Overblown reaction... By Masood
25 October, 2013
On October 30, 1938, something strange happened when airwaves across many States in the US were filled with a series of breaking news headlines and simulated news bulletins that Martians (aliens from Mars) had invaded Earth. As the broadcast, an adaptation of H G Wells' novel The War of the Worlds was part of an ongoing radio drama series with no in-between commercial breaks, many people who switched on the radio after the introductions took it at face value that aliens from Mars had really invaded their homeland. Thousands of people across northeastern US and Canada started fleeing their homes in panic while phone lines of CBS broadcasters, newspapers and police were choked with enquires. How does one describe this public reaction?
However, what happened on October 11, 2013 across Pakistani social (even print) media is not that debatable. The way many people behaved over a piece of satirical writing on Malala can only be described in a single phrase: blind hatred for a 16-year-old girl working for her gender's right to education. The website of a leading English news daily from Karachi ran an article on the day when the Nobel Peace Prize was going to be announced; it was a satire piece hitting the hate mongers opposing Malala's mission. To make it a bit authentic, it was filled with fake facts, data and doctored pictures leading the reader to believe that Malala is a Christian girl from Poland who was adopted by a Pashtun family in Swat, her family background was 'confirmed' by a local doctor who preserved her earwax's DNA, her assailant was an Italian whose earwax's DNA is also preserved in an empty marmalade jar. In the article an ISI officer pictured as Spiderman helped to unearth this unholy conspiracy against Islam and Pakistan.
What any sane person will make of this story is that they will enjoy it and move on but no, thousands of hate mongers took it seriously. The story went viral on social media and the conspiracy theorists congratulated each other over the uncovering of the 'truth' that Malala is a CIA plant working for Israel, India and the west to humiliate Pakistanis. At least one newspaper reprinted the article as breaking news. A foreign television channel ran the story as evidence of the west's wickedness towards Muslims. By Friday evening, it became evident that hundreds of thousands had been fooled, thanks to their in-built hatred for Malala. That radio drama in the US may be a closed case but what happened in Pakistan shows the deep ideological division in society.
Jubail, Saudi Arabia