A tribute to Talat Hussain’s ‘supra-liberal’ media

Published: August 2, 2012
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My liberal dreams are possible the recurring nightmare of Talat Hussain, who recently claimed in an interview that the Pakistani media supra-liberal. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

It’s a beautiful morning in supra-liberal Pakistan. I wake up with a broad grin plastered across my pseudo-liberal face, as I head downstairs to the living room. I skim through the headlines on the Urdu newspaper: it’s all about the damage being inflicted upon us by religious radicalism, along with high praise for the United States and its efforts in combating it.

I turn on the television. They’re playing a documentary called “Veena Malik: The Pride of Pakistan”, in which various TV personalities take turns commending Ms Malik, the apotheosis of modelling industry, the paragon of courage, and a gleaming example for women everywhere. There’s no contentiousness, and no judgement.  Just 90 minutes of pure, uninterrupted extolment.

But the good stuff isn’t over yet. It’s time for the “Lefty Left Show”, a government-funded series designed for Pakistani children. It’s a fun-packed, richly informative hour on comparative religion, which encourages children to love all fellow citizens irrespective of their religious beliefs, especially the Ahmadis. Because as Lefty Left, the Lovely Ladybug says, “Don’t demand respect from others, until you’re ready to give respect in return!”.

This is followed by a string of talk shows, where they discuss in detail the imperativeness of improving our relations with India. Israel is rarely discussed in a negative way. Javed Chaudhry delivers a compelling monologue about how unfair it is to blame the victims of acid attacks. Maya Khan hosts a phenomenal show emphasising the significance of multiculturalism in Pakistan.

The tone throughout these programs is kept strictly secular. And it’s all topped off with the 10:00pm “Liberal Fascists Report”, which openly promotes LGBT rights, and pays tribute to the United States for USAID, and the marvellous job done by the drone strikes in countering terrorism.

The alarm clock rings at sehri time, and to the chagrin of my hyper-liberal sensibilities, I realise I’d been dreaming all along. That, I reckon, is also the recurring nightmare of Talat Hussain, who recently claimed in an interview that the Pakistani media is liberal…no…supra-liberal.

There is no consistency in the conservative argumentation of different regions. In Pakistan, conservatism implies support for Islamic laws and values. In Europe, the conservative parties are known to oppose the spread of Islamic culture, viewing it as a foreign intrusion. In the United States, it’s ordinarily the liberals who flock to defend the Muslim minorities, while the Tea-Party brims with anti-Islamic sentiments. It’s unreasonable to talk about conservatism as a single, international force, because what’s considered as a “conservative argument” in one country, sometimes qualifies as the liberal agenda in another.

The only thing consistent about the conservatives around the world, is the shared phobia about their respective media groups being taken over by liberals. From Sarah Palin’s unending harangues about the liberal “lamestream” media, to conservative Pakistani youth brewing imaginative conspiracy theories about how the media is being run exclusively by Amreeka and Izraeel.

How precisely is the conservative argument being locked out? Did somebody forget to invite Zaid Hamid to a talk show? Was the media not allowed to oppose the Kerry Lugar Bill in 2009, or did somebody accidentally defend the domestic violence bill 2008 on live television? Are drone attack casualties not being reported and staunchly criticised? Did a bunch of TV appearances by Marvi Sirmed leave behind such an unbearable stench of liberalism that the entire industry has been left forever tainted? Or is it simply that someone refused to air a special report blasting Angelina Jolie for not sharing our cultural values, despite all that she has done for the flood victims of Pakistan?

Pakistan’s media, and the sociopolitical milieu in general, is a battleground between the right-wing and the centrists. The entire field is so conservatively charged that a liberal can barely utter a sentence and not be instantaneously slapped with allegations of treason. It is the perceived criminality of liberalism, a term that sounds the same as “debauchery” to an average Pakistani mind, which is truly alarming. If anything, it’s the liberal argument that is systematically being locked out.

It’s not the media that has become supra-liberal, it’s the country that is becoming uber-conservative. Perhaps Mr Hussain is drifting so far to the right of the political spectrum that even the median is beginning to appear as a tiny dot in the distance.

Read more by Faraz here or follow him on Twitter @FarazTalat

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Waqar

    You miss “religious show” on valentine days, Mulana Taqi usmani shows on Eid special progammes, Tariq Jameel speeched on Chand Raat.

    You also forget that Indian shows became ban in Pakistan channels after Musheraf Rightist policies. Indian bollywood heroes are no longer discuses in News headlines or in news details.

    Our Drama, in 7 days, not promote “love between Boy & Girl” ONLY. Basant celebrations are not must for Pakistan channels,and also “New Year night” celebrations are also unknown to Pakistani views.Recommend

  • http://pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    ur blog is a great example of super libera media …grow up , you should try to see the conservative ones as welll ..Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    I beg to differ. People in Pakistan are not “uber-conservative”. They are religious people. To taint them as “uber-conservative” is to view them using your liberal lens. The polite term to refer to you is of course liberal and not centrist.Recommend

  • Centre right

    You said that conservatism around the world is opposing by citing the example in which you said that conservatism in Pakistan is opposite to conservatism around the world. I absolutely agree with you, but liberalism is no different as well.
    Liberals of Pakistan, if not openly, would always support war on terror and operations in Swat and other areas of Pakistan regardless of knowing whether the people who die are Taliban or not, meanwhile in Western Liberalism people strongly oppose the idea of attacking anyone or any place,Recommend

  • AS

    Well done. Keep writing the good stuff and stand up for liberty and justice and equality. Hopefully things will change for the better and our people will become educated and kind and nice and loving and will give up rituals and religiousity and magic and side with virtue and love and reason.Recommend

  • VivaLaRevolution

    It is not the liberals that are lacking. There are several centrists on television. I am more worried about the socialists, where did they all go? Any society that has education is bound to have socialists but I hardly see any.

    Oh and BTW Talat Hussain is a turncoat, he is a supra-liberal in front of supra-liberals and an uber-conservative in front of uber-conservatives. Recommend

  • http://Thedabbabrigade.wordpress.com RiffyR

    If people in Pakistan were religious and not über-conservative, we would have been churning out with a reasonable number of Imam Ghazaalis instead of Mumtaz Qadris.Recommend

  • http://usmannrana.wordpress.com Usmann Rana

    How dare you! Talat Hussain is the epitome of human reason and objective journalism. He is the pioneer. He is a Flotilla Hunk for Christ’s sake! He defended our Muslim Palestinian brothers and sisters against Israeli Zionist conspirators. Well..at least reported it.
    He is what Pakistan needs. An journalist who is not corrupt and is professional/ So what if his worldview is myopic? So what if he is senseless in his arguments? It doesnt matter he is a sexist homophobic..A double faced man who was so genius he thought nobody could translate his Urdu article into English and expose him to english speaking class (or may be he was genius enough to think, as many like him do, that secularist and liberals only exist in upper middle class, and elite).
    Whatever the case, we only care about how he is NOT corrupt. Yes it is true that at times those who are not corrupt but are morally self righteous idiots can be more dangerous. But dont get it! :P :P :P :PRecommend

  • http://usmannrana.wordpress.com Usmann Rana

    On a serious note, I dont agree with your USAID line. Pakistani civil society should not act like a pawn for neo colonialism and neo imperialism. Pakistan’s secular and liberal peoples need to get together and make themselves strong from within and raise a grassroots level secular movement. It can be done. It is already being done is small ways. BUT we are not united.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Center Right,

    That is correct. I was responding specifically to Hussain’s claim of how the “conservative argument” is winning elections around the world. I did say, “what’s considered a “conservative argument” in one country, sometimes qualifies as the liberal agenda in another”. ‘Vice versa’ is implied.

    Nowhere did I assert that liberalism is a unified, international force in contrast to conservatism.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    People in Pakistan are not “uber-conservative”. They are religious people. To taint them as “uber-conservative” is to view them using your liberal lens.

    Religiosity is, generally speaking, directly proportional to one’s degree of conservatism. A religious person can most certainly be a liberal, but then he’s either less religious than a typical right-winger, or at least doesn’t believe as strongly in the literal interpretations of the scripture.

    Also, “uber-conservative” is not precisely an epithet or abuse. You may think of me as uber-liberal, and I certainly wouldn’t feel “tainted”. It’s just an adjective.

    The polite term to refer to you is of course liberal and not centrist.

    The author was never very subtle about his liberal leanings. He is not a centrist, nor did he falsely pretend to be one.Recommend

  • Cynical

    @Loneliberal PK

    Very balanced and rational as always.
    You have articulated the corelation between religiosity and conservatism very well.
    Thanks.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Well Talat Hussian Certainly ain’t wrong.. Media is leaning left when it comes to entertainment. Take the theme of the drams we make, the “entertainment” bulletin you see, the News skits with songs in it. The Media for rating leaps over. These days when for the sake of TRP we are questioning why cant the “Pious” Veena Mailk do Astagfar ? Its hard to negate we are drifting toward the sensuality away from spirituality; Cause we are addicted to it.
    So Mr Talat wake up Rise n shine.Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    @LoneliberaPK,

    I think you have hard time comprehending what I have written.

    “To taint them as “uber-conservative” is to view them using your liberal lens.”

    Pakistanis never identified themselves as “uber-conservative”. It was an identity imposed on them by people like you. Hence, it is misleading to create a spectrum of identity on people who have never agreed to be identified as such. “Uber-conservatism” in the minds of liberals are devout Muslims. These devout Muslims considered themselves as religious people and not as “literalists” or “fundamentalists” or “uber-conservatives”. However, their views of “liberals” like you as Westerners in Pakistan does hold since all of your views are derived from the Western world. Recommend

  • Plal

    On the same page of Express Tribune, where Talat was crying hoarse about the ultra Liberal Pakistani media- another news was about Maya Khan converting Hindu Boy into Islam.It seems Talat do not read the urdu press and and does not see TV regularly where people like Zaid Hamid, Hamid Gul, Oriya Maqbool Jan are expert commentator spewing the ultra conservative venom all the time.Recommend

  • Subbar

    An other comment hungry, intellect free debate on tribune full of pseudo intellect. Keep on doing the stuff you want this is liberalismRecommend

  • RH

    @RiffyR: Wow! Best. comment. ever. on a Tribune blog! I salute you Sir/Madam!Recommend

  • http://expressribunal shaukat ai chughtai

    Mr. Talat Hussain…I as reader of your columns and ur talk show, I feel hopeful that people like still exist in Pakistan. Our right and extreme right is in shrouded mystery. U r right, they feel to be called as liberal mean “debauchery”. Very well said. I hope u have the candle in your right hand and you will continue providing beacon light to the minds of youngsters who still are being brainwashed under religious dogmas. You have right coined the term for Pakistanis as”uber-consrvative” Very well said. We may also say ConMod.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    Zeeshan,

    Pakistanis never identified themselves as “uber-conservative”

    Well, if it quacks like a duck, looks like a duck and swims like a duck, then it doesn’t need to say out loud, “I’m a duck!”. It’s implied.

    An average Pakistani suffers an anaphylactic shock each time he’s exposed to a foreign idea, system or culture. To cantankerously double down on what doesn’t work, instead of opening oneself up to new ideas and possibilities, is the “in” thing.

    You know why liberals and secularists admire Western ideas? Because they work! Their systems have consistently afforded them greater socioeconomic stability than ours, and that’s worth looking into.Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    @loneliberalPK

    “Well, if it quacks like a duck, looks like a duck and swims like a duck, then it doesn’t need to say out loud, “I’m a duck!”. It’s implied.”

    But Pakistanis are not ducks or animals. They are humans capable of speaking and self-identifying themselves. Instead of implying, why don’t you check with them first whether the identity you are trying to impose on them through your limited vocabulary of the world is acceptable to them?

    “An average Pakistani suffers an anaphylactic shock each time he’s exposed to a foreign idea, system or culture. To cantankerously double down on what doesn’t work, instead of opening oneself up to new ideas and possibilities, is the “in” thing.”

    I believe the identity of Pakistan, its culture and religion are all products of being exposed to “a foreign idea, system or culture”. What you considered “new ideas and possibilities” are neither “new” nor considered as “ideas and possibilities” by “an average Pakistani”.

    “You know why liberals and secularists admire Western ideas? Because they work! Their systems have consistently afforded them greater socioeconomic stability than ours, and that’s worth looking into.”

    That’s not why “liberals and secularists admire Western ideas”, they admire them because they lack the critical thinking to observe the Western wold from Greece to America to Britain. The crumbling superficial facade of the West is what they are able to observe. “Greater socioeconomic stability” could also be found in the Arab world but not in India. So this simplistic admiration of the West sounds more like being derived from imaginations rather than from reality.Recommend