When media is used as a weapon against us

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WHILE I was recently browsing the Internet, I came across an article written by Saudi columnist Muhammad Al-Sulami from ‘An7a’ news website titled ‘A letter to the Information Minister’. It perked my interest in what he wanted to say, and I took time out to read it.

In his letter, he questioned the true message of our media production, which influences and shapes the image of persons and personalities in the minds of the receivers. He asked, “Why are we engraving the image of a police officer, who is protecting and serving us, in the minds of the future generation, as a backward, illiterate person who was born in the past century, even if the production was a comedy?”

He said that police officers are smart and intelligent and because of these acumen along with the inherent characteristics of courage and honor and a will to serve humanity with valor that were in the forefront in defeating the devious thoughts of Al-Qaeda and Daesh (so-called IS) group in their wars against terrorist organizations and the day-to-day criminal gangs in keeping the society safe.

He asks, why is there not a single work done about the heroic soldiers, who are standing in the frontline, as the first line of defense while defending our borders from the Yemeni outlaw militia of Al-Houthi? Why aren’t their heroic stories motivating producers to write a single story about them? If this had been Hollywood, or in Europe, then there would have been a lot of movies about them and depicting them in the image of super heroes.

The same goes for the stereotypical painting of an image that Saudi women have nothing in their minds except fashion and make up, while ignoring the great achievements of Saudi women in many fields of science and humanitarian work, which, ironically, is being recognized by all, except our media.

Media, he said, is a double-edged sword, calling on the minister to improve our media message before we improve the technology. He concluded by saying, “We must develop our authors. We must develop who chooses the guests to be present on our screens. We must create an information message that expresses our identity and our culture that is far from extremism. Then only will we succeed in creating a strong media industry that will be our weapon.

This letter has come at the same time when there is a big ongoing debate over the TV serial show ‘Al-Asouf’ that is being aired at MBC TV channel. For the record, I have not watched the series, but am basing this from what I have heard from my friends and what was reported by journalists and in the social media.

The series talks about life in Riyadh during the 70s and the simple life of that city. The series started with one of the main characters in the show placing an illegitimate newborn infant in front of a mosque, and then in another segment of the series, it showed one of the main male characters of the show sneaking out from his female neighbor house that is a married woman. These portions were reviled by a section of the society and the series was condemned by a large segment of our society who accused the producers and the writers of this series of faking history and painting a negative image about society’s life.

On the other hand, there were those who loved it and said that it was a fictional story and not necessarily reflecting real life. Those who are with this series, simply accused those who oppose it of standing against any real drama work and targeting the host channel specifically. Not a long time ago, some Kuwaiti actors criticized current work broadcasted on their TV saying that it is painting a negative image of the local society and does not reflect real life and problems. Same was said by critics about a Egyptian TV series and media, as criticism was leveled by some, calling the works as not reflecting real life and issues, and producing below average content.

One may ask, what is the point of media when we are damaging our own image with our own hands? What have we left for our enemies to do, who are already faking and creating negative images about our society in their media and pushing these thoughts into a global arena with their constant barrage while using compliant partners in different parts of the world by luring them with money or using ones who share their thoughts.

There is one quick counter to this. Let’s flip the same mode of deluging all with a constant stream of negativity with repeated doses of positivity. And in this day and age with technology to the fore, media should be on the prowl to project just this in order to present a true picture of us. There are positive messages aplenty for the media to cull. Let us start quickly innovating and creating our own content and use whatever positivity comes from it to improve our country’s image by discussing our own real problems and finding ways to solve them.

What should go on TV for viewers should be scrutinized for its relevance and content and see if it is fit for public consumption. We all should remember that while Media TV production are a mode for entertainment it is also a very effective defense tool — that is if it is used properly. For fakeness and falsehoods will always founder in front of truth reinforcing the adage that “truth will always prevail”.

More importantly, it will stand as a strong barrier against the flood of fake media coming from outside and influencing our society. Let us wake up and smell the coffee and become alert to this fact. Let us use this tool to shape us and not to destroy us.

The writer can be reached at mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa

Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng


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