I love Ellen DeGeneres! An artiste par excellence, recipient of the Mark Twain award for humor and most importantly a compassionate humanist, also; Ellen is gay! I think twice before openly writing this term – fearfully anticipating indignation from all quarters of society starting with those closest to me. Being a traditionally (as opposed to conservatively) raised Pakistani woman belonging to a community with strict norms and taboos, I falter in hesitation, contemplating… considering over and over again whether to actually ink all that I ponder and wonder about.
Over the past couple of days, my Facebook pages has been littered with some of the most stomach churning and vitriolic videos ever uploaded on the world wide web – well I may be stretching it a bit, however this is not to say that the videos in question are not mind numbingly disturbing. I realize I am somewhat of a traditionalist for I do not understand homosexuality. That said, I don’t have any problems with it either. I do most vehemently believe in the phrase ‘To each his own!’
A few of days ago, I came across an indignant rant by some friends (fellow journalists) on their respective Facebook page and decided to see what the hullabaloo was all about. I clicked on a link and landed on a page lambasting a recent show aired on a relatively new Pakistani channel Abb Tak. With elements which bested even the long forgotten Jerry Springer Show, the program sees anchor-woman/journalist with a party of men barging in a decrepit apartment, reeking desolation and despair. Shoving camera and a microphone on what appears to be a couple – a man and a transvestite –the journo arrogantly starts questioning them. The man seems dazed but the transvestite calmly answers back. Looking at the video, it was a surprise that these so called enlightened media personalities seemed crass and crude compared to those who were ‘caught in the act’.
Is this really what journalism is all about? Can we not discern where the real corruption lies? The more worrying problem is that instead of raising voice on real issues, our wise members of society as well as media are condescending and determined to weed out the so-called social vice; ironically with complete disregard to invasion of privacy, trespassing private property, making fun of a life visibly dismal and forsaken. Take one look at the daily morning shows and what have you. The cringe-worthy shows with overtly zealous hosts, dancing and prancing around on Live TV – in the name of modernity.. Is that what being a liberal entails? With so much emphasis on set designs, clothes and yes the make-up, there is no attention to detail in terms of real content and subject matter; making the shows hollow and meaningless.
I suppose that is the game plan – to keep the masses occupied with all that is mediocre, mundane and dreary. A dollop of controversy and a weak scapegoat are the best ingredients to occupy and ‘control the public mind’.
Noam Chomsky had written once: “”You don’t have any other society where the educated classes are so effectively indoctrinated and controlled by a subtle propaganda system – a private system including media, intellectual opinion forming magazines and the participation of the most highly educated sections of the population. Such people ought to be referred to as “Commissars” – for that is what their essential function is – to set up and maintain a system of doctrines and beliefs which will undermine independent thought and prevent a proper understanding and analysis of national and global institutions, issues, and policies.”
And then we go to another extreme! Case in point is Pakistan Idol. An avid fan of American Idol, I have been watching the show since first season. From the likes Paula Abdul to Keith Urban, J Lo to Simon Cowell – these celebrities have kept us glued to the seat in anticipation and delight. It is true that at times Simon, during his stint, had been more than just crude. But in essence, he had always been true to one thing and that is Music. Noteworthy is that fact that on a number of occasions even his fellow judges protested about his inappropriate remarks.
Looking at Pakistan Idol, not only was I infuriated at the pompous act of a ‘has been’ – whose laurels rest on being part of a band with the talented guitarist Salman Ahmad as member. Having an ego bigger than his head, the vain singer has no qualms about making fun of eager hopefuls trying their luck in a crises-ridden country. What are you trying to prove Mr. Azmat? You can spew hatred and contempt about ex-band members without rhyme or reason; like a washed-out bitter B-movie actress looking for a bit of melodrama in interviews, but one thing you just cannot do is ridicule starry-eyed aspirants in search for a lucky break based on TALENT.
And what can one say about the other judges on the show. Can they not react to Mr. Azmat’s antics? A veteran artiste in her own right, Bushra Ansari demurely acquiesces to Ali Azmat’s nauseating exclamations – really… They are nauseating! And of course Hadiqa Kiyani follows suit. The show progresses like a putrid vomit, regurgitating again and again and again… because tragically the show has to go on.
Such tacky, obnoxiously vulgar display of pomposity only goes on to conclude that for Pakistani media on the whole, the future most certainly seems very bleak. Indeed a little bit of sensationalism doesn’t hurt but one needs to set standards rather than lowering them. Instead of aiming for something high, Pakistan Idol is bent on setting a new low.
On the other end of the spectrum, it is the duty of show hosts/anchors/journos to report news neutrally because that is what they have actually set out to accomplish – unbiased dissemination of information. Tabloid show hosts like Jerry Springer presented some of the most vile issues and topics, but if you had watched it closely, you could see that there was a lesson to be learnt. And again one has to be reminded that such shows are after all tabloid in essence as opposed to news oriented programs. Investigative reporting is about bringing to light issues afflicting the society; it is most certainly not about harassing those who are weak .
The only thing that remains to be seen is how low can we really go… as I fear that this is not really the end of the line…