Censorship tactics and the ‘unity of liberals’ – by Alamdar Mengal

 LUBP editors, writers and supporters are often harassed and falsely accused for engaging in personal attacks, abuse, ISI-tagging and using pen names. Such accusations are also hurled at other bloggers and writers who take a bold, anti-establishment stance (e.g. our friends working for Hazara, Ahmadi, Pashtun and Baloch rights). Here is our response:

1. Labelling journalists as pro-ISI/ISI-friendly and hence “defaming them”: At LUBP many of our writers and contributors have taken an uncompromising anti-establishment stance. In Pakistan, the military establishment and its civilian bureaucrat, media, judiciary, theocrat and politician proxies form the establishment. This is an inter-connected special interest group which benefits from the multi-trillion dollar financial empire at the center of which is the Pakistan military and its Jihadist auxiliaries.

In order to perpetuate their stranglehold over Pakistan, the establishment has manufactured and disseminated a litany of false narratives which we consider important to counter. Therefore when deconstructing pro-establishment narratives we have been blunt and called out those who have direct and/or indirect ties to the establishment and whose discourse reinforces and recycles the establishment’s narratives. An example would be the dishonest tactic of blaming politicians with roots in the masses (PPP, PML-N, ANP, PKMAP) for the ills and blunders of the military establishment.

When we call out some as being pro-ISI , we are associating them with the power structure; this would be analogous of pointing out that someone is part of the Gestapo/SS during Nazi Germany. It is equating these individuals with the power structure. This does not constitute defamation as it does not hurt their material interests; if anything, it probably enhances it.

2. Being abusive and personal: Often times, LUBP has taken the lead in highlighting crucial issues and taking a stand. For example, we never shed away from boldly and publicly supporting anti-establishment writers and activists whenever it was important to take a stand, e.g., when Kamran Shafi, one of the boldest, most accomplished columnists was attacked by the Deep State’s goons in Wah Cantt, or when Marvi Sirmed was harassed by the Zaid Hamid mafia. Similarly, we have pointed out the anti-Baloch and anti-Shia biases in Ejaz Haider and his shameless apologia for Taliban and Al-Qaeda affiliated militant groups like LeJ.

Every time we take a stand or do not obfuscate the glaringly obvious reality of extremism and its main sponsors and apologists, the line of defense has always been to dismiss and straw man our arguments as “personal attacks” and “abuse”. This petty tactic actually harms the cause of those who come out to defend the indefensible as they clearly lack any counter arguments and thus throw around these terms hoping that it would silence, dampen and censor bold critiques. It actually does the opposite and highlights that there are no valid counter arguments. Interestingly, those who accuse us and others of such tactics have double standards that never cease to amaze:

Here are some examples of those who have accused us of being “abusive” and “personal”:

beenasarwar beena sarwar
Folks attacking HRCP are only playing into the hands of those creating divisions among progressive-minded Pakistanis. Liberal fascists = hide behind anonymous ids, have progressive pretensions, attack others who have moderate views.

Ejaz Haider
And now, ladies and gentlemen, I am a Lashkar-e Jhangvi sympathiser! Beavis and Butthead be praised! Here goes: Since its publishing, the Deobandi Shia and other assorted internet detritus have gone to the extent of saying that I am ordering a hit on the besieged Hazara community by altering perceptions. Some have created mirth through the reference to the cake! Others have left lowly abusive comments on my public Facebook page. …In most cases, anonymity, distance and 140-characters have created internet warriors who would not have survived the era of chivalry when men with chests (to reverse Fukuyama’s phrase) settled an insult with duelling. http://tribune.com.pk/story/227605/now-this-takes-the-1-lb-cake/

TheseLongWars TLW
Wow, kutti @…. gone.Glad to see her gone, but a twinge of aww maybe cause I fought her off so many times & she came back for more abuse. Sparks will fly gentlemen and ladies, watch out for @…. #BitchBeBackSoon

AliDayan
Call Microsoft, get in touch with Twitter, rumor has it the ISI has unleashed the @…. virus. It kills all human rights activists. The @… virus originates in US and targets & kills human rights activists in Pak (emphasis on virus being the abuse; being ISI, as explained here, is not abusive, simply an equation of power)

Urooj Zia (@UroojZia)
Posted Sunday 21st August 2011 from Seesmic
@shehrbanotaseer Oh? The LUBP had seemed “credible” enough to you lot when they’d been making personal attacks against me. @AamnaTaseer even RT them calling me a whore. Why the sudden opposition? Oh right, they’re assholes only when they come after YOU lot. Why should that make you hate them, though? They’re exactly like you lot: vile, lying, hypocritical fucks. Ek hee thhaali and all that jazz.

Often times, we have asked them to elaborate which parts of our article were “personal” and “abusive”. We have tasked those of us who have disagreed with our articles to write a counter. Similarly, for the last few months, we tasked those who criticize us on twitter to write standards that can be applied universally and retroactively. They have still not gotten back to us but continue to attempt to censor and undermine us without ever applying the standards to themselves or those who abuse us.

3. Anonymity: The latest weak tactic to counter LUBP is to attack its authors and supporters for using pen names. Since ancient Greece and Rome and up to present times (several pro-democracy activists in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain use pen names to evade persecution and murder by the ruling class), the use of pen names has been the strategy of those who write against the established order. It is the arguments that count and the refusal to address critiques and offer a counter by dismissing the critic as “anonymous” betrays a sad insecurity in one’s conviction in one’s own argument. It’s another weak tactic. However, it has now gone beyond abandoning one’s point of view. An active effort is being made to sneak out the information from those whose lack of credibility should alone question the veracity of this information.

Those who are making hectic efforts to pin others as LUBP writers could also have a nefarious agenda. By using discredited and weak information to expose the identity (in many cases falsely) of those who write anti-establishment articles, especially on human rights violations, could only have one objective. This would be to expose LUBP writers and their supporters to the same fate as that met by Saleem Shahzad (recently murdered by the ISI). We understand and appreciate that some prominent journalists work under severe constraints and cannot be as expressive about critical issues as LUBPians. In many instances, they have appreciated our efforts in private. Our issue is not with them. It is with those who support establishment journalists on Twitter and elsewhere and use ad hominems to attempt to silence and deflect our criticism. This does not reflect well on them; especially those who have earned their journalism and activist credentials on their anti-establishment stance in the past.

4. Dividing the “liberals”: Lately, a new theory has been floated to undermine LUBP which is that it is dividing and discrediting “liberals”. This is based on the comically presumptuous understanding that the liberals in Pakistan are confined to 30-40 odd twitter elites who light candles for selective causes. Many of them are actually liberals and people whose activism we support and respect. However, we beg to differ with them on both their understanding of who is and who is not a liberal as well as that dangerously faulty and elitist insecurity that Pakistan is a fundamentally illiberal society. Their theory that criticising those whom they consider as liberals would endanger their self-defined tribe, is laughable, if not pathetic.

Let us be very clear on one thing:

We cannot align ourselves with those who recycle the latest ISPR press release; no matter how expensive their suits, how fake their accents and how obtuse their reasoning. Those who deflect criticism from Ejaz Haider’s disgustingly insensitive portrayal of the Hazara genocide based on some tribal patriotism, or those who react abusively in response to critical analysis of HRCP’s and Amnesty’s meaningless statements on Shia Hazara massacre in Mastung, are in urgent need of self-reflection. When these seemingly well-meaning individuals then harass us to abandon our work to preserve their elitist notion of “liberal” unity, it is hugely disappointing to us.

In Pakistan, the urban elite understanding of liberalism is shallow to say the least and in some cases, those enjoying a lifestyle are mistaken as liberal. Liberalism, as understood by them, has nothing to do with tolerating and accepting dissenting points of view and promoting a progressive society. In Pakistan, liberals are country club tribe that jealously guard membership rights. Their tribal reactions to criticism is an indictment that the Tweeple brigade places greater stress on camaraderie than a progressive and evolving understanding of complex phenomena. They present liberals as an endangered species, which indeed fake liberals are, ignoring the millions of politically aware genuine liberal Pakistanis who consistently vote for moderate, progressive political parties while rejecting the right-wing and fake liberal proxies of the military establishment.

When LUBP was critical of Ejaz Haider’s insensitive and pathetic misrepresentation of the Hazara genocide, those who were promoting and distributing his article attacked our criticism with the typical and inapplicable “personal attack” and “abusive”; the irony of Ejaz’s expletive-laden tirade against the elected president of Pakistan completely lost on them. We faced similar reaction by fake liberals when we challenged Cyril Almeida’s lies and misrepresentations on Baloch genocide by the Deep State. If our deconstructions and exposure of pseudo liberals is causing divisiveness, then those who parade as liberal really need to revaluate their positions. How about accepting criticism and growing further.

This happened fairly recently when George Fulton acknowledged his mistake in the comments section of our blog. In our estimation, his stature did not diminish one bit. Quite the contrary actually, given his past body of good work and his candid and blunt response.

Eversince LUBP and other blogs became critical of the English speaking elite who (falsely) define Pakistan to the rest of the world in order to further the financial interests of the various NGOs run by them, censorship tactics  have increased in number and intensity.  The “unity of liberals” is simply a cover for protecting the financial turfs of those who build their reputations on shallow and non-textual discourses.

In spite of consistent efforts to quell its voice, LUBP has only grown. We will do our best to maintain our uncompromising stance on human rights and provide a platform for pro-politician and anti-establishment voices. Constructive and valid criticism is welcome and we will be glad to publish it. However, we will not back down to threats. Attempts to dilute our critiques of the mainstream media by meaningless deflections only make our arguments more valid.

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