Thursday, June 14, 2012

Media Clowns in Pakistan

It's is near impossible to present a new ideology, thought, or opinion in a 1000 words editorial or a 40 minutes commercial laden talk show. 
It is the great media disguise which has turned cynics such as Haroon-ur-Rasheed, Irfan Siddiqui, Oria Maqbool Jan, and Ansar Abbasi into self-posed intellectuals. These characters occupy the media screen and rote the same piece of information again and again to make it a part of our sub-consciousness. They repeat meaningless sentences which makes them meaningful for the commoners, for example:

"Imran Khan will clearly win the next election"
"There was no terrorism before September 2001"
"Zaradari and Gillani are corrupt"
"Everything's wrong in Karachi due to MQM"
"Haqqani's a traitor"
"We need a saviour!"

These actor-cum-journalists try to pose themselves as if they are some great intellectuals who should be respectfully heard. Their distorted chatter in at par with the chattering at any local bus stops. They have no respect for alternate opinions and ruthlessly interject anyone speaking against the general media propaganda. For example, Ansar Abbasi posed himself as an Islamic Ghazi in Hamid Mir's program in an effort to nullify Dr. Hoodbhoy's logical claims. A similar case occurred when Asma Jahengir was on line in a talk show while Haroon-ur-rasheed constantly interrupted her.

The question is, why does the nation listen to such clowns? This is a wrongfully constructed question. It assumes as if the nation listens to few independent observations and then arrives at a decision through a personal dialectical process. The media propaganda process is never an individual thought process. The nation hears the general media perception times after times, which then became a subtle opinion in their minds. In prime-time programs (7 pm-10 pm), many actors solidify the agenda of the day. They use poignant speeches, rhythmic poetry, flaring eyes, beatific rhetoric, some pieces of Islamic history, sometimes they even cry out, and so on. It is such a master piece of drama that it mesmerises everyone. 

The process of deciding the propaganda topic of the days is still an abstruse process. No one really knows how the system works. We don't have a book like Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent for Pakistan. I hope one day, some Pakistani intellectual will try to demystify this propaganda mechanism is Pakistan. Despite that, we can still understand the outline of this media propaganda mechanism through everyday news articles.

Consider the Hussain Haqqani case.

The media projected Mr. Haqqani as a traitor. Aforementioned Journalist (or TV clowns) used every tactic they had to pursue this 'holy' goal. The story of tagging the ex-Ambassador as a traitor doesn't start with the memo myth; rather it goes back to the issue of the Karry-Lugar bill.

Pakistan army was agonized when two US senators subjected US aid to Pakistan to some internal congressional conditions. This included a check as to where the American money is being spent by the army. The bill also insured a future of sustainable democracy in Pakistan. The army was in no mood to accept such 'democratic' conditions, which triggered the media propaganda mechanism.  The army loathed Hussain Haqqani whom they accused was responsible for passing this bill. Working on the dictates of their masters, the paid journalists took on the goal of defaming the Pakistani ambassador.

With all their rhetoric, the defamation campaign again Mr. Haqqani was a failure. The army failed to defame Mr. Haqqani. This agony of losing against a civilian was what triggered the memo myth. This time these extremist journalists were supported by cricketers and politicians. More anti-Haqqani rhetoric was on-air. Baseless sentences were written by columnists in news papers. With the naturally backing by the armed force, the media propaganda mechanism was at its peak. The judiciary was also subdued. This time the manufactured consent was more powerful and more absorbent in the general sub-consciousness. Haqqani has no chance to win, and thus an unarmed civilian lost the battle.

In the Memo myth, one visible fact is the synchronization of army's opinion with the media's opinion. The media propaganda mechanism always tries to increase confusion in the general public, while completely harmonizing the media-army relationship. 

"Conflict" is the catchword for any great drama, and the news media knows how to keep conflicts alive. The net beneficiary of this conflict is always the armed forces and media groups; always belittling politicians and civilians.

This propaganda mechanism theory is applicable in many cases, for example, media propaganda regarding Asma Jahangeer and Prime Minister Gillani. Moreover, the mechanism applauds all actors who are speaking with the same tongue as the military elite of Pakistan, for example, Imran Khan and Right-wing Islamist extremists.

The propaganda mechanism described above is not quite clear yet. More scholarship and research is required to decipher the internal working of this system.

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