By Fahd Husain
Beyghairat Brigade will always be known as the boys who finally said the emperor had no clothes.
They will always be credited for being politically incorrect when most needed, and giving voice to all those Pakistanis who live in fear of freedom from fear.
Aalu Anday (potatoes and eggs) never tasted so good.
The YouTube sensation boy band, which goes by the provocative name of ‘Beyghairat Brigade’, has gone viral on the internet, and for a brief period, on the mainstream Pakistani channels. U2 they are not, and neither do they have the rhythmic flair of an Abrar, but through their song ‘Aalu Anday’ they have tapped into a reservoir of disenchantment that is not satiated by the media. Reason: they have raked the Rightists over the coals, starting with their name and ending with their lyrics. Their song is a shut up call in melody to those amongst us who thrive on an ‘Us vs the Rest’ syndrome. They deserve the ‘aalu’ and ‘anday’ coming their way now.
In fact, this counterattack was long overdue. The so-called ‘Ghairat (honour) Brigade’ have been running roughshod over the cluttered mediascape, oxygenating the airwaves with outlandish conspiracy theories, suffocating false bravado and a brand of patriotism that feeds on deliberate ignorance. The fact that all this sells on air makes it all the more toxic. Gripped by a siege mentality and infectious paranoia, the Pakistani viewer has been lapping up the garbage that is thrown at him daily in the guise of ‘informed opinion’. This deluge of half-baked analysis has slowly acquired a putrid garnishing of credibility in the absence of a logically potent counter-narrative.
In other words, you cannot argue when you are staring into the barrel of a gun.
This may be partly true though. The ghettoisation of thought in Pakistan has a lot to do with state policy. When the gun becomes a symbol of state policy, when the export of violence is accorded official legitimacy, and when non-state actors begin to act on the state’s stage, dissent starts to smell like treason. The definition of national interest shrinks to a narrow sliver and difference of opinion is best suffered under a heavy jackboot. Ghairat rears its head and starts to spew venom, lathering the airwaves with foul content disguised as analysis. Then we wonder why TV is such a superficial medium.
Well, the Beyghairat Brigade has just proved that TV is not that superficial after all. In a three minute long song, the boys have said all that needed to be said about the Sharif brothers, Imran Khan, the chief justice (CJ), the chief of army staff (COAS), Qadri, Kasab, Dr Abdus Salam and Blackwater. That is a lot of content for 180 seconds, but then that is the power of the audio-visual medium when used to its strength. The funny thing is that the lyrics of the song have exposed the hypocrisy in our society more starkly than an hour-long talk show ever could. And the medium of their choice — YouTube — ensured they did not need to grovel in front of channel owners and executives for content approval.
All power to the power of the new media and its young adherents.
Beyghairat Brigade may end up being one-hit wonders, or they may gain traction with more provocative tracks, but they will always be known as the boys who finally said the emperor had no clothes. They will always be credited for being politically incorrect when most needed, and giving voice to all those Pakistanis who live in fear of freedom from fear. Perhaps this was not their intention, and perhaps they never thought their song would reverberate so loudly in the cacophony of Pakistan’s media. Now that they are getting rave reviews, the boys can pat themselves on the back, and brace for feedback from the Ghairat Brigade.
But wait. Where are the ghairat boys? Are they pretending to ignore their beyghairat (without honour) brothers? Or have they taken one on the chin and are smarting from the blow? Perhaps they lost their sense of humour (sic) or are they — God forbid — sulking? The Qadri/Kasab/Blackwater/Dr Abdus Salam references must have got their goat, but they seem to have gulped this one down. Question is, will they choke on it?
In the meantime, it is time the media started to take itself a little less seriously. Shorn of holier-than-thou pretensions, the news channels are turning into a glorified circus, outdoing each other in providing titillating entertainment masquerading as journalism. In the race for eyeballs, all is kosher. If hate sells, sell it. If shouting and abusing sell, sell them. If misery makes news, headline it. If slander sticks, plaster it. And if rationality elicits a yawn, shelve it.
With elections looming, ‘tis the season to take a popular line. This applies equally to the politicians and the media. In the arena of public opinion, no one dare stick their neck out for fear of being trampled under the hooves. No one, that is, except a few aalus and andaas who believe there is something real rotten in this state where murderers are hailed as heroes and heroes are condemned as heretics.
This is why Aalu Anday never tasted so good.
The writer hosts a primetime show on a private TV channel.