Dr Atique Ur Rehman
If we look into the sad demise Ali Bilal, aka Zille Shah, a hard core political worker of PTI , and the twists that news was given, it is collective failure as a society to deliver justice. A common citizen’s death has been propagated for political motives and to hide governance failures by all stake holders. It is not the first case, neither it will be last. We see such cases daily which are given 360 degree spin to hide the facts and behind fake trends and lies. We are not the only one facing this dilemma. It is global phenomenon.
World has turned upside down and catastrophe is manifold. States, leaders, societies are unable to coop up with this different and critical situation. Governance has become difficult today more than ever before due to evolving geo-politics, digital proliferation, resource constraint, unemployment and lack of strategic vision at leadership level. Masses do not trust their leaders and decision makers, main stream media has gone irrelevant, corporations are struggling for their share in markets. Leaders are clueless , what is happening to the planet earth. Societies are polarized, insecure than ever before, food and water scarcity, struggle for job, home and health issues. Those who were relevant have suddenly become irrelevant and virtual world is new ruler of the world.
Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon published a book in 2018 ‘ Thinking the unthinkable’, focusing on challenges to leadership due to uncetainities arising because of digital revolution and geo-politics. The new challenge is capacity of leaders at the highest keels to accept, understand, embrace and handle the extraordinary process of change and disruption. In simple, lack of vision at leadership level is biggest issue.
It is just the beginning of a revolution which will completely swallow the global peace in coming months and days . Artificial intelligence will bring unimaginable changes in societies. Are we ready to embrace this new world? Certainly not. Fundamental question is, what is happening to world? Nobody has an answer to this question.
However, the focus of this article is restricted to chaos in our society due to digital world. One of the biggest victims of this new found change is ‘truth’. Virtual world is overshowed by deceit and lies. Truth is swinging like a pendulum; to and fro, to and fro. Information is constantly changing its form and one can’t see clearly through this haze. Stories are automatically developing through CCTV footage, mobile videos, citizen journalism, social media activists and everybody. Details are evolving every now and then turning into a huge pile of truth and lies, making it almost impossible to find reality.
World was ready to embrace this change but not we here in Pakistan. We are too busy in fruitless political battles. We are in the habit of hiding issues under the carpet. A book by Nik Gowingpublished in 2009 ‘ Skyful of lies’ and Black Swans, had warned states and officials to get ready to meet challenge of swift information in crisis situation. A host of literature is available on the subject but it was not taken into considerations and old pattern of governance and market trends continued which has brought us to a dead end.
If we exclusively consider the role of media, it will give us an idea, how things have unfolded. Since 1947 till 2002, Pakistan Television and Radio shaped our opinions. BBC program ‘Sairbeen’ did breach the format but ultimately state prevailed upon our thinking pattern.
Opinion making was taken over by private media in 2002. It was same time when we were forced to become front line coalition partner with American in war against terrorism. State and non-state actors both actively contested to get their share of coverage on private TV channels. It gave rise to war journalism. However, power of shaping opinion shifted from state to private televisions.
With a revolutionary development in cyber world, entire spectrum of public opinion has been reformed. Truth only props up for a while and is immediately taken over by lies of social media activists and troll farms. A new paradigm is in play to erode the truth. Complacency of state institutions has given way to dummy voices which are trying to dominate human opinion through chaos and fear.
Media has been performing the role of watch dog in democratic societies. Technically, media is mediator of speech act. Whatever is seen, it is reported in main stream media.
Media takes the role of an actor when it opine through editorials and including voices of their own choice, on an event or issue. This is an expanded role of media which makes its participant in political power play. The introduction of private television enhanced role of media as an actor. Thus shaping a threat to security became a shared role between state, corporations and media. Governments, corporations, institutions struggled to grab their share in main stream media. A contest started for share in media and that brought the corporate world into media ownership. The role of media from mere mediator of speech act increased to an actor in political sphere, in identification and mitigation of threat according to their own understanding or desire.
State and corporations faced another shock when digital world brought an all-together a different situation. It started from websites, messengers, facebook, twitter, youtube, Instagram and has expanded into an ocean of mediums to talk, show, influence, fight, argue and counter argue. At the moment more than 6 billion people are shouting simultaneously to shape each other’s opinion.
Persuasion of masses falls in political domain. It is not a routine function. There are fundamentally three ways to persuade, framing, editorial and columns. Rise of social media has taken over the traditional role of media of persuasion.
Complex situation needs a deliberation by all stake holder including political decision makers, corporate world heads, international and domestic institutions and digital platform owners.
Writer is associated with communication field and discuss on strategic issues. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Atique Ur Rehman