Travesty of Lies: How Expat Propagandists Spread Misinformation

Recently, an article titled “Matarbari: A deep-sea port, an Indian transit, or a US military base?” written by Taj Hashmi has become ‘the talk of the town’ in Bangladesh. Fellow dissidents and anti-government factions are celebrating the article’s blatant critique of the government. However, it seems the article is full of sweeping statements presented in the guise of a scholarly argument such as ‘Matarbari may be used as a US military base’ or ‘A pro-Chinese coup may oust the current Prime Minister’, etc. It seems Hashmi’s article is a classic example of propaganda without any supporting claim.

However, not only the author – retired Professor Taj Hashmi, but several other expatriates are also engaged in the propaganda campaign against the government. Dissident activist Pinaki Bhattacharya, Ex-Journalist Ilias Hossain, Kanak Sarwar, Netra News and its editor Tasneem Khalil, Ex-military officers such as Colonel Shahid Uddin Khan, etc. are engaged in such nefarious activities. All of them use a common technique of presenting sweeping statements as subjective analysis. Against this backdrop, let’s see how they spread misinformation against Bangladesh.

Subjective Analysis vs. Sweeping Statement

Subjective analysis means analysis based on a personal viewpoint or judgment of an observation. Even though traditional beliefs, norms, ideology, and personalized worldview plays central in this method, the analysis must have an argument based on logical reasoning and enough empirical data. It is basically implied for narrative building and preaching. Commentary and Opinion-editorials are common examples of subjective analysis.

On the other hand, a sweeping statement is something that is written as too general and that has not been carefully thought about. It often lacks empirical data and is devoid of reality. Often used in political writing or speech to push the agenda.

Taj Hashmi’s Article: Full of Sweeping Statement?

Professor Hashmi is a retired scholar living in the USA. During his academic career, Hashmi produced many renowned researches and books. However, it seems in his latest article, he forgot the basics of International Relations as a discipline. Hashmi claimed Matarbari deep seaport can serve as a naval base for the USA in countering China. But how can a joint venture between two sovereign countries- Bangladesh and Japan accommodate US naval base remains a big question. Moreover, Japan and Bangladesh have their own sovereignty and own interest. Professor Hashmi here ignored the conventional wisdom of international relations.

Hashmi in the article wrote, “Some analysts and experts might believe that America may be considering the establishment of a military base in the Bay of Bengal with Japan’s help.” But going through the article published in South Asia Journal, one cannot find any reference to this claim. It is a principal law in any research to put references citing others. Yet, the seasoned professor completely ignored to put reference. Such practice can be seen in producing dark propaganda based on lies or vagueness. 

Again, Hashmi writes, ‘the US is allowing Japan to construct a deep-seaport in the Bay of Bengal’. The question arises, whether the US has the ground to ‘allow’ a country to build infrastructure in another sovereign country. Can Hashmi provide any reference or development regarding this claim? This is a very power-centric and ancient realist analysis without any substantial evidence.

Of many sweeping statements, Hashmi concluded the article by opining that there is a possibility of a pro-Chinese coup in Bangladesh that may oust the current government. Yet there is no symptom of such or nothing apart from his claim. It seems the aged professor’s understanding of realism has become rusty and failed to modernize itself. Such a statement comes from a ‘backdated’ Cold War mindset when great powers directly engaged in toppling governments abroad to establish their ideological puppets. The Sino-US rivalry is hardly ideological and is a geoeconomic one. As a result, Hashmi’s prediction has been reduced to a conspiracy theory only.

Therefore, Hashmi’s article does not qualify as a subjective analysis of the current geopolitical situation. Hence, Hashmi’s article has been reduced to propaganda full of sweeping statements in the guise of a scholarly piece.

Hashmi is Not Alone

This is not the first time Hashmi is feeding propaganda to the general public sitting abroad. Often, he makes an appearance on online talk shows and makes misleading statements regarding Bangladesh. He uses the same technique of throwing sweeping statements presenting them as scholarly analysis.

However, Hashmi is not alone engaged in such a nefarious endeavor.  Expat propagandist Ilias Hossain- an ex-journalist is also engaged in throwing communal narrative in social media. Pinaki Bhattacharya purposefully serves the agenda of communal political parties at home and abroad through his popular YouTube channel.

Several Ex- bureaucrats and military officers also appear on social media posing as ‘news analysts’ and try to agitate the security forces. All of these propagandists have one thing in common- they are driven by conspiracy theories, provide a bulk of irrelevant data, use negative adjectives targeting the government, and then throw sweeping statements posing as subjective analysis.

These propagandists have diverse agendas from agitating the public to hurting the country’s economy, stability, and security. Many have also taken this as a good source of generating income. Many are perhaps foreign-backed serving foreign agendas. For instance, Netra News gets funds from National Endowment for Democracy (NED)- a project run by the CIA to generate soft power penetrating into society indirectly. Pinaki Bhattacharya himself clarified this in his recent episode.

It is not always possible for the common people to validate everything they see on mainstream and social media. But the editors and persons responsible can validate the authenticity. And it is their responsibility to validate it before publishing it. It is unfortunate to see mainstream national media covering such content. Social media and information-sharing organizations should be more responsible to prevent the misuse of their platforms. In the era of globalization and digitalization, the information war is something that affects the mass daily and directly. Lastly, we should be aware of such kind of propagandists and their nefarious work in disguise.

Views expressed in this article are those of the author.

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