culture, current affairs

Infotainment

A few days ago I was reading a book review in which a phenomenon that existed in the American society back in the 80’s was being discussed. The author of the book, Neil Postman, portrays the impact on a society when media begins to emphasize on entertainment rather than information. He affirmed that people and societies are easily manipulated and subsequently convinced to lose their rights to totalitarianism. The author goes on to theorize that the media’s emphasis on entertainment at the cost of providing actual information to the masses is a silent mechanism of diverting the society from reality. The extent to which ‘infotainment’, how certain scholars have categorized such media, is effective can sometimes go beyond one’s imagination.

While reading the review of ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ I couldn’t help but notice the existence of infotainment in our society. With examples like Veena Malik’s appearance in an Indian reality TV show flashing on our TV screens’s as a threat to the Pakistani culture and Islam, I guess we are indeed amusing ourselves to death..

The furor created by our ‘very bold’ journalists/TV show anchors about people’s diatribe against Fashion Week and how every single ant in the government body is corrupted has become a source of entertainment for us. Admit it, however depressing it may rationally be, watching stuff like this on live TV is amusing us to death..

Proud of having a politically free media & unbiased journalism? I ask, where are the benefits of having such freedom if the media, at all, was responsibly playing its role.

Last week I was sad enough to watch a talk show where Veena Malik had been summoned for her ‘unislamic’ behavior and for violating the cultural norms of our utopian society. Her depicted relationship with a hindu man on a mindless, inane Indian show aroused a frenzy amongst TV anchors/columnists/members of the clergy. Throughout the show the actress was lambasted for her mode of dressing and her sense of irresponsibility in upholding cultural values across the border. I, not being a Veena Malik fan myself, condemn the clips from the show that were aired on our TV show but I am forced to question our media when I must witness conflicting opinions. On one hand, you guys are doing an hour long show to inform your viewers about how destructive Indian programs are & on the other hand, airing obnoxious clips from the evil Indian program doesn’t seem to pose any threat or harm to your people in anyway?

One is free to wonder that all these fingers pointing towards an actress for behaving in a certain way in one TV show, were also free to avoid following the antics by simply switching the channel? The only reason I see for such baseless debates about ‘islam ki hifaazat’, ‘behayaee’, ‘ghairat’ is the desire to attract viewership. Like I said, I am not a supporter of Veena Malik, but I was enthralled at how she managed to leave Mufti Saheb tongue tied.

I can’t decide what the reason is behind such innate hypocrisy. I read an article by Mohsin Hamid once (‘Confronting Hypocrisy’), where he talks about the serious implications of this persisting hypocrisy. It surely reflects on why some of our most pressing problems have been pushed into the back while our media and viewers continue to stay obsessed with irrelevant, dramatic stories such as the Veena Malik affair.

I certainly appreciate the kind of ‘cultural/religious correctness’ that is being disseminated by our media but in its attempt to produce anchor after anchor who pose in a typically animated fashion only to dramatize non-issues, the media has swiftly drifted away from what the public should really be listening to.

The kind of hype which was created in the Veena Malik interview, partially because of the derisively unprofessional news anchor, who did not even have the courtesy to address a woman let alone interview one on a TV show, and partially because of the cleric who confidently denounced Veena Malik and yet kept calling her his sister, is seldom seen when real issues are brought to the table. I wonder if our Mufti saheb’s eyebrows raise when numerous Pakistani men cavort with Indian/Hindu women.

There was a story a short while ago about a young woman who was lured away from a hospital in Lahore to see a member of the clergy who, as she was assured, was going to cure her ill husband. Instead, the woman was tied up in a forest in Punjab and auctioned to the highest bidder who would earn the right to rape her for weeks until she was ready for being ‘re-sold’.  One advantage of the floods sweeping across the area was that this woman was able to escape the torture that she was subjected to.

I never saw any TV show about this lady. Perhaps her tormenting tale left everyone unmoved. Perhaps what was done with her is not as much a threat to Islam as compared to Veena Malik cuddling in a blanket with some Indian guy. Perhaps what happens at home comes after what’s going on across the border. Perhaps stories like the one I mentioned or about a 9 year old Christian girl being raped by a Muslim or infants being murdered because they are either illegitimate or are a financial burden do not provoke any moral or ‘un-Islamic’ outrage from our sensible men who host TV shows or happen to be Muftis.  It is impossible not to notice how our own hypocritical and bigoted nature is tearing apart the religious and ethical fabric of our society and yet the equilibrium of very few seems to be disturbed.

When I read reports about how many women are subjected to sexual assault, how many children are murdered day in and day out, how many men are forced to indulge in street crimes only to be able to put bread before their families; I don’t understand why stories like Veena Malik’s affair should concern anyone but herself.  It is heart wrenching that we have been reduced to this and I hope that infotainment can soon be eliminated from our society.

P.s on a lighter note, here’s an epic video (courtesy: a good friend who takes pictures of people wearing red shoes :P) & Ms. Veena Malik: I’m not a fan but for that interview you gave – respect!