Sex, journalism and a bad book

1. Journalistic deep thoughts, brought to you by Reuters’ Myra MacDonald who went in search of Kipling’s characters:

I had not expected Pakistan’s tribal areas to be so neat and so prosperous.

These are meant to be the badlands, mythologised as no-go areas by Kiplingesque images of xenophobic Pashtuns, jezail musket in hand, defying British troops from rugged clifftops.

MacDonald makes the raging discovery that Kipling might’ve been a tad inaccurate. After being taken around on a helicopter tour of the the region by the Pakistani Army which was hoping to show that it’s making headway in its war in the tribal areas, MacDonald’s observes, “At the very least, the myth of the “ungovernable” tribal areas — so beloved of Raj-era tales — has been broken.” A perfect message in sync with what the Pak Army wants the foreign journalists to take home, all under cover of breaking Orientalist racist “myths”. Reporter and author Mary Ann Weaver apparently didn’t get the memo. In the preface to the new edition of Pakistan: Deep Inside the World’s Most Frightening State, she writes, One of my most vivid images was of decay…of the breakdown of law and order, as dark-haired, dark-eyed men moved through the villages with AK-47s slung from their shoulders, swaying gently against their hips.” Guns and hips. Violence and sex. It’s orientalist writing at its finest. The subjection of ‘brown’ men to the sexual gaze of a white woman. I cannot but helplessly think of Lynndie England’s photographs. We are treated to this passage on Khyber-Pakhtunkwa (formerly NWFP) a few pages later:

…these tribal lands have beguiled and fascinated, bewitched and repelled, potential conquerors for thousands of years.

I had first come to the Pakistani border regions to cover the jihad, a war that was never fully resolved….It was a war of contradictions and confusions [oh Tavernise couldn’t do it better!] a war fought in Kipling’s world, between independent peoples and independent tribes whose ancient codes of honor and animosities have coalesced to make this one of the most volatile, dangerous, yet fascinating places on earth. And the war’s contradictions were, in ever sense, mirrored here, in the jihad’s staging area: Pakistan.

And here are more journalists giving us reasons to junk the media: this is a roundup of Reuters gems of un-knowledge about Central Asia, here’s one on Somalia, and this is one on Zimbabwe. And, here’s Pakistani news show host Talat Hussein’s list of what he hates about foreign media and reporters.

2. One of our cultural elite gets schooled by a Laotian restaurant owner. Writing about her move to Vietnam in this week’s Newsline magazine, Pakistani reporter Muna Khan has an amusing anecdote about the night Obama gets was elected to office that says scores about the discursive maps of the Pakistani elite and their allegiances. Khan doesn’t pause to reflect on this moment, but I certainly did:

I travelled to Laos all by myself…and watched Obama make his acceptance speech at a Laotian restaurant and felt so overwhelmed that I cried, which prompted the owner of the restaurant to ask, “Why you cry? He gonna bum your country.”


3. The creme of the elite: An excellent review of Fatima Bhutto’s new book Songs of Blood and Sword by Manan Ahmed. The book has been roundly criticized in Pakistan causing Fatima Bhutto to throw 140 character long tantrums on Twitter lashing out at her critics. She’s also thus far refused to give an interview to a Pakistani station (though that may have more to do with her non-existent Urdu language skills much like her cousin, Bilawal or her auntie, Benazir, when she began her political career) though she’s been traipsing around western media outlets.

Still wondering whether she’ll take up Manan’s suggestion that the Bhutto papers be turned into a public archive so that the rest of us can have a crack at them. They would serve us better than her, um…book.

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