The Indian Elections got over a couple of weeks ago and the people of India voted the BJP back into power with an even greater mandate. So it looks like Hasan Minhaj decided to admit that he was in the wrong with his previous diatribe about Modi and the Indian elections. After all, the new episode is explicitly titled “Patriot Act Apology Regarding the Indian Elections – I’m Sorry I Did Not Listen”. But who are we kidding here?!!? Needless to say, there is no apology anywhere – not even remotely close. On the contrary, what we get is another big dose of his reductionist observations that forms the fundamental basis for all his shows -including the first episode on the Indian elections.
His diatribe in this episode essentially boils down to the now predictable trope of pre-determining a narrative, selecting a few examples that confirm it, and then reducing the whole phenomenon to the simplistic narrative based on those examples. (You can see it for yourself in the video below).
His narrative here has been one to show that Modi is an evil/dishonest/incompetent person and the BJP is an evil/dishonest/incompetent party that would bring untold death and misery to everyone who is not Hindu. The examples he chooses to confirm this narrative are 3-fold.
First, he identifies 3 candidates who have either said or been accused of doing something wrong. So this way the entire BJP party is reduced to the alleged crimes of Sakshi Maharaj, Pragya Thakur, and one single quote from Anant Kumar Hegde. Of course, Smriti Irani’s massive victory over Rahul Gandhi is reduced to depicting Irani’s background of starring in a bad soap opera scene from eons ago. (Clearly Hasan doesn’t find the need to mention the years of ground work she had to do to get that victory, but I suppose that goes against his narrative….)
Second, he reduces Modi’s interaction with the press to his casual discussion with Akshay Kumar. I mean, the Prime Minister literally has a complete web page dedicated just to the interviews he has given to the press! (But hey, pointing that out would go against his narrative, so……whatever.)
And finally, he reduces the legitimacy of his critics to a high-decibel TV anchor and a few select Twitter trolls. And to top it all off, he tries to wash his hands off of anything and everything he has said by claiming “Comedians cannot swing elections”. (So there! Everything is forgiven and forgotten, right? )
In any case, let us not lose sight of what is fundamentally wrong here. Whatever we may deem to be unfair or incorrect on this one show is not and should not be reduced to just one person – a.k.a Hasan Minhaj. Yes he is certainly a part of it, but there is something more fundamental at play here. The simple fact is this:
In this day and age, no matter what the truth is or what is actually happening in a country, the power to set the preferred narratives lies in the hands of those who hold the biggest platforms. Comedians across the world are increasingly perceived to be those who can be ‘trusted’ to deliver unbiased NEWS (oh how ironic!). They are also being given increasingly bigger platforms to air their views to an increasingly growing (captive) audience. (This can be directly attributed to the complete death of quality TV news reporting, but that is another story for another day). And ultimately, it becomes a feedback loop with comedians becoming increasingly bigger personalities in the media ecosystem.
And this is where people like Hasan Minhaj come in. What he really wants to say in this episode is very revealing and crystal clear:
I have the platform, I have the captive audience. You don’t. No matter the veracity, I decide what narratives are set on my show. You don’t. I decide who or what is right and wrong. You don’t. And anything you say will be used against you and what you stand for.
Ultimately, in trying to respond to “desi trolls”, Hasan Minhaj has proved that he, in fact, is the biggest troll of all!