The Gulalai Drama and our Media’s Incitement to Idiocy

(An unfortunately necessary disclaimer: No the word “drama” in the title does not mean what you think it means. Please look it up.)

The alleger alleges, the accused defends and a few million spew nothing but nonsense. Equally abhorrent are both; the tendency to out-rightly reject Gulalai’s accusations and to believe them without any investigation; the attacks on her person and family and the attacks on the accused on mere allegations. Have we lost all objectivity? Is the word “polarized” now insufficient to describe our social and political discourse, have we gone way beyond being just opinionated? Has idiocy actually and finally taken over?

A woman comes forward with an allegation of sexual harassment against her party’s chairperson and another senior leader along with allegations of corruption against a provincial government. Sexual harassment immediately takes centre stage since corruption is immaterial as long as it exists on “my” side of the line. The woman is questioned, grilled, doubted and then questioned some more. By an investigative agency? No, by spokespersons of the accused and by our all righteous media. Wrong? yes. She is also supported, defended and encouraged. By her family or lawyers? No, by arch rivals of the accused party, some confused rights activists and another segment of our all righteous media. Just? No.

They say Gulalai has shown great courage by hurling accusations at a popular and powerful person. Really? When has it been difficult to accuse a politician? From allegations – some proven absolutely false later on – of rape, corruption, treachery to those of immorality and indecency, hasn’t the politician always been the easiest target? Yes, as a woman raising her voice against a man in our very patriarchal society, Gulalai may be deemed courageous. But then again, the accused being a politician opposed and despised by the ruling party makes it a tad easier.

They say this incident has brought to light the woes of women and the hardships they face in our male dominated society. Even if it does, its aftermath has brought to far brighter light the rise of idiocy, intolerance and bigotry. Woes of women have been brought to light by victims before, when we conveniently chose to look the other way. Amna Bibi; the 18 year old rape victim for instance, who kept struggling for justice and eventually set herself ablaze in front of a police station because not enough of us thought she exposed the woes of women, poor and the ordinary, because no minister or leader called her his sister and promised justice, because no channel ran her story over and over again or named the culprits again and again and again and because she failed to trend on twitter. This does not mean that just because we failed her, we ought to fail every subsequent victim of physical or verbal abuse, but this does reflect on our selective morality.

They say Gulalai does not make sense and her allegations seem made-up, concocted and part of a plot to defame a political party and its leadership. We are all judges without robes, rostrums and courts. With a very few exceptions, a huge majority has already given their verdict for or against Gulalai and the sad fact is that no real verdict from an actual judicial forum is going to change it. Responsible, or so they appear, politicians have suggested burning Gulalai’s house to the ground, other enthusiasts have incited fellows to throw acid on her, all the while screaming how women are not unsafe. Defenders of the accused have presented brilliant logics to question Gulalai’s integrity and decency by referring to her sister’s attire. These may not have been issues of serious concern had they not been presented, repeated or endorsed by our media.

They say Khan has a history of “misadventures” when it comes to women around him. Thus, even if Gulalai has not presented any evidence yet, she ought to be believed without question. Some have even gone on to vouch for her on oath without seeing the evidence.

A certain channel holds that since Khan did not respond to the allegation immediately, it implies that he is guilty. Another says that since Gulalai chose to keep mum over the alleged harassment for a few years, it implies that she is dishonest. Both stances are equally ridiculous.

Electronic and social media; talk shows, tweets and posts make your head spin. They render redundant the looming issues of harassment, women empowerment and equality before law and instead make you wonder how the poles in our polarized society are ever expanding. Bigotry is the only norm in debate and partiality clouds our judgment. With the media aiding and abetting, only the worse awaits us.

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