Scapegoats to the Slaughter

Five years back it was crooked Hilary and now it is Sleepy Joe, Trumps antics continue. Many may have taken him as a moronic blowhard but it is hard to ignore his tactics and their results. Through his unorthodox approach and highfalutin jargon, he may come across inappropriate but one thing he has managed to solidify in the minds of his supporters is that he is speaking from his heart. The very affect that Hilary could not have.

A major part in that was played by the crooked Hilary campaign, unleashed on social media. Despite his history, Trump was able to convince the American bourgeoisie that he is a direct and honest outsider. More importantly he was able to paint Hilary Clinton as a fraudulent, Janus-faced politician. Once Hilary’s illegitimacy was established, rest is history.

“If you tell a lie repeatedly, people start believing it as a truth’’ words to live by if you are a propaganda artist. These were uttered by wife of Farhan Virk, who herself leads a giant cyber army and ‘fittingly’ is beginning a career in mainstream media. Farhan Virk who gained popularity in PTIs election campaign, admitted in the recent Al-Jazeera documentary that truth does not matter, it is the narrative that matters.

The couple are just a small cog in a big propaganda machine that was assembled to create a public opinion that suits institutions of power. This machinery has been spreading information, of a biased and misleading nature, to promote and publicise a particular political cause and point of view. The narrative has been the illegitimacy of opponents and the aim now is to shift the focus from one’s own incompetence. And for any such narrative to hold, it must appear to have popular support and be perceived as if it is in line with wishes of the majority and anyone opposing it, must be seen to have illegitimate reasons. This is where propaganda comes into play. Once you control the opinion of the incognizant masses, no one will question how many consignments of sugar must be exported to fund a political campaign.

Americans are sprog compared to our ‘veterans’ in sullying a good name. We can go as far back as the Mother of Nation Fatima Jinnah, when her reputation was tarnished by General Ayub Khan and co, calling her a traitor, foreign agent and infidel. Same trend followed in the 1990’s when the horde of IJI (Islami Jamhori Itehad) unleashed an obscene, libelous, vulgar, defamatory and venomous attack on Benazir Bhutto. It is ironic that the bullies of the past are now crying victim.

Intolerance and hatred has been the mainstay of PTI’s politics. If one thing the orchestrators of movements like IJI and PTI are masters of, it is creating a sharply polarized, hyper partisan environment. Put under pressure, venom and victimisation largely define their response.

This was apparent from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s last speech in the National Assembly. While the country is in tatters, the head of the state is disgracefully imitating and mocking opposition leaders on the floor of parliament. Desperately trying to play the broken record of corruption and trying to sell that his prime goal is to rid the country of it; wrong.

His foremost responsibility is to run the country and then get rid of corruption. For how long will he drag the latter as an excuse to hide his incompetence in the former? As it goes, in a graveyard no one tells a lie, because the dead do not speak. Corruption is a problem of the running economy, but solution is not to halt all business and economic growth. The cure for an in-growing toenail is not to chop off the entire limb. The art is to fix the system, while the cycle is running. But for that immaculate planning and competence is needed, the traits that are severely lacking in the current regime. That is why there is clear dereliction in dealing with any crisis.

The sugar crisis, the petrol crisis, Peshawar BRT and severe mismanagement of pandemic cannot be blamed on previous governments and ‘Dengue brothers’ – the term used with derogatory intent for Sharifs for their ‘over-enthusiastic’ approach in dealing with Dengue; another example of how propaganda can alter reality. A recent clear evidence of managerial incompetence is the PIA scandal. Surely it could have been dealt with in a better way. Reminds me of the monkey who chopped off his keeper’s nose to get rid of the fly.

The sad reality is that at best we are back to square one. There is no need to fly helicopters anymore to throw pamphlets, as social media has given immense power to the propaganda artists. The trolls have created a toxic environment and a false narrative, influencing a gullible audience, altering their priorities, amplifying certain issues while basic needs like food, health, housing, jobs have become secondary. Public is propagandized to vote, think and act against their own interest.

The choices have been made so narrow that many only support a certain political party as they see no other option. This can only be achieved by attaining a certain level of intolerance and hatred in the society. Now the divide is so big that people live in their bubble and are not ready to accept any contrary notion.

Researcher and American sociology professor Arlie Hochschild calls it a Great Paradox. In her bestseller “Strangers in their own land” she describes that people who are undermined, continue voting for those who are undermining them.

When the failings are becoming apparent, and the government is running out of heads to put at the end of sticks, it has turned to more extreme scapegoating by blaming the public. This was apparent from Health Minister of Punjab Dr. Yasmin Rashid’s interview, confirming that she considers the common man nothing more than an ignorant buffoon.

What the honourable minister fails to understand is that the public behaves the same way all over the world. It is the government’s role to keep such behaviour in check, ensure safety of its subjects and enforce rule of law. When the results of RECOVERY Trial came out on 16TH June 2020, supporting the use of a cheap common steroid ‘Dexamethasone’ in COVID-19, everyone that I shared the news with in Pakistan was of the opinion that unless government acts swiftly, this drug will disappear from the market and be sold in black market.

On part of authorities, laxity and complacency continued and in three days the drug was no longer low-priced nor widely available. Now the same callous and slothful approach is being adopted towards regulating the Eid-ul-Adha livestock markets, depicting absolute inability of learning from the past experience of Eid-ul-Fitr and subsequent surge in COVID-19 cases.

All political parties to some extent play the game of blame and scapegoating. The astronomical proportions of narcissism that blind our current leaders to their faults are worrying. “When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”

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Dr. Faisal Chaudhry

Dr Faisal Chaudhry is a graduate of King Edward Medical University and is currently working in Oxford University Hospitals. He is an avid traveler and an advocate of social awareness and dissidence.