There has been much of heated exchanges between the resurgent right and the apologetic left (which includes good portion of the centre as well). As popular wisdom informs us that in the French National Assembly after 1789, supporters of the King sat on one side i.e. Right and those of the revolution on the left. However, since the days of French Revolution much has changed, the world history has witnessed the arrival and departure of demagogues with all hues of left, right and centre. And the ‘right’ in our times comes as a co-traveller of post-truth, which allows the marginalisation of ‘facts’ vis-à-vis a ‘manufactured belief’.

Ralph Keyes, in his 2004 book ‘The Post-Truth Era’, says that public and political life is delineated and defined by dishonesty and deception and apparently we do not have any qualms about the same. We are perpetually living in a situation that does not provide adequate counterbalances to our predisposition to be deceptive and thus we continue liking the dishonesty in public life. More often than not most of us even become the flag bearers of brazen fabrication of belief.

There are images galore all over the world in the public life where you continue mocking the veracity and yet remain great leaders winning elections. The rise of post-truth politics coincides not only with polarized political beliefs but also thrives on uneven social topography and barricaded social reality. Varied cases of the rise of right in the wake of post-truth times has certain common themes and the foremost of them is an apparent and intensive dissatisfaction with the social and economic conditions which people were forced to accept so far.

Unlike some of the scholars who view the rise of Post-truth Right as a kind of anti-thesis or reaction to neoliberal economic policies, evidence suggests it simply is an outgrowth of the same political economy much in the equal vein as genocide was in the context of modernity. Post-truth conversation and deliberations ‘inside prime time’ TV debates has meticulously produced ‘emotional unrest’ in such societies by incessantly exhibiting hysterical symptoms. It is in the backdrop of the post-truth climate, which paves the appearance of a ‘strong charismatic’ leader, who specialises in post-truth rhetoric, who talks of delivering even those things which are not deliverable at all. Interestingly and ironically instead of scrutinising such leaders a good number of people tend to believe them. They also seem enthusiastic in putting all their faith in the strong leader and are ever willing to obey the leader.

They would believe the leader when he says that ‘If I don’t win, consider the election was rigged’, or another one from our soil wherein it was said that in UP ‘electricity was provided on sectarian basis’. It is worth recalling an incident, wherein a leading TV anchor, reportedly asked the then star campaigner of BJP, and now the CM of UP giving him the ‘facts’ about electricity distribution. The response from him was uncomplicated as he stated, ‘what is there in Fact, after all public opinion matters.’ That defines the contours of the post-truth discourse with which the Right is enjoying excellent bonhomie.

No questions were asked as to how public opinion can precede over the available facts in the public domain. But these are the times of ‘promised walls along Mexican border’ and the ‘guarantee of two billion jobs’; certainly not a congenial time for evoking rationality and reason. Amplification of xenophobia is the extension of the weird logic of us vs. them, which has always helped the right in grabbing space even when things were generally not comfortable with their politics. Demonization of a people or a community is a fine art used relentlessly by the strong leaders of the right wing in these times. Thus a nation of immigrants has built consensus against ‘immigrants’ and we in India are witnessing the creation of an outsider in every locality as the new and acceptable narrative.

The much hyped transmogrification of Hindutva politics from a tiny player to the largest political party has been possible on account of painstaking efforts with respect to maximising the distance between majority and minority community, besides silencing the discourse on social justice. The ruling structures so far in many ways, the comfort zones of liberal-democratic outfits are getting demolished without anybody even singing a farewell song. We as individual—students, teachers, workers, shopkeepers’ doctors and engineers have miserably failed to understand and appreciate together with political parties the dynamics of political process and its inherent capacity to correct the imbalances, its institutional erosion. We have failed to make a case for a genuine deliberative democracy.

In these post-truth times of the triumph of the will of right has transmogrified itself in such manner that even the mildest critique of the government or its institutional mechanism can easily be pushed in the realm of the ‘anti-national’. In the melee of hyper sound bites, we are made to forget that a committed patriot can very well be the one who risks defending the concerns of his country against his own government. Wherever the right-wing has gained ascendance, the governments present itself as tantamount to nation and thus the line separating the two is.

Buoyed by the unconditional support from some of the media houses, the government does not mind taking tough postures against its own citizens; it is nothing but a brazen disregard of constitutional propriety and precedence. But that is lost not in translation but in the din around the ‘charisma’ of a very strong leader, who is going to make the nation ‘great again’. That the right-wing government in post-truth era does not need to take the cover of neutrality and objectivity in making a distinction between the oppressors and oppressed; between the marginalised dalits, and the minorities on the one hand, and the dominant caste and groups on the other hand.

This new right of the post-truth era brazenly views and evaluates the much cherished ideas of nationalism only through lifeless artefacts instead of lending a sympathetic ear to living voices which may fundamentally differ with the ruling regime, yet are deeply in love with the nation. General belief and acceptance of erroneous evidence and falsity or half-truth is not getting challenge from any quarter or if at times these are contested they simply fade out in the chorus of the great leader and his capacity to deliver anything and everything. Issues which are fundamental to life and livelihood have to settle for space on the ‘margin’, miles away from the mainstream which values a discourse which only is fed upon and feeds existing stereotypes and prejudices.

Democracy as representation and participation is losing its sheen and instead a spectacle has replaced the old school idea of democracy. It is worth recalling that B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of India’s constitution, had warned in the 1950s that democracy in India was “only a top dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic.” Now even the cover of top dressing is considered undesirable in this sudden rise of the new India. He had also adequately warned the people of this nation that the idea of ‘cult and hero worship’ shall forever destroy the important ingredients as well as nuances of democracy. Shunning the note of caution by Baba Saheb, a good number of people have chosen to move in an altered direction whereby if the ‘hero’ says that the ‘seventy years before him was a huge waste’, we tend to believe in as gospel truth.

Following the trajectories of some of these strong leaders of the ‘right’ in post-truth ear reminds us of the Shakespearean character- Iago, from his much acclaimed play- Othello. Shakespeare presents Iago as an assortment of unknowable riddles whereby each word spoken by Iago appears worrisome. Shakespeare depicts him as someone who is known for his honesty and straightforward temperament, yet the same person devises ornate falsehoods in such a manner so as to achieve what he intends by manipulating people and the situations.

Shakespeare, it is believed drew this character of Iago from an idea already existing idea in the theatre of his times borrowed from the religious morality plays. Iago keeps on saying throughout the play that ‘I am not what I am’, which plainly appears as ‘I am not what I look like’. He is a master storyteller and he makes promises, he has no intention of keeping. The character of Iago is always on a look out for finding the vulnerabilities of the individual and their situatedness and he exploits them to his advantage.

It is not difficult to imagine that politics and public life suddenly belongs to the types of Iago everywhere, a master craftsman in storytelling and mythmaking; thus it should not surprise or shock anyone of us about the myth of the strong leader, which has more buyers today than ever before in the history of mankind.

(Manoj K Jha is Professor in the Department of Social Work,University of Delhi. He is also a member of the Rashtriya Janata Dal)