot be hidden for long. The scope and extent of India’s operations against Pakistan under their hybrid war is now apparent for the world to see. Pakistan will take all necessary actions to protect its interests. Once again, we warn the world to take heed of the RSS-BJP regime’s agenda which threatens regional peace and continues to manipulate the international system for its own nefarious ends.”
In my humble opinion, there is nothing new and special about this fresh attack from our neighbouring India. I consider this as another kind of friendly shooting down of another Indian chopper and let’s put the kettle for another warm cozy tea to ease the embarrassment of yet another unthoughtful and over-ambitious venture.