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An era of misinformation – by Dr Manzur Ejaz

The combination of religious extremism and unbridled capitalism became very lethal in Pakistan. Every sector, including the media, produced a new class of rich people all spewing a demented worldview

Whenever something critical is written about religious extremism, jihadis, the Taliban or the Pakistan military, it is considered the magic of American dollars. Perhaps some confused misguided individuals genuinely believe that most of the $ 1.5 billion of US aid is being deposited in the bank accounts of a few liberal and enlightened columnists. The fact of the matter is that one or two English dailies that publish such material are always in financial trouble, unable to pay the wages and compensation to workers and writers. On the contrary, most of the media outlets are owned and run by the most conservative tycoons who generously compensate the pro-jihadi and pro-military columnists, talk-show hosts and their handlers.

It is very easy to find out who has benefitted from the explosion of the media as an industry. Count the number of shows and their hosts who are preachers of Islamisation, and who are always finding a Yahood-o-Hunood (Jewish and Hindu) conspiracy for everything that goes wrong in Pakistan. Most of the media men getting salaries in millions per month will fall into this category. The fortunes of these right-wing media persons are just like Hollywood-Bollywood top stars. The only difference is that the largest film industries’ rags to riches stories are related to an independent entertainment industry while said Pakistani media persons are pushing the corporate media’s fuzzy thinking and disinformation endorsed by the military, its agencies and mentally challenged emerging ruling classes.

Besides other things, Islamisation and jihad-preaching has become a huge industry involving millions of stakeholders. Writing jihad-preaching textbooks for millions of students for the government/privately-run educational system (from kindergarten to university level) to printing and publishing them is a mammoth industry. Unlike most other countries that prepare the students for improving the production of the economic sector, Pakistan’s education is geared towards producing jihadi producers and consumers. Once the jihad-fed generation of producers (media men) and consumers (readers and viewers) came of age, the stage was set for an unprecedented age of misinformation in Pakistan.

The overwhelming ethos of religious self-righteousness was accompanied by infinite greed, corruption, lack of work ethics and professionalism. In the British ‘pagan’ era, all such socio-economic ills were minimal. Unleashing of Darwinian capitalism on the international level by the Reagan-Thatcher era also confounded the problem. The combination of religious extremism and unbridled capitalism became very lethal in Pakistan. Every sector, including the media, produced a new class of rich people all spewing a demented worldview. Religious extremism, jihad, political anarchy, and the collapsing of different state institutions have immensely benefited the new rich: their simultaneous rise has to have some interlocking dynamics. One obvious link is the abandonment of any sense of equity, where the gains of economic development have been usurped by the top five or ten percent, including the media persons.

In Pakistan, jihadi Islam has been a big business after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Billions of dollars, pumped in by the US, Europe and the Middle Eastern monarchies have changed hands. Pakistan’s military and its agencies were the main channels to distribute jihadi money among the mullahs, politicians and media outlets. Further, since the state was run by the military and its agencies, they were the only ones who had key information that can make or break the media outlets, pen-pushers, and tongue-twisters.

No bigwig media warrior could survive or sustain without having deeper links in the ‘agencies’ because these military outfits were the only ones who had the know-how, manpower, finances and coercive authority to collect information about everyone, particularly the politicians and other state operators. The secret agencies were holding the purse and the information to create media jihadi warriors and eliminate the few who would try to deviate from the ‘path.’ Umar Cheema and Saleem Shahzad’s cases are the latest in a series of murders and disappearances of ‘wanderers of truth’, particularly if they happened to be from smaller nationalities or minority ethnic groups.

The parameters of media control have never changed even after the American departure from Afghanistan by the end of the 80s and re-entry after 2001. In the interval of the US’s absence, the Middle Eastern monarchies have been supplying the funds. Nonetheless, the funds coming in from all these channels have been disbursed by the same old agencies to the same old beneficiaries. A few poor liberal enlightened media men are not the ones upon whom dollars shine. The greenback is still blessing the same old jihadi crowd, nowadays called the ‘ghairat’ (honour) brigade.

With the expansion of the jihad market, the media has gained its own clout and the US is more interested in buying out the most anti-America media outlets, pen-pushers and tongue-twisters. Some were bought in broad daylight and many of us know about it. Now media tycoons have accumulated huge sums of profit and the US may not be the only source of outrageous (given Pakistani median income) compensation. Just read daily ‘khutbas’ (sermons) in the most popular newspapers and listen to the talk shows and decide yourself. Other than jihadi fuzzy-thinking, what else are these media groups selling to the market? Short answer: nothing!

Courtesy: → WICHAAR.COM