American Media’s View of Pakistan Crisis

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

March 30th–To tell you the truth, I do not consume much of American media. Living in Berkeley, and the larger Bay Area, almost everybody who is anybody comes through at some time. Although I have lived in the South Asian region in the past, I do not feel a lack of access to decision makers and other movers and shakers from that region.

I was quite taken aback at how much my moderator and audience had read my articles from The Muslim Observer and in the Pakistan Weekly, the latter being a niche market within a niche market of the former. Beaupre, himself, at one time had been an associate with the Left Wing Pacifica radio network. Strangely, my wife, who is a left-leaning liberal librarian, has been told by non-Muslims how perceptive stories printed (pasted) in the newspaper(s) are trusted by the Liberal Mainstream.

The Roundtable was sponsored by the Second Annual Conference of the South Asian Studies Association (SASA) at the Claremont University on the Eastern edge of Los Angeles County.

The Moderator was Jon Beaupre of Los Angles State University with John Needham recently retired from the Los Angeles Times with myself representing the two aforementioned Muslim publications.

Mostly, I find myself covering events or speeches of international figures–often having the access to interview them–for my slot-target audience, American Muslims and or Pakistanis.

I find most American media tend to be quite shallow, and devoid of analysis and understanding – especially when it comes to South Asia, and most especially Islam. There is a tendency to look at, and judge the world in terms of our culture and politics, and that means Jeffersonian Democracy –ordinarily, Neo-liberal Globalism. It is curious this prejudice, also, supports the worldview of Neo-Conservatism.

In the print media there is a connection between the ownership of the big papers, whose international articles, our regional papers in turn buy, and the anti-Islamic propaganda propagated in the United States–that is not as prevalent in the European press–is all pervasive here. Much of this has to do with the Arab-Israeli struggle and has nothing to do with Southern Asia at all, but it is projected upon the Subcontinent–especially Pakistan because it is Muslim nation. Further, our media propels the bias of “Hindu” India being good and Muslim Pakistan as evil even though Islamabad has been one of Washington’s most consistent allies.

I often write while listening to the BBC, CBC and Deutsche Welle and one broadcast per day of Radio Pakistan and All India Radio (A.I.R.) that are fairly propagandistic. Recently, I discovered Al-Jazeera that is available in English on the web. When one of these broadcast sources has a segment on a subject that I plan to write on in the future, I might take notes. Then, go up to the wires, and examine what the newspapers have written.

As a South Asianist with a special emphasis on Pakistan, I was quite taken aback by the coverage of the recent elections by our media, and the misunderstanding it created by the general public here. Musharaf was trying to establish a Turkish-style democracy where the Army had a Constitutional veto power within the commonweal that had already been practiced, but unstated. Not all democracies are Jeffersonian, but that does not make it less a democracy since Islamabad had a Legislature and Executive.

His firing of the Supreme Court Judges and the Emergency lacked political sagacity. The US’s insistence on “bourgeois” democracy was unwise, and Benazar Bhutto lacked maturity in the Pakistan of Islamism.

America’s media did not give our public the tools to understand the crisis. Rawalpindi is vital to our interests, and I only heard very little intelligent comment from the US public–the weakness of our own media had already created disapproving and misinformed opinions.

The results of the Parliamentary electrons were disastrous to our interests, with well-known criminals and crooks now in control of the Legislature, and has reinforced anti-Americanism in Karachi.


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