Nobody knew who Rajiv Malhotra was. But he found a sneaky way to enter our lives – he simply paid Twitter!

I have no idea who Rajiv Malhotra is. I?m not particularly inclined to know about him either. (Sorry for the Upworthy-style title and pardon the hyperbole about nobody knowing him – just trying more interesting variations of titles!)

But then, this happened on my Twitter timeline.

rajiv1

Eh? He paid Twitter to promote his opinion on the Doniger issue? Interesting, but why would he do that?

I did some Google check and find that his profile reads thus:

he founded the Infinity Foundation in 1995, dedicating himself to philanthropic and educational activities and “making grants in the area of Hinduism studies?

Oh ok, that adds up. He has something to share, as his opinion, on Hinduism and since Doniger?s book mauls much of what we know as Hinduism (her perspective, of course, whether we agree with it or not), Rajiv perhaps has a counterpoint to that? so that?s why he?s paying Twitter to promote his counter views?

And he tweeted this too, about his voice being muffled by Doniger?s children!

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When I asked this question (on why one man is paying Twitter – or any media for that matter – to promote his opinion), some folks responded by saying that his views were not sought by mainstream media outlets in India? as if there was a systematic attempt to curtail his views on the Doniger imbroglio.

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This, besides other sarcastic, probing and funny views, of course… like,

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But then, this too happened!

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That?s actually a Livemint article he is pushing. Why?

Ok, perhaps it is ?close to? Hinduism – it (his tweet that he promoted) is Rajiv?s opinion about how Harvard?s Benson institute is plagiarising Maharishi Mahesh Yogi?s transcendental meditation and something to do with genes. So, he feel strongly about topics on and close to Hinduism. He is possibly looking for circuitous ways to plug his books (there are three – Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines, Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism and Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity). Fair enough.

And this!

rajiv4

Err… whatever! Ok, will file this under the Hinduism bucket. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to believe that these are all ‘promoted’ tweets! I’d have never followed this man – ever – in my life (no, I don’t have any ideological differences with him; I just don’t have any interest in knowing about his views on assorted topics, leave alone Hinduism), but he has found a shortcut to enter my timeline and consciousness!

And then, this tweet too happened!

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Hmmm? that?s not connected to Hinduism (barring the really obtuse connection about Kejriwal being a Hindu!) or anything he has written in his books (at least going by their titles) at all! Why on earth is he paying to promote his views on Arvind Kejriwal?

This is an interesting trend in the on-going (for a very long time) attempt to win in (much abused in PR circles) ?thought leadership?.

Conventional methods to be a ‘thought leader’ were limited with mainstream media options. Before social media, it was restricted to writing a guest article and getting it placed in a mainstream publication. And then when news television (the shrill, attention seeking variety) happened, people who wanted to be thought leaders got themselves placed as panelists and speakers in prime time discussions. In such cases where one needed to depend on another media (usually mainstream media), you need to know someone there or work with a public relations firm to get your views widely known through that media.

There are shortcuts too, even there – you can pay your way through it. Like Sahara India Parivaar does, using print ads to spread its views on SEBI and how it is victimised by SEBI. It?s a different thing that such views were only mocked by public (at least from what I noticed) because paying and advertising ones views, whatever it is, feels only like an advertisement and comes armed with limited credibility.

Social media offers a much cheaper alternative to advertising your views in print. I have written about the British Airways example and Lalit Modi?s attempts using paid advertising online to clear his name (or at least offer his perspective against N Srinivasan). In such cases, the person paying and advertising had a strong reason to do so.

In Rajiv?s case, it seems like a broad attempt to merely position himself as someone with a strong opinion on assorted topics – a thought leader, on multiple topics that are being spoken about currently. Does he expect to sell more copies of his books through this attempt? Does he expect to be called for more TV panels? I have no idea, but beyond blogging, writing guest pieces in mainstream print media and appearing in news channels, this is another new avenue for people to project themselves in a way they want.

For instance, if a new film reviewer (who reviews, say movies, in his own blog) wants to gain visibility, he could compete with existing reviewers on their own turf by cross-posting his views on Twitter, Facebook etc. To cut through the reach conundrum, he could now pay Twitter and Facebook to promote his views and take on more established reviewers! That this is considerably cheaper than mainstream advertising options is the clincher.

That puts ‘reach’ in the hands of a lot more individuals, whereas cost was the deciding factor in mainstream media options.

Note that I haven?t ventured into the quality of what is being promoted with money at all. It could be lies, factual inaccuracies and even slander, against another person/institution. The platforms would obviously be responsible for any fallout owing the quality of content, like a print or TV media outlet would be.

Given that Rajiv?s attempt – a seemingly motive-less paid promotion of a range of opinions – is a first and very novel, the views from many haven?t been charitable. For example…

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I’m sure such views would have been aired even if he had taken a print ad in a mainstream publication… only, they would have not been aired on the same platform. On social media, given that everything is two-way, the same platform features both the paid promotion and the feedback from assorted people!

Thankfully, there’s no way on social media to stifle such counter-opinions to Rajiv’s clutter-breaking attempts at spreading his views.

A very good follow-up/related read, from The New York Times! – To Woo Twitter Followers, a Trail of Self-Promotional Tweets

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  • stormchaser1983

    His books are in fact awesome. The quality of his tweets, not so much. But I feel his pain….he worked for 20 years and came up with some amazing concepts and books and giving a dharmic viewpoint on modern affairs. This is much needed as everything is seen thru a western lens. Seen through an eastern lens for example, there is no need for a liberal, conservative divide and many asian countries like Japan have modernized and not westernized. India has westernized and not modernized. His books reay touch on this issue in great detail. But it would suck if one would to be systematically blackballed by institutions, where liberals or intellectuals whatever rub each others back and close out diverse viewpoints.

  • ovserver

    wow!! so u judge a person or comment on him just by reading his tweets or others’ tweets abt him! so shallow.. have u read any of his books? After reading ur blog, I dont think so. The work he’s done can b matched perhaps only with that of Arun Shourie. I hope u knw whw Arun Shourie is..judge a person by his work/performance. not by his social media interaction.. never by what others say abt him.. such a immature post. grow up.

    • The first line of the post says, “I have no idea who Rajiv Malhotra is. I?m not particularly inclined to know about him either.”. So, I guess you didn’t need a lot of intelligence to deduce that I haven’t read any of his books, or even his tweets… nor am I interested in reading them. That is actually fine, because I did not decide to not read him – I just was not aware of him. After his tweets forced their way to my timeline, thanks to advertising via Twitter, I just think that his line of thought or topics of his interest are not top priority for me.

      That is not a big deal actually. People have different interests and inclinations. I just don’t happen to fall within this spectrum of interests.

      Also, elsewhere in the post I add, “Note that I haven?t ventured into the quality of what is being promoted with money at all.”

      So, I really do not have an opinion about Rajiv Malhotra the person and his body of work. Why? Because, paragraph one of this comment.

      Also, where have I judged him through his social media interactions? The entire point of this post is an interesting (insiduous, if I may call it) way that he managed to enter the mindspace of people who do not follow him, who may not known him and who may not be inclined to know about him.

      To add an example, imagine you have no idea who Michael Jackson is and you don’t particularly care for his brand of pop music. Now, assume if someone set up a louspeaker outside your house (because the town authorities allowed public performances for a fee anywhere in the city) to play Jackson’s music. You have a choice – to hear it and start liking it, if you do. Or, you could complain about the intrusion.

      I’m observing the fact that he managed to intrude when the receiver isn’t particuarly aware of the person or the message. Not the quality of the message or the character of the person with the message.

      And here you are, defending him basis what you think he is good at and what you think is a stellar body of work. That may be true (for you, and many others), but
      1. That is not the point of this post and
      2. I have no inclination whatsoever to know more about him.

      • ss

        “I have no inclination whatsoever to know more about him”

        I am sure you will have no inclination to know more about our soldiers fighting on the borders, or Indian history, or Indian culture or Indian freedom fighters or India’s place in the world or forces trying to break up India … Why don’t you just go back to your coke and pizza and the queue in front of the US embassy, and spare us your rants?

        • Could I request you to attribute the source from where you deduced that I have no inclination in knowing more about,
          1. our soldiers fighting on the borders
          2. Indian history
          3. Indian culture
          4. Indian freedom fighters
          5. India’s place in the world
          6. forces trying to break up India?

          Also, you have the power within you to spare yourself from my ‘rants’. Yes, the power is in you! You could stop reading this blog, but for some odd reason, you are subjecting yourself to my rants almost compulsively. I stopped reading even promoted tweets of Mr.Rajiv Malhotra (by muting his name) – that’s how I take my own inner voice seriously.

  • ss

    If you don’t know of Rajiv Malhotra or have never read his scholarship, it’s time to get your head out of your digital ass.

    • Let me put it this way – I know of Rajiv Malhotra precisely because my head was stuck in my digital ass – heck, I gotto know him via Twitter ads! It’s competely a pity that you didn’t get even this fundamental point.

  • ss

    Rajiv Malhotra was a technology entrepreneur in US who sold his business for hundreds of millions of dollars at the age of 45, took retirement, and then went into full time study of Indian history and civilization, appalled by the derogatory scholarship of the Westerners about all things Indian.

    His recent book, “Being Different” has been included as recommended reading in the syllabus of Delhi university to know about how Indian tradition and worldview is different from the Western, and what makes Indians unique and different. He is currently a major pain in the arse of Western academicians who portray India as a land of cow caste and curry (a term coined by Rajiv) and they are doing hit jobs on him through the media. And you sir are the typical clueless Hindu Gungadin.

    Search for Rajiv on YouTube and listen to his lectures and gain some wisdom.

    • May I kindly point to my posts paragraph number 4 where I mention that I have already Googled him? The sheer point of this post was precisely that – that a man, about whom I had no knowledge of, chose a method to enter my consciousness by paying his way through it. If it had happened via a print ad or a billboard or a TVC, there’s nothing worth writing there. But since it happened on social media, on Twitter, to be particular, I found it worth writing about because he’s clearly onto something new here.

      It is so unfortunate that you think I’m commenting about the man and his theories. You should perhaps read my post all over again. You’d possibly notice that I have no interest in the man and his theories at all. Not all humans need to think like you and revere him – you could, I have no issues on that. But, to assume every person (Hindu, you said?) to think on the same lines as you… you do know about the proverb involving a cat, it closing its eyes and thinking the world is dark, right?

      • Guy on the Street

        WOW !! Quite a spectacular claim “Nobody knew who Rajiv Malhotra was”. And you complain others of having their eyes closed ? You have displayed all qualities to be labeled a Liberal Secualraist (most popular words in India these), no ?

  • ss

    Also, Rajiv’s book “Breaking India,” that details western interventions in India to casuse its breakup, is now mandatory reading for officials of the Home Ministry.

    • Abhishek

      Just curious – on what basis you are claiming that its a mandatory reading for officials of MHA …. i`m a great fan of Rajiv and wondering whether our govt is doing anything to support the work of this great thinker!! Would appreciate your reply!!

  • ss

    The Tweets you have reproduced in your blog post are Hindus who seem to be even more ignorant and clueless than you. You are in good company.

  • Nipun

    Dude are you serious. Have you read his work or seen any of his videos? He is a messiah. He is saving India in a modern relevant way. Seriously give it a listen. Will totally change your opinion of him.

  • So Nyuh Shi Dae

    Still better than paid news in the media which doesn’t even come with a disclaimer that it is promoted.