Original Articles

Seeing is ‘not’ believing – by Nadeem Khan

I remember, long time ago when it was the realm of black and white TV set, we watched a movie, made in early 70s titled “The War of the Worlds” (based on a classic science fiction novel by H.G. Wells).

In the movie, it was the era of radio broadcast; TV technology was not that common. A particular radio channel in the UK, famous for its programs with a large audience in the whole country, broadcasted a real life type drama, that aliens from Mars have attacked the earth. The dialogues, noises, people screaming in panic, cars screeching, buildings demolishing, heavy sound tracks and even voices of alien machines were so real that in the movie it was shown, people listening the radio thought it a real attack by aliens on earth and wide spread panic engulfed the whole country. People started to vacate their homes for safe locations, traffic jams, malls got looted, people started killing each other and mass suicide was observed.

Police and Army was called in to control the hysterical frightening people and chaos engulfed the whole nation. At the end of the movie, after observing the consequences of a simple radio drama on the lives of ordinary people, the radio management announced, that it was just a fictional radio drama. But even then it took much time to settle the dust of mass horror that surrounded the nation. This movie clearly showed how much media, even the (primitive) radio medium, can influence lives of human beings.

A latest box office hit, Die Hard 4.0, in which a threat message from a hacker is received on US televisions, over riding all satellite communications, in which whole white house was shown blown up in air and people started panicking in the streets like on 9/11, just by watching the video on TV. When the ‘hero’ ran over to the end of street to view the actual incident, he saw white house standing as it is, safe and bright. It was just a camera trick projecting a possible threat capability of the terrorists but was good enough to start a huge unrest and panic.

Just suppose, if the twin tower destruction on 9/11, was not observed physically and the happening of that event not monitored visually by all the communication satellites of the developed countries, there was a possibility, we could have termed it a digital computer graphic trick by highly advanced Hollywood movie makers.

Movie 2012, shows the whole world is being destroyed as predicted by Mayans and the epic cinematography was so excellent that people believing in 2012, could get cold shivers or may be the same hysteria that was once caused by the movie ‘Attack of Aliens’. And it did, even before that movie, there is a huge unrest in UK, Europe and many developed nations on year 2012 and people are making themselves ready for some global disaster. Why to leave behind, many Islamic web sites of many Islamic states and Muslim futurists are also associating this year as the ‘arrival’ of Imam Mehdi on or around 2012, etc.

Interesting point to note that consecutive broadcasting of such ‘Global Killer’ type movies are creating a sense of unrest amongst ‘media dependent masses’. I must say, ignorance, to some extent, is bliss under such circumstances. The above stated movies are few examples amongst thousands, that how much the MEDIA, can and is influencing the lives of viewer all around the world and is fast changing the ‘mind-set’. We can conclude that media is a very powerful tool to make a certain mind-set as required any time.

The shock or impact of this strong medium of media can be felt all the way, as how we react and are dependent upon to nourish our inmost feelings, good or bad. This electronic visual media is creating so much perfect ‘illusion’ that it is hard to distinguish ‘fact from the fantasy or fantasy from the fact’. It can make one cry, laugh, worry, can make blood pressure to shoot up to critical levels, panic, fear, threat, etc. Media is a very sensitive medium that changes life of people.
Visual media has become a very power full tool in the current era and is basically bifurcated into two main mediums. One is entertainment and the other is information.

Initially the information media’s essence was to communicate, original and immediate news and information to the masses, but later on, keeping in view the human instincts and global commercialization, the information media is fast transforming itself into entertainment to increase the viewer ship by instigating all the factors of entertainment. The tinsel and glowing appearance of entertainment media is now mixing in to the information media to provide every thing to the viewers to capture their maximum attention for commercial benefits. Due to this aspect, the essence of real and original information or news looses its impact, importance and credibility.

Today, information media can cause more superior and serious emotional impact than a movie could do, as we are made to understand that the entertainment media is to broad cast fantasy and information media is broadcasting factual information, no matter, coupled with charms of good music and eye catching computer graphics.

Live videos, remarks, analysis and comments with computer graphics and suitable back ground music on live scenes of wars, death, murders, politics & political conspiracies, natural disasters, crimes, riots, poverty, famine, fantasies, rich & famous, etc creates certain magical mind-set with melancholy and feelings of ecstasy, at the same time. To keep our selves informative in this era, we are dependent upon to watch all above and bound to react as such.

The question is, do we have to? How can we differentiate that we watch, is true and not true? Do we have a choice or any other supporting evidence to corroborate what we are seeing or listening?

No we don’t have much. The broad caster industry transmits the package on air considering it an informative act in their perspective and we have to decide that we take it as a fact or fantasy.

Almost all, debate to defend this new characteristic of media as within the parameters of ‘freedom of speech’. But, there is no such thing as ‘Complete Freedom’. We are surely free to live our lives but MUST be bound by certain physical laws, natural laws and social laws. We learn the laws through evolution process to survive for a long time. Freedom to live, freedom to speak, freedom to show or freedom to watch, all are to be bound by some laws.

The highly advanced entertainment media learned to follow laws when experienced the serious negative repercussions on human lives instead of just simple entertainment. Hollywood, at a very later stage, rated its movies to make the viewer ship (of different age groups and social cultures) aware of consequences by just watching a particular rated movie, when their own society and culture experienced different psychological negative impacts of different type of movies they produce in a huge quantum. The government had to make up laws to restrict the viewer ship instead of harnessing the media.

Indo-Pak information medium or now the news media, just to capitalize more and more commercial benefits, is trying hard to follow the entertainment media maxim, to augment viewer ship and claiming protection of broad cast by using ‘Freedom of Speech or freedom of media’ slogan. Freedom of speech is the right of any human being but since human life is bound by certain natural and social laws, so should be the freedom of speech and freedom of media. (When I want to see more, the debate on 18th amendment bill and Pak-US strategic dialogues, I had to wait till the long hour news of Shoaib and Sania’s marriage completes its turn).

Information media is imposing movie like dramatic impacts. Like an adventure and thrilling movie, where a viewer usually holds the breath and with sudden impact music, the thrilling scene appears at once. ‘Breaking news’ concept is just the same of entertainment media, creating thrill and anxiety. Further more the ‘Breaking News’ is duly coated by advertising commercials, before and after. Current information media has the capability of making a non corrupt to corrupt, corrupt to a non-corrupt, can convert an act of heroism or patriotism into an act of villain or traitor, can make a pious into a irreverent, a real issue can be made as a non issue and a non issue can be easily converted into an issue, a fact into a fantasy and a fantasy into a fact, etc.

What we really need to know is lost some where in the swarm of information and what ever source is good in creating an impact is prevailing as the reality sorcerers. The most important responsibility of this medium is to be credible, by being objective and honest.

Can we put a leash on the excessive merge of information media with entertainment media? Does PEMRA has the ability or strength, to put a collar on the neck of current media, to an extent, that the spirit of information and liberation of speech, may remain intact and the real truth may prevail.