The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

We’re all conspiracy theorists, y’know.

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So even before I’d clicked on the New York Times video by Adam Ellick (to accompany a story by Sabrina Tavernise) I was filled with a sense of foreboding (though that could be because of the series of dreams I’m having in which I end up in a nameless Russian city and lose my job).

Glenn Greewald has a good takedown of the piece here, but I wanted to blog about the video. It splices – too creepily in fact – quotes from guests and hosts on talk shows, interviews and statements (including one by  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) to put together a compelling little film on why Pakistanis are conspiracy theorists.

While it accurately points to anti-US statement in the country – hardly a secret, really – the manner in which its done is discomfiting. The quotes are all strung together to form a narrative that – surprise, surprise! – Pakistani media is hugely critical of the US. What, precisely, did the NYT expect? That showing an hour of Voice of America’s Urdu programming would make everyone follow suit? Or that one could expect rationality from every talk show host in Pakistan? For example, the one host that Ellick describes as a moderate is currently front page news in Pakistan. (Daily Times. Oh, you don’t believe a Pakistani newspaper? Here’s The Guardian on the same issue.)

But if you were to watch those talk shows in their entirety, you’d realize that it does feature opposing views, particularly of people who do not believe Faisal Shahzad was a CIA plant or whatever outlandish rumour it is that is doing the rounds these days. If you would do a Google search, you’d also realize that one of the key complaints that many Pakistanis have with local talk show hosts is that they are too pro-government or side with the US too much.

It is very easy to present a one-sided, skewed version of events and tailor them to a specific audience. Why should I be surprised? That is exactly the same way anti-US sentiment has been broadcast in this country.

After all, we’re all conspiracy theorists, y’know.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

May 28, 2010 at 5:45 am

Posted in Pakistan, US

Tagged with ,

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