Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Pakistan : Terror of anticipation

By Hans B Bremer

Nearly 40 years ago, eminent French director Francois Truffaut made a film in Britain which, sadly, never really gained the recognition it deserved. Loosely based on a novel by Ray Bradbury, the film narrates the transformation of a man engaged in carrying out an official policy of burning books. He slowly realises what treasures he is destroying, and in the end, like-minded people are shown preserving literary masterpieces by committing them to memory. The movie’s title is ‘Fahrenheit 451’, for that is the temperature at which paper burns.

Truth is an elusive commodity, I know. My immediate instinct is to mistrust a television programme entitled ‘Such to yeh hai.’ But maybe the title is just meant to be provocative and ear-catching. Anyway, if you substitute truth or an approximation of it for literature and think of the void that the absence of both would create, you get an idea perhaps of why US film-maker Michael Moore gave his recent anti-Bush documentary the title ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.’ As the anniversary of that fateful date approaches, be honest: could you have predicted on that sunny September day the extent to which international politics and Pakistan’s domestic politics were destined to be transformed three years down the road?

To my mind, Moore’s film is nothing more and nothing less than a timely and welcome antidote to the tendentious fare dished up by those spineless would-be journalists at Fox News and, perhaps to a slightly lesser extent, at CNN. The BBC tries harder. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it fails. Sadly, the state electronic media of this Islamic Republic all too often fall into the trap of parroting western coverage of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine/Israel and the so-called war on terror. Let’s be generous and assume that this is mainly due to their woeful lack of foreign correspondents and to their dependence on western news agencies. But let it also be said that editors who read newspapers and tune in occasionally to channels such as al-Jazeera should be able to rewrite AFP, Reuters or AP.

(click on the title for the whole article)

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