Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Senseless Sensationalism

You probably heard about the tragic incident in Russia a couple days back, over a 100people died after being trapped in a night club. Russia is in a state of mourning. The government, the people, the media, all are sharing this time of great agony, the country is weeping. There are about 15000 deaths caused by fire in Russia each year. However the staggering number of arson related deaths in Russia fails to dim this country’s strong reaction to this latest incident. The Russian media has stopped its regular broadcast and has devoted most of its programming to this tragic incident.

Now, by contrast, several hundred people have died in Pakistan in the last couple of months, as the Taliban militants have unleashed a massive series of bombings in various cities of Pakistan including Sawat, Peshawar, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Multan. It is impossible to obtain the actual death toll, as the number seems to rise with each passing day. The Taliban campaign is in response to the on-going military offensive in Sawat, North Waziristan and other areas.

The Pakistani media for the most part, however continues to go about its usual ways. Albeit the fact that recently, the Pakistani media outlets have replaced their usual self complementary ‘promos’ with patriotic messages which mourn the lives lost in these barbaric bombing. There is no trace of widespread condemnation of the religious extremism and their acts of terrorism on the general public.

The general programming still goes on unaffected, the soaps, the song and dance competitions, the music masti shows, continue on as though nothing has happened. We lose more and more people every day to terrorism, while the mainstream journalists unload their radical views on the backdrop of bloodied bodies. We lost 17 children in the attack last Friday which adds to the several hundred more who were killed in these senseless attacks. Have we lost the ability to feel?

What’s particularly disturbing is the international programming aired by the biggest media outlets in Pakistan. One of the largest T.V. channels in Pakistan recently started a campaign to host a ‘Peace Concert’, yes… you heard me right.. a peace concert… which is aimed to demonstrate national unity and denounce terrorism. This is disturbing on a lot of different levels. This peace concert is happening amongst mass killings. People are being killed mercilessly each day, and what’s the media’s response? A quick and greedy scheme to make a few extra bucks.

This show was supposed to be held in Pakistan as the earlier adverts suggested however now this peace concert will be held outside of Pakistan, in Dubai! It will feature 12 hours of non-stop music marathon in Dubai …. With the objective of bringing about peace in Pakistan!!! Wow! Who ever thought of that is a genius, how do we fight terrorism in Pakistan? We sing songs in a foreign country, while our fellow countrymen die on the streets! Shame on you.

What’s also interesting is how the political guru’s of Pakistan are analyzing the situation. Barring a handful of mainstream T.V. journalists, no one else seems to call out the Taliban and the other religious extremists for their ruthless acts of terror. Instead, the blame is on the Government, Pakistan Army and of course the United States.

The Taliban don’t even make the top 3 lists of factors responsible for this brutality. The media flunkey’s are often seen concluding in their assessments that it is the insincere and corrupt Government, the heavy handedness of the Army and the United States which is responsible for this Taliban whiplash, suggesting that the Taliban are actually just retaliating against the ‘establishment’ by killing innocent civilians.

The military frays are blamed as the reason for the amoral acts committed by the Taliban. So it’s actually the military’s fault for going after the terrorists, and thus the whiplash!

What kind of twisted minds would come to this conclusion and actually to accept it as a plausible course of action for the extremists to choose!?
There is also a barrage of conspiracy theories surrounding the recent surge in violence. The fatuous T.V. journalists (most of whom have no formal training in journalism or in media ethics) were no more than tabloid reports in their prior life. The Pakistani people on the other hand still helplessly continue to turn these reporters and analysts fueled by their faustian search for the truth, only to be fed conspiracy theories and more ridiculous and unsupported views than the next guy!
As the attacks on common Pakistanis by the Taliban are increasing with each passing day, so is the frequency of the exacerbated claims made by the main stream journalists.

It is extremely unpopular amongst the ranks of the journalists to berate the Taliban, they find other popular targets such as the Government, the military and the United States to explain the ‘rationale’ for these attacks.

The capricious nature of these attacks seems to have numbed the media, making it devoid of reason and to analyze.

While it’s futile to try and analyze the situation in a vacuum, it’s extremely critical for the media to do its job. The media helps form national consensus through factual reporting, not by presenting the Taliban and other militant elements as the ‘victims’ and flout at the country’s efforts to root out terrorism.

There is no question that the solution to the current problem needs to be political. However legitimizing terror and accepting it as an instrument of Taliban policy will take us to a point of no return.

Terrorism, beheadings, hangings, floggings are their values, not ours. We need to strengthen our resolve to protest, to show strength, to gather and speak-up and to speak-out. We need to stop them with our hands, with ours actions with our guns and with our pens. We will prevail.

There are a 160 million Pakistani’s and just a few thousand terrorists, do you really think they can continue to hold us hostage?

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