Conspiracy theories and hate speech in the media

Jun 29th, 2011 | By | Category: Conspiracy Theories, The Nation

The Nation logoIn The Nation this week, senior journalist and project consultant/editor at Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) Ghani Jafar approaches a worthwhile subject – media used for propaganda in Pakistan. But instead of a serious investigation of the issue, readers are spoon fed tired conspiracy theories and hate speech.

Allegedly an examination of American influence in media, Ghani Jafar’s piece quickly descends into transparently silly claims packaged in hate speech. Take for example his claim that the electronic media is becoming a puppet of American propaganda.

The onslaught has become so pervasive that, barring some honourable exceptions, the electronic media space of Pakistan is becoming their Master’s Voice. A la CNN and Fox News, they have employed half-literate, attractive young females to keep male viewers glued to the screens.

Where to begin? First, the idea that the electronic media is a mouthpiece for the US is so laughable that I cannot help but wonder if Jafar sahib actually owns a television. But then let us ourselves examine the evidence he gives for this claim – TV channels “have employed half-literate, attractive young females to keep male viewers glued to the screens”.

Ghani Jafar

What a proper journalist should look like?

 

The sexism of such a statement is beyond the pale and frankly shocking coming from such an esteemed journalist. Should the role of TV anchors be reserved for men only? And which of the female journalists does Jafar sahib believe are “half-literate”? Is he speaking of Ayesha Tammy Haq? Or Ayesha Siddiqa? Or does he mean Munizae Jahangir or Fareeha Adrees? Please tell which are the stupid women journalists you mean!

 

 

But Jafar’s hatred is not reserved for Pakistani women alone. He goes on to spit his venom at American journalists by terming a major American newspaper as a tool of “the powerful Jewish lobby”.

Talking of this mother of the US strategic communicators, I must confess being taken aback when a senior journalist in the New York Times editorial department had; in anticipation of my question regarding the daily’s linkage with the powerful Jewish lobby, for I was then visiting America (in 1991) as the Executive Editor of dear departed The Muslim in Islamabad; volunteered to confide that, yes, they did advance the cause of the Shylocks in the City of Gold.

Again, the writer offers no name for this New York Times editor who volunteered that the newspaper is a tool of Jewish hegemony leaving us to take Jafar’s word despite our own mind’s telling us that this conversation never really took place at all.

Neither is this the first time that hate speech has been featured prominently in mainstream media and neither is The Nation the only offender. Anjum Niaz infamously termed the same American newspaper as ‘Jew York Times’ in 2002 for a piece published by Dawn.

In both the instances of Anjum Niaz’s racist hate speech in Dawn and Ghani Jafar’s racist hate speech in The Nation, the question must be asked where were the editors when these pieces came across their desks? Were they sleeping on the job, or does this type of hate speech accurately reflect the beliefs of the media groups which own them?

After lashing out at the Jewish bogey, Ghani Jafar then proceeds to term Pakistani media as “terrorists” due to the response to the murder of fellow journalist Saleem Shahzad. According to Jafar sahib, “Fingers were instantly pointed at the ISI without the slightest clue as to who had picked him up, where, how – or other ‘unnecessary’ details.”

Actually, the ISI fell under suspicion after it was revealed that Saleem Shahzad had emailed Ali Dayan Hasan informing him that he was summoned to an ISI office.

Shahzad came under ISI scrutiny in October when he wrote in the Asia Times that Pakistan had freed a detained Afghan Taliban commander.

Within days, he was summoned to an ISI office, according to an email he sent to Ali Dayan Hasan, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. Intelligence officials pressured him to reveal his sources or retract the story. He refused.

At the end of the meeting, one of the intelligence officials issued what he took as a veiled threat. The official told Shahzad intelligence agents had recently arrested a terrorist who was carrying a hit list. The official then said he would tell Shahzad if his name was on the list.

This does not prove ISI complicity in Saleem Shahzad’s death, but it certainly provides “the slightest clue” that any investigative journalist worth his weight would be negligent to ignore. So why is Jafar sahib so quick to ignore it?

What is most curious about this bizarre rant in The Nation is that just a few weeks ago the same journalist wrote a long piece in Daily Times criticising Liaquat Ali Khan for “forcing both Islam and Urdu down the throats of his adoptive homeland of Pakistan”, Nurul Amin as “a wily, scheming and ruthless butcher”, and terms Gen Zia-ul-Haq as the biggest “compulsive liar”. Why is Ghani Jafar so offended by those who will question the establishment when he does the same in his next breath?

Jafar Sahib then goes on to claim that Osama bin Laden was innocent of the 9/11 attacks and that this was all an invention of CNN.

Anyway, going back to 9/11 and its scheme of things, President Bush had wasted little time after the establishment of the ‘fact’, by who else but the CNN, that the ‘terrorist’ happenings of the day were the handiwork of a little known network of Al-Qaeda, to announce the start of the global ‘crusade’ [his words] that now must be wrapped up because, among other things, Uncle Sam has gone broke.

Osama may well have been quick in condemning the 9/11 happpenings, but who was listening? Ten years later, America’s lackeys in Pakistan are not listening to anything that Uncle Sam may not like to hear.

But let us once again look at the facts. It was CNN that published the alleged statement of Osama bin Laden denying involvement only a few days after the attacks. When Osama bin Laden sent a video tape admitting responsibility, the statement was published by Al Jazeera. If Ghani Jafar performed even the minimum of research he would know these facts. Instead he has simply repeated transparently silly and easily debunked conspiracy theories.

It is both puzzling and unfortunate that Jafar stooped to this peddling of conspiracy theories and hate speech in what could have been an important and informative piece. Complaints about intelligence agencies using media for propaganda purposes have been bubbling under the surface for some time. None other than Ansar Abbasi has complained of this in his own writings that the military establishment is “feeding the media with distorted information”.

Additionally, Wikileaks cables have revealed that editors at Jang Group may even be aware of journalists taking payments from intelligence agencies but choose to look the other way.

10. We have protested directly to reporters, editors, and the Group Chief Executive and Editor in Chief Mir Shakil ur Rehman over the consistent inaccuracy of “Jang Group” reporting, as well as their refusal to apply the most basic standards of journalistic ethics, stating that we expect to be called about and to respond to any story any entity of the group is carrying about the Embassy or its activities, and even provided them with direct telephone numbers for the IO, the PAO, and the Ambassador. Despite these efforts, the “Jang Group” has not changed its practices.

11. All of this occurs under the eye of the Group Editor who has not exercised supervision or applied good journalistic practices when assigning and reviewing stories. When queried by Post’s IO he stated that they know that many of their reporters have political agendas, are paid by ISI, military intelligence, Jamaat-e-Islami, or other interests but that they prefer not to fire or reprimand these reporters.

If it is true that “the US has allocated $50 million” for buying media channels and journalists, why not conduct investigative research and provide facts that reveal which media channels and journalists are taking payments whether from US accounts or any other agency accounts? Does this not seem to be the sensible and rational reaction to such a claim? Instead, readers of The Nation are told this claim and then paragraph after paragraph following contains nothing on the subject.

Perhaps the most troubling of all, though, is that Ghani Jafar is referenced in his bio as “project consultant/editor at the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI)”. Does this article then reflect the quality of work being performed at ISSI? Let us hope that there has been some mistake, and that the conspiracy theories, hate speech, and lack of basic research were an accident that does not reflect the true nature of Ghani Jafar, The Nation, or ISSI.

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