Friday, November 09, 2012

Shock & Awe Talk: Media Mafia, Talk-ocracy and Third-ocracy

by Mac Haque 

“Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth and whatever you feed it is never enough.” ― Janwillem Van de Wetering

The so-called ‘electronic media’ received rounds of applause and adulation in recent days because of its supposed ‘expose’ of corruption, a host of scams, bad Governance etc. All these events apparently ‘shocked and rocked the nation’ and for days the time and efforts expended in rubbing-in ‘success stories’ into the national psyche was well…admirable! But does the buck stop here? Did these shocking spectacles happen overnight? If not, why did the media turn a blind eye not just for months, but YEARS?

Let’s take the bull by the horn – was the Media, the Government, our Economists, Banking community, ‘intellectuals’ or even the so-called ‘civil society’ foaming froth in the mouth in ‘talk-shows’,  blissfully unaware of the dangers that comes with the debilitating Multi Level Marketing scams? The questions could be endless and all those of us in the skeptically silent majority can do is help identify the creed of greed, and hope intrusive surgery to correct the malaise starts in earnest.

To be pertinent, the recent upsurge of TV channels ranging from the maddeningly mediocre to terribly trash have all been approved by the Government because of machinations by shady financiers who  inevitably bankroll the party in power. If one does a background check of the TV channels, we will discover that other than two or three old ones – the majority of them are not making any money that can sustain them now, or even in the near future. The market from advertisement revenue of roughly Taka 180 crores per month can in no way feed the 26 channels now in operation. Consequently it is ‘black money being laundered white’ by criminal elements and in the process we now have a ‘neo-elite’ with status symbols of ‘private TV channel owners’, when in reality they continue to rampantly loot and plunder from the people.

What is worrying is we do not have a clue as how powerful these elements are, and more so, now that they have the ability to mould public opinion on a 24/7/365 basis – thanks to this ‘powerful tool’ at their disposal, how much more damage they can do to the nation, if they have not already.
As for contents? All we have is sensational ‘breaking news’ which is syndicated from one and the same source, and used by each and every channel cooking the same masala – without any variation, or in-depth analysis. This reveals not only a dearth of talent in news gathering and dissemination, ironically most of them are in extremely poor taste. What we have then, is yet another operator in an overused bus route – a safe business proposition, but one burdened with pains of no profits.

If we talk about entertainment, it is only silly and unimaginative natoks which for decades have been the exclusive purview of a handful of overused actors and directors, who have much to our dismay; gone stale. Not to talk about the LIVE musical shows either, which features an occasional band or two, but overall is the domain of artist who in past would make a living out of gayer holud functions, weddings or khatna (circumcision) parties of sons of the rich!
What is fundamentally important here is, these private TV channels are blatantly unpatriotic. While they safely exercise unbridled power, and make a lot of illicit money through cronyism or extortion journalism, none appear to have a grip on the challenges ahead. While ‘merits’ of providing overland, sea and riverine transit facility to India is discussed excitedly, latest Bollywood gossips and movie releases are given huge (and expensive) airtime, the fact that India refuses to provide ‘transit’ of its own airspace to any of these Bangladeshi channels, is a serious issue that is conveniently overlooked.

That the 24/7/365 bombardment of Indian airwaves into our TV set, not only tilts the critical balance of our culture – the most valuable tangibly ‘intangible’ commodity that we have, none of these channels are even willing to consider a ban of Indian TV channels, until reciprocal rights are also provided to our channels.

It is rather odd that our TV channels can be seen almost anywhere in the world, other than in the territory of our ‘powerful neighbor’ is a reality, that seemingly worries no one – and not something that is ever featured in any of the meaningless ‘talk-shows’. That an entrance to the Indian market would lead on to enlargement of our own, and generate revenues which ultimately will sustain these channels and make them viable, has never been explored by any Government in or out of power.

While every political party jockeys for ‘India’s blessings’ before polls time, quite predictably only ‘unsolvable issues’ are inconclusively discussed, basically as an eye-wash for the public. It is therefore more than a shame that Khaleda Zia for instance in her recent trip to India, didn’t consider the ‘airspace transit’ issue, although ‘people-to-people contact’ (whatever that means) was hot in her agenda. Bottom line, to say that only the Awami League is ‘pro-Indian’ is a perverted misnomer. The truth is each and every political party is pro-Indian, which in effect makes all of them anti-Bangladesh, anti-people – read TRAITORS.

Brings me to the issue of ‘talk-ocracy’.

Tell me folks, in which civilized nation on earth do you have political ‘talk-shows’ after midnight? ‘Late shows’ usually means adult shows, or shows that are considered improper for a younger audience. Yet here in Bangladesh just past midnight all the channels open up a barrage of ‘talk-shows’ with very few commercial beaks until about 3 a.m., for no other reason, but for us argumentative and talkative Bangalis, ‘politics’ was, is and will possibly be in the foreseeable future, the ONLY ‘entertainment’ on God’s earth.

These post-midnight charades provides ample fillip to stimulate our so-called exercise of democracy, free speech, transparency, accountability etc, etc… denying that …so a round of clap clap taali here! But has anybody considered the damage it is causing to our physical and mental well being?

For one – let’s consider the timings. Midnight is usually the time when everyone unwinds after a tiring day at work, coupled with the hours lost in commuting; the time is also the TIME ….hey people…TO SLEEP! Instead what we have is excitable, heated, shouting and screaming matches called ‘talk-shows’ which is basically an avenue for a bunch of intellectuals, politicians, journalists, bureaucrats, political lobbyist, retired (read retard) military officers, rights activists, economist and other good-for-nothings to vent their ‘most irate feelings’.

Noticeable also is a new coterie of individuals who by some special ashirbaad of God, happen to combine all of the above qualifications/talents into one, the shob-jantaz or ‘know all’. What they argue most passionately about has little or no consequence to the nation per se, nor does it make our next day any more brighter or pleasant, but it does raise these mid-night jokers to a pedestal of the ‘important’. There are even idiots going around with the idea that these ‘talk-ocrats’ have enough talent to form a ‘Caretaker Government’ – now can anyone beat that?

But my gripe is – why do negative issues only, have to be propelled into our brains by these attack on our sensibilities, when in the end no one ever agrees? Why do we have to know what the headlines of the morning papers are at midnight, especially when we know it’s only bad news and that these information are of practically no use to us in our day-to-day existence?

Why should any of these channels be permitted to air provocative ‘talk-shows’ by ‘show-offs’ post midnight until the wee hours of dawn, when sleep is perforce deprived by the sustained buzz, when conjugal lives are disrupted, when children find it impossible to get to sleep, when the elderly or those in ill health get no respite – because much as their own TV’s may be switched off, the sets at their neighbors all the while keeps them awake? How more insensitive can we be?

If anyone moves a public litigation suit with just the above points, the midnight ‘talk-shows’ will surely end, BUT wouldn’t that make me look like an ‘undemocratic autocrat’? Possibly, but all I am saying is how about ‘talk-shows’ in sensible hours of the morning, afternoon or evening – and for the love of God, can we also have a guideline for ‘decency’ PLEASE?

However all these ‘talk-shows’ have a convoluted fear psychosis driven in when the discussion is about the ‘third force’ – who if we believe exist are apparently means, ‘undemocratic unconstitutional usurpation of power by opportunistic elements’ etc. In essence ‘third-ocracy’ is the coinage of the ‘political elite’ caught with their pants embarrassingly down in the UN/Civil Society backed Army coup of 2007.

The merits and demerits of that coup in our history being well known, it is now left to ‘with all due respect’ side-lined politicians like Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Badruddoza Chowdhury or even Dr.Kamal Hossain among others to warn about the ‘emergence of a third force’. Fair enough, but do mark the quirky caveat here.

The imagined ‘third force’ and its scare mongering is for sake of expediency viewed only as something which will evolve eventually from within the existing self-serving political elite, the power brokers, the corporate business and Media Mafia interest, the Military, the boot lickers of US or Indian interest or both– but never the PEOPLE.

The signals are strong. The patience of the people, especially the marginalized and poor is wearing thin. Incidents far less trifling than the ones that caused Tahrir Square will be catalyst for the rise of the Bangladesh Third-ocracy. Let us not forget the citizen’s revolt in Dinajpur in 1995 following the rape and murder of Yasmin, let us not forget Kansat in 2006, and let us also not forget Arial Beel in 2011 among others.

The third-ocracy contrary to our political master’s dream will be a broad based all encompassing apolitical citizen’s revolt. When millions will move upon Dhaka with nothing more than bamboos, we will not be able to compel the Police, RAB, BGB or even the Army to fire on them, for 90% of the men in uniform knows, they would only be killing their own kin from villages.

When the third force moves, there will be no LIVE coverage, because the corrupt Media will be their first target. Let us not forget Morning News in the anti-Ayub Khan revolt of 1968-9. No politician, businessmen, bureaucrat or ‘talk-show star’, nether will any radical columnist writing unintelligible diatribes in fortnightly columns, will be spared.

The third-ocracy will move to defeat the demons that have defied, defiled, desecrated and jettisoned the destiny of this nation. It would be wise to think of the ‘third force’ as the culmination of collective wisdom earned through decades of injustice and oppression leading to revolutionary aspirations of a people, the MAJORITY. Haven’t we always rubbished them as riff-raffs, and ‘third-class people’?

I dream of a peasant’s child riding to power and doing a much better job than anyone did in forty years. Peace!  

New Age Xtra, Friday 9th November 2012



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