A Sri Lanka right wing group’s social media plans for promoting fascism has leaked on line. The earliest leaked material shows a graphic with Winston Churchill and the misquote “democracy is the worst form of government”. The graphic is designed for use on Facebook remarking ads and Twitter. It heralds an overt anti democratic direction in the run up to Sri Lanka’s presidential elections.
Traditional observers dismiss the campaign as the outpourings of a tiny fringe group. Digital political analysts disagree. The South Asian Centre for Digital Politics (SACDP), calls the campaign a
sophisticated data driven target messaging campaign. Crafted to make fascism desirable to a diverse range of demographics”.
The campaign cuts across all of Sri Lanka’s three language groups. Among the leaked data are sophisticated break downs of message variations by tight demographic profiles. These identify ‘influencers’ in the listed demographics groups. Strategy documents describe online and offline action plans for co-opting social media influencers profiles for “viralising” messages.
Facebook influencers tied to off-line demographics are listed for “intensive co-option”. The term is broken up into several coded classifications. They range from financial incentives (ICO-A1, ICO-B8..) to psychological pressure/intimidation (ICO-K1, ICO-L2). A section outlines ways for maximising the psychological impact of “physical pressure”.
Though fragmentary, the behind the scenes activities of the campaign show considerable skill. Formal “opinion posts” are mixed with “spontaneous” videos. The planned choreography of these “random” events show a skilled understanding of group/cultural psychology. Matched by a data driven grasp of timing.
Most “events” seem harmless. Many use comedy to disguise their political tilt. All harp on the “inconveniences” of democratic processes and institutions. A few highlight fascist “achievements” – such as Mussolini making trains run on time . The fact that such myths have been debunked are ignored.
The group behind the campaign is a non mainstream far right coalition – the New Lanka Totalitarian Freedom Front (NLTFF). It calls itself as an “anti-democratic enemy of open society” in a clear reference to Karl Popper’s book. The NLTFF calls democracy the ‘disease poisoning the nation’. Sri Lanka’s tragic post independence (and democratic) history is cited as proof. Fascism – in the form of the NLTFF – is touted as the ‘cure’.
NLTFF‘s platform claims democracy and electoral politics cause chaos. Voting is reframed as a form of divide and conquer by undefined “enemies of the people”. It calls politics an “unnecessary burden on the common man”. This echos a common Sri Lankan view that politicians use elections for gaining high office for the chance to expand their corruption.
The NLTFF ‘solution’ is to replace the ‘chaos’ of politics with ‘order’. The NLTFF’s view of ‘order’ sees government as an administrative function of the ruler. Whose undisputed right to rule is justified in a mix of references from Lee Kwan Yeu, the kings of Sri Lanka’s “golden age” (377 BC to 1017 AD) to the Communist party of China.
These sentiments are apparent in the text of and graphics of the leaked campaign. What is unclear are the NLTFF’s actual policies. The NLTFF insists that the public need not bother with ‘details’. It will provide direction. The public’s role is to ‘obey’ in order to “move the country forward”. This sentiment is summed up in the party slogan “Obedience is Victory”.
The NLTFF’s supreme leader Caudillo Gunersekara avoids direct policy pronouncements. The little public documentation the group has put out shows a significant parallels with the ideology of Francoist Spain. The SACDP claims that most of the ideological content are literal translations of historical Falange party manifestos using Google Translate.
The make up of the NLTFF shows a wide interpretations of fascism with the group. The NLTFF began as a break away faction of the defunct Lanka Totalitarian Freedom Front (LTFF). The LTFF broke up after the failure of its anti Galle Literary Festival book burning in 2012. Other members include the Ekeeyavadi Nidahas Pakshaya (the former All Ceylon Fascist Congress), Suddha Singhale Viyaparaya, and previously unheard of groups. Their manifestos tout “scientific fascism” to variations of “racial purity”.
— DDN (Dissociated News Network)
I could go on. But taking up more than four minutes of your time is criminal. I’m sure you had figured by now that all this is yet another blurt by the voices in my head. I hope you picked that up at least by the first paragraph. Sri Lanka, with its history of democracy, never needs to fear fascism no?