Western Media’s War on Pakistan

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Moeed Pirzada | Pakistan Herald |

While most Pakistanis complain of a media blitz against their country and society few have given serious thought to what this means in the longer term.It may be time to realize that in the evolving information and disinformation driven global order many small and developing states can virtually disappear if they fail to understand and control the way in which they are projected.Political science is not an exact science experts can always disagree and outcomes may vary.But it is important to develop an overall paradigm to understand what is happening.Theoretically speaking even if media targeted states manage to preserve their geographical forms they might still have to put up with so much external and internal pressure that their sovereignty is effectively eroded.

Iraq may not be a good example as it was physically attacked but at the same time it is important to remember that it was stripped of its legitimacy to “self rule” through a sustained media led disinformation campaign.Ironically the way in which events are unfolding Iraq might not be able to survive as one national unit for very long.Similarly the dehumanization of the Taliban had been going on for quite some time before the tragic events of 9/11.The terrorist attacks acted as an immediate catalyst but the Taliban who were out of sync with reality had forfeited their right to survival a long time ago.It may be relevant to raise the question If Pakistan is a “media targeted” state then what are the implications?

It should not be very difficult to appreciate why “media targeted states” might collapse or lose control of their destinies.Two things are important One in an increasingly integrated global village the concept of “national sovereignty” dating back to the Treaty of Westphalia has lost much of its relevance.What happens inside the jurisdiction of a so called sovereign state is of equal concern to many others outside its borders especially those with global interests.Second owing to the increasingly integrated and unipolar nature of the world the US led cross Atlantic states and their domestic institutions have assumed the role of “international regulators”.

This piece is not a debate on the morality of whether such “regulators” should exist.It is about the implications of this development.The power exercised by the media inside these societies is a direct outcome of this perceived need for “global regulation”.By providing platforms for various dominant stakeholders the media has assumed the role of custodian of collective interest.The destiny of small or developing states has thus become a question of how legitimate or useful they are in furthering or safeguarding the interests of key players inside these cross Atlantic societies.Small or weak states that fail to earn legitimacy within this functional model are up for “restructuring” which may take many forms.Creative destruction by war is only one of the options and is not applicable in Pakistan’s case.

In this “information disinformation” driven global order the strategic threat to small and developing states like Pakistan now lies in the build up of perceptions what reality may underlie the perceptions is of little consequence.Guns bombs bigger bombs and missiles can at best play a limited role in countering this strategic threat.Why? Because these tools provide a semblance of balance in regional situations and will be of little use when the legitimacy of a state its governing elite or key institutions is lost.If blue planet is an integral whole then “miscreants” with “genetic defects” need to be sorted out by the regulators of the planet.

The “miscreants” will not be identified and paraded by governments experts scholars and the academia but by the financial and managerial interests that control and influence major print and electronic media outlets.Individual writers columnists and correspondents however important they may appear on the face of it are of little consequence.Take a careful look at the stories related to Pakistan that appear on the pages and screens of major US publications and networks and you will be stunned by the level of contextual uniformity that characterize them.Individuality is either dead or has learnt to survive by making adjustments to the managerial vision that issues pay cheques flight and hotel bills and guarantees access influence and empowerment in the “marketplace” of ideas.

This pressure to maintain “contextual uniformity” vis a vis Pakistan also affects those academics and policy wonks in the West who may understand and see things differently but are unable to give expression to their understanding in a marketplace where all ideas have to fit in a skeletal arrangement.Most interesting however is the case of a few columnists politicos in exile and other public figures of Pakistani origin whose voices in print and the electronic media have increasingly become indistinguishable from those of Western media managers and political interests.I leave this question to the readers.It is the power of this “contextual stranglehold” that to literate and aware persons living anywhere in the western hemisphere and reading their morning paper and watching television has made Pakistan appear today as the epitome of global evil and chaos.

It is a place like Afghanistan Iraq or Haiti a country and society that threatens not only regional peace by causing waves of instability to reach India and Central Asia but the entire international order by brandishing nuclear weapons in the midst of a confused polity controlled by anti Western zealots.The government’s own admission in the recent nuclear proliferation controversy however wise under the circumstances has ironically confirmed those allegations that “rogue” elements may run amok in the system.Recently Pakistan’s former minister for information Mr Javed Jabbar contributed a piece to this newspaper titled “Facing a media world war”.

That analytical piece was within the limitations of a newspaper article a “tour de force” on the subject and is a must read for all those who profess a serious interest in media challenges faced by Pakistan.Mr Jabbar provides a brilliant and comprehensive summation of the causes origins and the strategic vulnerabilities and dilemmas the country now faces in this area.However owing to space limitations he has not been able to deal with the strategic responses the Pakistani state can offer.This is not going to be an easy task either.No one person or institution however much of a visionary can come up with a comprehensive response.This will need the meeting of select minds from various disciplines and fields that are able to understand this challenge from different perspectives.But the first and foremost thing will be to recognize the existence and nature of the threat.The strategic vulnerability Pakistan now faces in this media war is so serious that it should be without exaggeration compared to the threat to its survival that the country faced on the eve of India’s first nuclear test in 1974.

The single most important contribution at this stage would be to develop a blueprint for a “School of Modern Media Sciences” in other words an independent media university located preferably in Karachi.This entity of international standards should be planned in such a way that it can nurture a multidisciplinary multi lingual talent pool needed for Pakistan’s growing print and electronic media.This project may also help in establishing standards of education and training for the rest of the country.It is obvious that much thinking is needed in this direction and not necessarily in the form of newspaper articles.However it is high time that Pakistanis realized that they need to find ways and means to break the “contextual stranglehold” of “information disinformation” around Pakistan before it is too late.

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