Submitted by Aurangzeb on July 28, 2012
PKKH Exclusive | By Kulsoom Khan
While it is true bloggers are not journalists, for a variety of reasons, the rise of social media is still going to give the mainstream media a tough competition for amassing an audience. Readers are increasingly looking for alternative news outlets that won’t give them the sensationalized newspiece the mainstream media has come to be associated with. Hence the success of social media where readers get the unofficial story with a more personal experience. Bloggers come from all parts of the world, including some of the most war-torn and oppressed places on Earth- Kashmir, Gaza, Iraq etc. One of the very first voices from a war-ravaged country was heard across the web in 2005; an Iraqi woman, who kept a blog of the every day happenings under American invasion. The anonymous writer began the blog with the words: “I’m female, Iraqi and 24. I survived the war. That’s all you need to know. It’s all that matters these days anyway.” Today the blog is worth £30,000.
Journalists can come with strings attached, many are in for the quick buck though there still remain those who are sincere to the ethical conduct they’re required to uphold, although a rare commodity. Especially in Pakistan, where journalists-cum-anchors routinely blow each other’s cover as paid party agents; many of them exposed as frauds working to augment specific party politics. Where corruption decides the law of the land, ethics are way down the priority list.
Bloggers as routinely mentioned in the last few days’ of endless debate, are not entitled to ethics nor can they be held legally responsible for their online works. It can be argued since they write voluntarily this would reduce any chances of corrupt, bribed reporting but social media is fast becoming a recruiting world for powerful corporations and corrupt politicians. Many bloggers now get paid to promote brands for make up, food, music and even political groups and foreign policies etc. The recently held social media gala in Karachi, was one such exploitation by the US consulate to boost left-wing politics and liberal thought.
Despite the odds blogging and the rise of social media is still a sigh of relief to millions of people around the world. No matter how much freedom a country’s constitution offers, mainstream journalism will rarely oppose the country’s national interests and mainstream lobby, as history is witness. Those voices who do report the alternative story often get lost in the sea of masses reiterating the ‘official’ story dictated by the powerful media corporations; where the job is not to communicate information as it happened, but to modify, pick and choose and deliver half truths. Before the news hits the masses the news item has been significantly altered to subliminally connect with (and strengthen) the official narrative according to state policy and lobbyists’ agenda. A direct example can be taken of the Iraq war, where nearly all major news networks/journalists were reporting of the strong indication of WMD’s until the very last minute. So strong was journalism in securing a war ready population in America, the Iraqi state had been completely demonized, and Saddam Hussain (once US-ally) stood dehumanized. Thus paving way for the government to justify an otherwise illegal invasion. Another recent example would be Gaddafi and Libya, the western mainstream media had journalists reporting Gaddafi as a mentally unstable leader by taking excerpts out of context from his infamous ‘Green Book’, passing him off as a lunatic bent on bloodshed, thus once again justifying another American invasion.
The outbreak of the Kashmir Torture Trail was a prime example of social media revolution, where Twitter users in various cities campaigned to raise awareness of Indian brutalities in occupied Kashmir. Much more recently, a young groom-to-be was shot in Bandipora, Kashmir. The official story painted the boy as a ‘militant’, however details later emerged on Twitter and blogs confirming HR activists worst fears. The boy was a victim of the Indian Army’s long list of fake encounters. Indian journalists belonging to the mainstream media have yet to offer any details or clarifications.
Had social media activists not spread news of the ongoing systematic massacre and sectarian cleansing of Rohingya Muslims by Buddhist Rakhine extremists, barely a fraction of the world population would have been aware of Burma’s state sponsored terrorism. The mainstream media only picked up on the news after weeks had passed and thousands dead. Twitter and Facebook buzzed with outrage at the lack of response and condemnation from world leaders. It wasn’t long before left leaning journalists in Pakistan tried to downplay the massacre by brushing off the images circulating the web as ‘fake’. Despite the fact some of the photos were real, not to mention the video taped desperate calls of help that were also making rounds on Facebook. Grudgingly, the half-hearted condemnations and reporting were only heard in the Pakistani press once NYT broke the news after world wide demonstrations by Muslims in Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Gaza etc. The official story going around is still only half the truth however; the killings are based on religious basis, and go deeper than the issue of ‘ethnic’ disparities being reported. This awareness was only brought around by the power of social media and ordinary Muslims who took Twitter and Facebook by storm and are still campaigning for help that has yet to materialize.
The world, especially the west is full of such examples of destructive journalistic policies that have been utilized to garner support for an otherwise unpopular and inhumane act.
How does the social media counter this? While it can’t influence the imperialistic and war mongering policies of the West, it however brings information to one’s fingertips, ensuring the public is well armed with knowledge. The growing number of social activists are now reporting the unofficial untold tales which were easily suppressed before. The masses have the means to find out and stay well informed of current affairs, in real time. Ordinary people across the globe have been given voices and collectively have proved to be a force to reckon with, putting the much needed pressure on the mainstream press.
How do corporations and powerful states counter this? In China, the internet is heavily surveilled and access is limited. In the US, the government tried imposing laws to curb internet freedom, the infamous Internet Censorship ‘SOPA’ bill. The Indian state freely supresses the freedom of thousands of Kashmiris by regularly taking down pages and blogs, blocking services including texting, banning Internet users from accessing thousands of websites, including Facebook pages, but many a times tech-savvy youngsters find ways to get around. Another drawback is the rise of disinformation.
The US too is raking in on the success of the social media revolution by targetting favorable groups of Afghans to join the social media. Campaigns such as ‘Nai’ have been launched to influence foreign opinion in favor of the invasion and the consequent ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ that resulted from it. Such an inclusion of Afghan voices though may fail to give the the occupation a much needed boost instrumental in moulding a favorable opinion, since the few thousand active in the social media sphere are usually government employees, rights activists and left wing nationalists, who do not represent the rest of the 30 million Afghans. The Internet is still a relatively new phenomena for many Afghans and barely two million have access.
Since the WoT began eleven years ago, the world only heard and knew what the US and NATO wanted them to know. Some years ago the Emirates or better known as Taliban significantly changed that with their presence online. With their own website and a Twitter representative, the group has challenged ISAF media’s false reports of a NATO led victory and the Taliban’s ‘weakening resistance’. Also bringing to light the collosal losses inflicted upon the occupying allies by means of video uploads and immediate reports of casaulties/damages/losses etc. The social media has also given the chance for the Taliban to present the other side of events, countering negative propaganda that has been regularly fed to the masses since 2001.
While the ISAF media arm tried downplaying it’s losses, it suffered another blow; this time by the US war veterans who had begun anti-war campaigns on Facebook and through blogs. Hundreds of war veterans have til date spoken out against US foreign policy, and it’s war mongering politicians, calling the US-led ‘WoT’ a war for the corporate money-hungry elite profiteers and those working for a sinister NWO at the expense of humanity. Millions of lives have been lost, countries bombarded to ’stone age’, lives destroyed.
Throughout history journalists and filmmakers have played a pivotal role in anchoring in public approval for war. From the onset of the first world war, the US government has heavily funded Hollywood and had even signed a contract with Universal Studies, in 1917. Universal then led a massive campaign to garner support from newspapers and journalists to win country wide support for the government’s entrance into the on-going war against Germany, Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. Paramount, Mutual, and Fox later joined in the bandwagon for rallying a pro-war public by secretly pledging to President Wilson of their “combined support for the defense of the country and its interests.” Movies such Uncle Sam at Work, The War Waif, The Birth of Patriotism, Uncle Sam’s Gun Shops, The Kaiser, and The Beast of Berlin etc. were rapidly released. The goal of the war was purely imperialistic and Hollywood’s job was to pump up a war-ready crowd of die-hard patriots intent on ’saving the world from the Eastern savages and world dominance.’ Under the ’Espionage Act’ of 1917 (Similar to President Bush’s Patriot Act) many people were detained and arrested; primarily anti-war filmmakers, journalists and countless Germans. The bill was aimed at quashing all war critics and those who opposed US foreign policy. Just before the US attacked Germany, calls were made for ‘freedom, liberty and justice’, in blinding similiarity to the modern day slogans of the US wars against Afghanistan and Iraq- under the pretext of ‘liberating’ and installing ‘democracy’. The American public saw the entrance of the US into the blood-soaked arena of WWI as an action no less than piety and heroic, thanks to mainstream media and filmmakers. A hundred years later, little has changed and masses continue to fall for the same age old propaganda, with blind faith in American plans for delivering a ‘democratic’ Asia. Although social media has the potential to minimize pro-war propaganda and it’s effects, there still remains the threat of internet censorship bills under the farce of ‘curbing piracy’. On an ending note, it can be safely gauged the mainstream media has proven to play a powerful and destructive role in sustaining and aiding the imperialistic plans of a power-hungry superpower in the last century with hundreds of millions killed all over the world.