Media Watch: Déjà vu


    If one were to watch the television coverage of Muharam processions from last year, and compare it to the coverage for the year before, there really would not be much difference.

    Sure, there will be different faces or even different incidences or even a few different words here and there, but the message would essentially be the same – this many processions took place in this many cities on these set routes while a large number of people distributed sabeel and carried ornamented taziyas.

    In fact, reporters could actually stay on standby on such days while old footage and voice overs rolled, only having to step in if there was an untowards incident.

    You could play last year’s Muharam, or Eid transmissions the next year and none would be the wiser.

    This sort of phenomenon is because of the similar reactions that the news media has to similar events. Something like the Ashura processions will always hold the same meaning every year, unless a very specific event of some significance takes place one particular year.

    America’s finest news source and the premiere practitioners of the satire art form in the world, The Onion, has shown that it is not one to shy away from such repetition as long as the overall message is being tied together.

    Every time America reels from a mass shooting, The Onion runs the same headline it first ran in 2014, which reads : “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

    Being a liberal source of social commentary, the headline is a scathing remark on America’s baffling gun laws, and the conservative defending it, based on the basic liberal reasoning for why such events take place: lack of gun regulations.

    For The Onion, there is not much else to be said. Until something is done, the debate between the two sides of American politics is always going to be the same. All The Onion does every time is update the date, location and image they use for their story. The rest is the same.

    After all, what new discussion is CNN, ABC or FOX bringing on board anytime a mass shooting takes place. They will change the images, give the new details and then continue to have the same debates, and not for any fault in their coverage or analysis, but because that is what is there to be discussed with the particular issue at hand.

    Pakistan Today’s own satire publication, The Dependent, has used the method multiple times in the past. On independence day it ran the previously used headline “Nation’s youth vow to observe Independence Day by removing silencer from bikes.” Another one run every Eid is “Thousands observe traditional Pakistani ritual of getting stuck in Murree on Eid.”

    But with an issue as serious as mass shooting, satire writers will appreciate The Onion because they know how great the fear of seeming insensitive is. Yet this headline seems to be one made mainstream. This exercise of repetition must in itself be a frustrating experience.

    It definitely would have been particularly hard for former The Onion writer Jason Roeder, who tweeted “When I wrote this headline, I had no idea it would be applied to the high school a mile from my house.”

    One feels for the helpless innocents killed in such senseless violence, but one also feels for the satirist whose words continue to have no effect.