Disaster Porn and Pakistani media

 

by Ali Ahsan

First of all, my apologies for using an ‘objectionable word’ in the title of my piece given how some 15 year old is already on a self-crusade to note down every single ‘vulgar’ website there is, and try to get the PTA to ban them all for ‘protecting our youth’.

Never mind the mental masturbation, but an adult website is the last worry we should have in Pakistan when there are more vulgar and obscene antics being carried out by our own media when something bad happens.

Take the case of the recent tragedy that saw Bhoja Air flight B4-213 crash from Karachi at Koral Chowk in Rawalpindi during landing at Islamabad airport on 20 April 2012, that saw 121 passengers and 6 crew members lose their lives.

A mixture of bad weather in Islamabad-Rawalpindi and a 45-year old 737-200 plane of an airline that was essentially declared bankrupt a few years ago, has ruined the lives of more than a 100 families forever.

But that’s not all. What is shameful, nay enraging, is how our media has covered this tragedy in the most inhumane way as possible for cheap ratings and publicity. This is a media that revels at the sight of a disaster and is over-joyed at how it can get ‘exclusive footage’ of the most vile and grotesque quality for cheap viewership.

The way various “independent media” channels kept on showing grisly images of dead body parts, again and again and again, on live TV, made my stomach sick. And to add insult to injury, we see various ‘reporters’ – no not reporters, more like tabloid trash ‘The Sun’ would not even want to have on their payroll – shoving cameras and mics into the faces of devastated family members crying their eyes out and having the nerve, the gall, and the audacity to ask “How are you feeling? Who do you think is responsible?” is the death of humanity for me.

And to make matters worse, we see these very ‘beacons of factual news’ showing disgusting scenes of people foraging through the rubble and looting the belongings of the dead, while they scavenge for ID cards at the crash site and start to name out the victims on live TV.

Never mind the issue of decency and sympathy, our media tends to get-off on this vile Disaster Porn as the tears of heart broken mourners, and the mangled dead bodies of victims on live television eradicates any and all compassion, ethics, and humanity. Such images are then repeatedly bombarded on our screens where little children and shocked adults are forced to see again and again defies all logic, rationale, and ‘journalistic sense’ (if such a thing ever existed in our media).

To the TV producers, cameramen, and reporters – who are always on the scene before the actual rescuers can manage to reach – no matter how horrible the occasion is, such antics is all about making a ratings profit and making more people sit on their sofas feeling sick as the reels are repeated while some nitwit mediaman attempts to have his 15 minutes of fame amid the heartbreak all around.

Who needs to worry about adult websites when our media tends to act like savages hungry for any type of ratings that can give it immense self-pleasure at the cost of others?

What kind of training do these rich media conglomerates give to their reporters and camera crews? Why are they so desperate to show anything on TV?  Why this focus on cruel tactics for getting their cheap publicity?

In times of such disasters people need to be more sombre and concerned about the human loss and tragedy, rather than make a pornographic spectacle out of all this.

The priorities for regulatory bodies (be it PTA or PEMRA) to ban the most irrelevant of things, rather than effectively crack down on the blatant disregard for human decency among our ‘azad media’ that tends to celebrate our own misery for their ratings, is another shame that this country is facing today.

Then many of these people then have the utter nerve to start immediately speculating on conspiracy theories to further confuse the masses, before going off on a ‘Azaab-e-Ilahi’ tangent over our supposed ‘collective sins’ when it appears that the ONLY one being punished are the innocents.

Be it the glorification of the Lal Masjid hoodlums, the thrill of seeing the country burn after Benazir’s assassination, the joy of going up the Margalla Hills to feast upon the Airblue crash of 2010, or extensively worrying about what Veena Malik does in her spare time, this country’s media has become a huge part of our own self-inflicted wounds that appears to have now become gangrenous.

So yeah, next time someone talks about how evil and vile Fox News is, or how the “Jewish lobby” controls the media and ‘maligns Muslims’, take a look at your own media and its disaster fetish first.
Ali Ahsan is a Textile Engineer and a Football Journalist, pursuing a Masters Degree in International Relations.

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