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The guise of objectivity

  • Published at 07:13 pm May 6th, 2018
  • Last updated at 02:04 am May 7th, 2018
The guise of objectivity

The French Revolution and its disposal of the royal class made use of one very specific statement made by an at-best naïve and casually cruel princess. She had been told that the peasants have no bread to eat. Her reply was caustic: “Let them eat cake.”

While the identity of the princess remains a debate, the fact that this quote was widely believed by the public means that the masses were not surprised.

They were not surprised to learn that someone in the royal class would make such a condescending statement. It was another token of the mindless oppression that the European monarchies practiced at home and abroad.

This is the kind of intro commonly used by old-school leftists in this country (the kind that espouse modernism baked with communism) and they rarely care about getting to a point.

Let’s start with the Michelle Wolf speech at the White House Correspondents’ dinner. It was vulgar, it was messy, it was downright creepy at certain points, but it was incredibly funny in the good parts.

We are never going to see something like that over here in Bangladesh.

For instance, Michelle Wolf’s closing remark was “Flint still doesn’t have clear water.” Can you imagine some Bangladeshi going up one a big stage, one where the country’s political and intellectual elite are invited, and admitting that Dhaka has an utterly useless, completely irredeemable set of roads and flyovers which serve no one except the contractors who build them?

Can you imagine someone going up on that stage and hinting at the sexist nature of many players in our powerful elite?

A few years ago, a guest at a radio talk show started talking about how two big-name politicians had sexually abused her during her younger days. The radio host didn’t let her finish. In another occasion, another guest started talking about how her ex-husband pressured her into sharing their marital bed with a female “friend” of his. The radio host again stopped her before she could name anyone.

In another occasion, a singer who stepped into a second marriage without taking permission from the wife was invited to a radio talk show and he was allowed to romanticize the whole fair. The talk show hosts basically sided with him and did not dare ask a single question related to the rights of the first wife in all this.

Ever wondered why our country never gets a “#metoo” moment? Well, a lot of the victims tried but we -- and by we, I mean the media and everyone who works in and through the media -- shut them down before they could say anything.

The Weinsteins of Bangladesh are so much more ruthless. No truth is ever worth the hassle, if the media is to be believed.

I have never personally understood the moral supremacy that the Bangladeshi media regularly claims. Let’s please stop pretending that we are not here to make money. We are. But the money doesn’t always come from revealing the truth -- it’s often so much more profitable to suppress it.

Revealing the truth gives us better newspapers sales for one or two days, suppressing it allows us to get closer to the powerful elite, to store favours which can be cashed out in times of need. The choice we often make is abundantly clear to anyone and everyone who follows the media.

In the case of the infamous Banani rape case, if I remember it correctly, it was a few relatively less-known internet news portals that broke the story initially. The mainstream media played it safe -- they only published the news after the truth was spread out all over the social media.

In another case, during a post-2014 election cycle, a very revered businessman, who was once very active in the media, won an election that was far from free and fair.

The trend, increasingly, has been to choose easy right-wing targets for crimes that people all over the political spectrum commit

Yet, not a single newspaper or news channel accused him of benefitting from a fraudulent electoral system. The businessman in question ended up doing his job excellently, but whether people had actually wanted him for the job, remains a question.

There are also many examples of the mainstream media being spiteful. On one occasion, the establishment of a big-time online news portal took upon themselves a mission to besmirch the reputation of an experienced and respected editor of a well-known daily newspaper.

While not much happened to the editor’s credibility when it comes to journalism, the poor guy now has to make regular rounds around the country to make court appearances.

Another admittedly pro-opposition editor was taken to jail a few years ago but is now free. This editor had been accused of making incendiary and false newspaper reports. While the journalistic integrity of his newspaper may not have been the best, if we are going to punish people for being incendiary and false, at least occasionally, we probably need to sew most of our mouths shut.

I will refrain from going on with more examples because there are just so many of them out there. But all of us can, and possibly will, remain silent. We will remain silent when the top brass of the government questions the characters of female students who go out at night to participate in processions. If a similar comment had come from somebody like Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, our outrage would have poured easy and fast.

Criticizing right-wing politics is not something the media needs to stop doing. However, the trend, increasingly, has been to choose easy right-wing targets for crimes that people all over the political spectrum commit.

During the quota movement and beyond, so many reports of sexual molestation at the hands of pro-government activists had come out in social media. How many of those accusations have been investigated so far?

If we keep publishing reports of our statistical achievements from studies done by fake organizations, people will stop taking us seriously.

And, not to forget, the only reason that reports of sexual harassment carried out by our politicians and businessmen, and other powerful men, do not come out in public is because our media seems to look the other way. We do it while wearing a guise of objective supremacy, as if we are in any way better than the subjects we report on. I guess we find it easy to even lie to ourselves.  

Fardin Hasin is a freelance contributor.

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