Different shades of opinion in the media

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 02.03.16

With an increase in the number of electronic media houses, the TV channels have been
facing a two-pronged challenge: how to attract more viewers to watch a program and how to
keep the viewers glued to the screen. This challenge is shifted onto the shoulders of the
anchors and the analysts that are always attached to the anchors, who try to grab the
viewers’ attention through different shades of opinion.

One shade of opinion revolves around casting scathing criticism about everything
happening in the country. Self-serving arguments are constructed with the claim to have a
lasting impact but these arguments dissipate after a short period of time. Pessimistic and
dismissive writers and analysts of this variety are to be found in all newspapers and TV
channels. Examples from other countries are given to prove the failure of Pakistan without
understanding that each country is bound by its own peculiar circumstances of geography,
history and culture. The new trend in this shade of opinion is that a note book is held to the
chest to read out statistics to prove the failure of any sitting government. The strength of
the speaker lies in negativity. This kind of opinion maker symbolises cynicism and tries his
best to prove that nothing positive is happening around.

The second shade of opinion banks on the medieval age. A popular columnist representing
this shade of opinion often quotes various incidents from the Islamic medieval age (for
instance, from the life and work of Caliph Haroon ur Rasheed and the interaction of the
Muslims with the Europeans) that he claims can be replicated in this age. Interestingly, most
of these narrated events are not found in authentic history books. Instead, these events
are mostly known to that writer only. Even if they were found, they would be demanding an
interpretation different from the one made by the writer/speaker. The strength of this shade
of opinion lies not in the veracity of narration and the objectivity of interpretation but in not
being negated or challenged by viewers. The mere absence of an opposing voice is
considered the truth of a given narration and interpretation. The story does not rest here.
This shade of opinion also eulogises the deeds of Arab Muslim commanders and incites the
current army generals to repeat the same. The Pakistan army is duped into believing that it
is the army of the medieval Islamic age and could achieve similar conquests. This shade of
opinion is a great promoter of the concept of a Sipah Silar (commander-in-chief) but at a
position superior to an elected prime minister. In continuation of the same thought, this
shade of opinion affects students when such speakers are invited to address young pliable
minds about the “forgotten history” of the Muslims. The minds of the youth are turned
against democracy and in favour of military intervention. Moreover, this school of thought
interprets the history of Pakistan in its unique way and promotes conspiracy theories.

The third shade of opinion is about promoting the idea of an approaching Day of
Judgement. When the graph of popularity of a particular anchor dips or any event of minor
importance takes place in the Middle East, these types get into action. The viewers are
roused with a comparative analysis made to project the strengths and weaknesses of
prophecies made in different religions in different eras about the end of the world. The
history of events leading to the day of judgement is traced and an effort is made to fit any
current event into the narration as if a given event would lead to the end of the world. The
strength of the speaker lies in instilling a kind of fear in the hearts of the viewers so that
they kept on listening to the mysteries being unfold on the screen. This shade of opinion is
also a strong believer in conspiracy theories and feels no qualm in promoting them.

The fourth shade of opinion sprouts from its ability to narrate imaginative stories and
drawing moral conclusions from them to put society on the right path. This shade of opinion
is characterised by authors that seem like writers of children’s books. Analysis is hardly
found. Rather, more emphasis is put on creating suspense and then unfolding the
suspense with a moral lesson that there was a king and his kingdom in which such and
such events took place because of such and such moral reasons. The strength of this
shade of opinion lies in creating a story context and drawing moral lessons which are
otherwise mostly found incongruent with the present scientific age.

The electronic media has been encouraging these shades of opinion to attract the viewers
so that commercial companies advertise their products in the breaks (and before and after
TV talk shows) and consequently both the companies and the media outlets earn money.
The question is this: what ideals are the TV talk shows trying to construct in our society
through these discussions that are full of cynicism, biases and derision? Similarly, what is
the sense in conducting the Operation Zarb-e-Azb when these shades of opinion are out to
pollute young minds with unrealistic dreams, contrived realities, erroneous interpretations,
fake incidents of history, and imaginary stories of occurrence? Does anyone realize the
need of the scientific age the world is passing through and dragging Pakistan along?

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