Of the anchors, by the anchors, for the anchors – by Kamran Shafi

In addition to all that is wrong with our country we have umpteen TV channels and loud, oh so loud anchors, most talking the height of nonsense; with notable exceptions all of them rude and discourteous and impolite to their guests and about those they are discussing; almost all of them with holier than thou attitudes, finding fault with everyone but themselves; most of them not willing to hear a point of view contrary to their/their patrons’ own.

The messages that come out of the various talk-shows, or shall we call them slanging matches conducted at high decibels with the anchor shouting the loudest, are mostly rancorous, hate-filled, and invariably inflammatory. And, yes, conspiracy-theory laden. Every word is chosen to inflame passions and to incite the very worst reactions in people. More than anything else, the truth has the least to do with what is put out.

Take as an example the recent Raymond Davis saga in which this CIA operative shot two youths dead at a busy intersection in Lahore at the very height of the afternoon rush hour. The first I heard of this matter was when I switched on the television to catch the afternoon news, about half an hour after the shooting. Needless to say, and with good reason, the TV channels were going berserk with the news of a foreign national and that too an American, shooting two Pakistani men dead in broad daylight and then being caught by the traffic police as he tried to escape.

Soon, of course the situation began to clear as a major news channel, possibly the shrillest of them all, interviewed a young Lahori boy of about eighteen who was loitering near the place of incident at the time that the shootings took place. The boy said, verbatim: Motor-cycle sawaron nein pistol nikal keh goray ki  dakaity karne ki koshish ki to goray nein golian maar deen (“The two motorcyclists drew their pistols to rob the foreigner [using the near-pejorative term Gora, or Whitey] who shot them dead”). This boy was shown perhaps three or four more times and then disappeared off the face of the earth never to be seen or heard from again.

Indeed, within an hour of the news of the shooting two persons accused the two dead men of having robbed them of their mobile telephones earlier that same day. This too was broadcast on all the channels for a few times and like the eye-witness’s story was taken off the air. Indeed, a week or so after the shooting a story appeared in a major English language newspaper which belongs to the shrill channel referred to above, none other, telling us that when the two shot men were taken to hospital four mobile telephones were recovered from their belongings, two of them stolen, and some foreign currency. This story too was soon forgotten, not being picked up by any other news organisation. It seemed that the channels and the anchors were driving the agenda of the Establishment in a turf war with the Americans.

However this was a very sensitive matter: a foreign power’s agent going about shooting Pakistanis so brazenly; let us see how the channels and anchors behave when it comes to our own politicians. There are anchors whose preference for this or that political party, or loathing for another becomes apparent the moment they open their mouths. There is no stopping them when they get into their stride, sweeping all before them, the truth and objectivity too.

Why, one of the channels has been foretelling the imminent departure of the federal government for years now! It has even had the temerity to name the date and time that President Asif Zardari would be made to leave the Presidency!

Amid all of the noise there is never ever any mention of corruption and wrong-doing in the armed services (except for one programme on one channel about corruption in the Navy recently), particularly the largest of them, the Army. Indeed, a huge scam involving the sum of Rs. 4 Billion which was lost on the stock exchange by certain generals heading the NLC has never been the subject of a programme or talk show.

And so the show goes on, with us hapless people subject to a fare which the anchors determine according to their lights. I was an avid watcher of these talk shows, and used to never pass up an opportunity to be on one. No longer – I’d much rather read a book than subject my ears and eyes to the noise and the quite unappetising spectacle of a Pakistani talk-show with everyone shouting at one another, the anchor the loudest of all.




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