Media is broadly known as a mean to educate the masses. Governments in every country usher in a “new era of the media freedom” to let the people “know” what is happening in the “world” and to “educate” them on various issues.
The same has been happening in Pakistan for the past couple of years. So important is the media for a government that it has been dubbed as the fourth pillar of the state.
“A democratic society is the one in which the public has the means to participate in some meaningful way in the management of their own affairs and the means of information are open and free,” Noam Chomsky defines democratic society in one of his essays.
He calls this the text definition of democracy. Getting practical, he defines the democratic society as, “Public must be barred from managing of their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled.”
Media has never been and will never be a mean to educate the general public. It is a mere tool in the hand of any government- whether democratic or dictatorship – for the state propaganda.
Look at the recent sugar crisis in Pakistan. If the government in Islamabad wanted to wean the people from sugar, it could have done easily with a campaign on the PTV, which has the largest viewership in the country, but it has not done so.
Only ARY channel is running a sugar boycott campaign, but the channel lacks official patronage – whether Pakistani or foreign - which is key to any successful campaign. A good example of foreign patronage is when a private television launched a campaign to mould the public opinion on the Women’s Protection Bill.
The state propaganda, when supported by the educated class, can have a big affect. It is the educated class – read middle class (financially or intellectually) - which gets more affected with the media campaigns. People who have gone beyond this intellectual middle class rarely heed the media harping because they know what the agenda is and who the benefactor of the campaign is.
If the media had been true to its aims (read educating the masses), the world of the today could have been a lot better.
The society at large is more guided by impulse and emotion than logic. The key to any successful media campaign is segregating a certain group of population from the other on some emotional impulse. That’s what Ziaul Haq did when he wanted to mould the public opinion in his favour. He asked them if they wanted Islam in the country they should support him in referendum. Only and idiot would have said no to such an option in a country which was turning into fanaticism. That’s how segregation is done.
People are forced to believe that they are a part of the government as it is seeking their opinion on some ‘crucial’ issue. What the naïve people cannot understand is the fact that media managers have favourable results of any media campaign before it even starts.
Chomsky says, “The media is all about engineering of consent [and] propaganda is to democracy what a bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”
We had lost the 1965 war on many fronts but the one, which was the public front. One Radio Pakistan, one Noor Jehan and one Sufi Tabbassum, who wrote Aai puttar hattan te nahin vikday, had won that front. People witnessed in 1965 war how the masses gave their rationed food to our troops.
What stops these endless private television channels from making the people own the sacrifices of our troops in the war on terror?