Posted by: uss017 | November 14, 2007

Some musings on Asma Sherazi’s Parliament Gallery

Today I saw a programme on ARY hosted by Asma Sherazi entitled “Parliament Gallery”, which discusses the political situation of Pakistan with a few invited panellists. The issue being discussed in today’s programme was the imposition of emergency in Pakistan, which comes as no surprise.

Unfortunately, I was unable to view the first half of the programme, as a result of which I missed the name of one of the panellists. The following were invited:

    A PPPP member (I couldn’t find out his name);
    MMA member (Liaqat Baloch);
    AAJ TV journalist/reporter (Mushtaq Minhas);
    A PML-Q member (one Mr. Mir);

I find Asma Sherazi somewhat annoying due to her constant use of sarcasm, which has substantially increased over the past week for obvious reasons. Both Sherazi and Minhas argued and stated numerous times that the media was fair and balanced and was doing its job just fine. I find this ironic given they were making such statements on a programme on which there was only one individual representing the government’s point of view, facing four opponents (Sherazi included). I leave it up to you to judge how ‘balanced’ this scenario is. Sherazi even had the audacity to later demonstrate her ‘balance’ by claiming that she always invited government officials on her programmes. She is right. But the part that usually one government official is facing two, three, and four opponents on her programmes (and others) and is surrounded by them, simply escaped her.

I’ll touch upon two issues raised ad nauseum in this programme which I found to be questionable and wanting.

1. Sherazi (and Baloch) asserted a number of times that the government had cracked down upon channels such as GEO and ARY because they did not desire them to tell the truth. I find this claim problematic. Sherazi needs to prove to us that she has the ability to enter the mind of all government officials whereby she ascertained that the ‘real’ reason behind the crackdown was “they did not want the channels to tell the truth” (I am just paraphrasing here). Obviously, Sherazi cannot accomplish this task. She is merely presenting her personal feeling, suspicion, wish and desire as if it was a fact which could be objectively observed by all. It is also possible that the government decided to take action against Sherazi’s channel simply for the reasons they clearly stipulated: that disinformation and propaganda was being spewed by these channels; they were attempting to create mayhem in Pakistan by inciting the masses; that they allowed the proliferation of abuse; they played a negative role in reporting on terrorism etc. At most, one could argue that even though the government sincerely believes in the validity of these charges and decided to act against certain channels for these reasons, they were mistaken for such and such reasons by pointing out possible weaknesses in the government’s proffered reasons. This approach is perfectly fine. But to claim that a certain action was taken “because of such and such reasons” – when this supposed ‘reason’ has never been claimed and implied by the action taker – is just an exercise of imagination: ‘reading’ into one’s mind to unearth the un-stated ‘real’ and ‘actual’ reasons behind a certain action.

2. I found Minhas to be a rather daft chap. In response to Mir’s claim that the media, on occasions, showed exceptionally graphic scenes on channels (for instance, the immediate aftermath of suicide bombings: bloody mangled bodies, scattered limbs, heads etc) and that there needed to be guidelines in place (some sort of a media ordinance), Minhas essentially responded by comparing the requirement of the media ordinance with the alleged violation of the constitution by the government numerous times. Minhas acknowledged that it was true that in Western nations such as the U.S., news channels were not permitted to show graphic bloody scenes, but he asked the remaining panellists to inform him as to when the U.S. violated its constitution? Yet Minhas’ comparison was entirely misplaced and he committed the logical fallacy known as tu quoque.

There is no connection between the two issues, so that violation of one has no bearing upon the other. For arguments sake, let us suppose that the government has violated the constitution. How does that justify the lack of adherence to a code of conduct by the channels? Is Minhas arguing that the channels display graphic and horrific scenes to serve the purpose of a weird ‘education device’ i.e., because the government allegedly violated the constitution, we will therefore show graphic scenes on television screens. This makes no sense; the two are unconnected issues. The underlying logic of Minhas’ argument appears to be that two unrelated wrongs make a right. Just because the government allegedly violated the constitution, it does not follow that the channels are no longer required to abide by a code of conduct.

Minhas then reiterated his answered point that the media would follow guidelines only when the government decides to follow the constitution, with Asma Sherazi gullibly agreeing with him. How they could not realize the nature of their false comparison is just bewildering.

As noted, Minhas committed the “you too” fallacy, also known tu quoque. This means:

… the tu quoque (“you too”) fallacy occurs when we make unwarranted connections between a person’s alleged lack of credibility and the strength of their argument. Here the alleged lack of credibility ensues specifically from their being hypocritical: an inconsistency between the arguer’s actions and their claims. The fallacy is committed when we: reject a person’s claim that a behaviour or proposal should be refrained from or discarded on the grounds that they themselves practise the behaviour; or when we reject a person’s claims that a behaviour or proposal should be adopted on the grounds that they fail to follow it themselves. (Tracy Bowell & Gary Kemp, Critical Thinking: A concise guide, Second Edition, 2005, Routledge, p. 137).

Simply put: Minhas has spotted an alleged inconsistency between what the government does and what it says, but that inconsistency does not render false the government’s view about the requirement for the channels to abide by a code of conduct.

The unbelievable part for me was a personal story related next by Minhas in continuation of his above baseless argument. It went something like this: once upon a time Minhas was stopped by the traffic police for driving too fast and as the officer was busy making out a fine, Minhas decided to ask the officer a question. He requested the officer to inform him as to what right President Musharraf had to rule over Pakistan? Minhas politely made his innocent enquiry and even allowed the officer to increase the fine if he felt annoyed. According to Minhas, the officer stopped. He said, “you are right,” and then permitted Minhas to leave without levelling upon him the fine. After hearing this beautiful bedtime story, I found myself asking: if this is how reporters/journalists such as Minhas attempt to ‘convince’ the masses, just imagine the exceptionally poor quality of their reporting and analysis. I will confess that I know nothing about Minhas, apart from his talk which I heard on GEO, and that I have never watched his programmes. Yet it is very difficult for me to take seriously a man who has to relate the above type of story and make arguments which border on the absurd.

3. Both Sherazi and Baloch said a couple of times that the media was doing a ‘fantastic’ job and how they were relating the ‘truth’. I beg to differ. In this very programme, what I mostly witnessed was the usual rhetoric and just downright naive arguments being mounted against the government in a very unbalanced set up (only one government representative).

I’ll have more to write on other similar programmes in the coming days.

++++++++

© Musharraf Supporters 2007 All rights reserved

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Your Comments are more about feelings. Mushtaq Minhas put a very importnat question that you have not answered.

    The government that is asking the channels to abide by the code of conduct is the same one that did not follow the greatest law of the country constitution?

  2. Hello Rustic and thank you for your comments.

    A. I disagree. I did not offer mere ‘feelings’ to dismiss Sherazi and Minhas. If you read the essay carefully again, you would not fail to miss the argument I mounted against Sherazi e.g., 1. the fallacy involved in the “they did not want the channels to tell the truth” assertion. You can be completely emotionless and be able to see the problematic nature of Sherazi’s comment. 2. the unfair and highly biased set-up of her programme which favors opposition parties. 3. The leap of logic carried out by Minhas. I presented arguments, not ‘feelings’ to present my case. You are more than welcome to show any possible weaknesses in my arguments and I will definitely change my stance if you make a convincing case.

    B. You did not follow the argument. Perhaps I should have been clearer. Let me explain again: EVEN IF, for arguments sake, assuming you are right and the government did not follow the constitution (a questionable assertion btw), HOW does that absolve the channels’ requirement of adhering to a code of conduct? You are essentially arguing: “you did it too.” Well, that does nothing to show the validity of Minhas’ defence of lack of adherence to a code of conduct by the media.

    In other words, when Minhas pointed out the alleged violation of the constitution by the government, he did not provide any valid argument in favour of the channels not abiding by a code of conduct.

    The technical jargon for this fallacy is: tu quoque i.e., “when we make unwarranted connections between a person’s alleged lack of credibility and the strength of their argument.”

    Once again, put ‘feelings’ completely aside and you should be able to see through the fallacy committed by Minhas.

    I will update my essay slightly for the purpose of clarity.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: