Liberals and conservatives on TV -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Liberals and conservatives on TV

Dr Syed Mansoor Hussain

Whatever else one might say about it, clearly the super efficient chief minister of Punjab has met his match in the tiny aedes aegypti and the virus it carries and keeps injecting into unsuspecting victims. We will never see the mosquito and the CM on TV debating health issues.

A five-week vacation in New Jersey was supposed to be refuge from the daily onslaught of bad news in Pakistan and freedom from persistent load shedding. Also included in the visit was the plan to see my children, friends and family and perhaps do some moderate amount of travelling. However, the best laid plans of mice and men came to naught at least as far as the travelling part was concerned. Somewhere along the line I managed to hurt my shoulder lifting a bag from the airport carousel. So driving was out and therefore I spent most of my time at home except when I could be driven around.

Not all bad a bargain, got to eat decent roast beef sandwiches, consume single malt libations of a superior sort and watch television, and of course all the kids dropped by to see me as did friends and other members of my family. But the US television did not offer much respite from bad news. The debt ceiling crisis and the stock market that bounced around like a yo-yo were all rather disturbing. Then of course we had the earthquake followed soon after by the hurricane that, even though not all that ferocious, did leave some serious damage in its wake. The only comic relief, if one may call it that, was the continued back and forth between the liberal and the conservative types on TV.

What all the pundits from the right and left had to say was repetitious and quite predictable. But as I watched a parade of these talking heads and assorted politicians I realised that it was easy to tell the conservatives and the liberals apart just by looking at their faces and expressions. The conservative pundits all scowled at the camera and always looked serious and extremely intense. The liberals on the other hand would easily break into a smile and rarely looked too intense – the exception of course being the hardcore ‘progressives’.

The observation worth making is that both the diehards on the left as well as the right are essentially a self-righteous bunch convinced that they cannot be wrong. The liberals in the middle are of course entirely convinced that they are probably wrong anyway! The only exception to this is all the interchangeable blonde females on Fox TV hired for their looks who present the conservative point of view without much conviction. Clearly, if they were offered enough money they would willingly work for MSNBC and extol the liberal point of view with equal facility.

Now, now, I do realise that I am generalising in a big way but stay with me for a moment. Just go back in history and look at a picture of FDR, Churchill and Stalin sitting together or JFK and Nixon during a debate and you will not need a better illustration of my point of view. And a look at the conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer or George Will on TV is enough proof. Perhaps the liberals look bemused, if not amused, because they can never quite believe the bunkum the conservatives keep spewing.

Having had enough of the US political and economic problems and the ‘hurricane attacks’ and definitely to avoid all the hype about 9/11, I escaped to Lahore. Whoa! But what is all this about the dengue fever? People in Lahore are literally afraid to venture out of their homes for fear of catching this disease. Whatever else one might say about it, clearly the super efficient chief minister (CM) of Punjab has met his match in the tiny aedes aegypti and the virus it carries and keeps injecting into unsuspecting victims. We will never see the mosquito and the CM on TV debating health issues though I have a feeling that the mosquito carrying dengue probably has liberal tendencies. Why do I say that? Well, this mosquito – unlike its plebeian cousin carrying malaria – thrives in clean water usually found in well manicured lawns, swimming pools, and possibly golf course water traps. And its victims are often the well off. Golfers beware!

Sorry, I could not help that cheap shot, so now back to the liberal and conservative types on TV. Here again a picture of Mian sahib the elder compared to President Zardari will illustrate my point. Mian sahib rarely smiles and President Zardari cannot stop smiling. The maulanas are a special case but my favourite Maulana has to be the head of the JUI-F. He is a jolly sort, which in my opinion means that he is really a liberal hiding in a maulana’s clothing, a point made obvious by his willingness to join centre-left parties in government, his religious inclinations notwithstanding. The contrast between him and the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is obvious.

Mr Imran Khan is a special case. He has two personae. When he appears on TV as a politician he is intense to the point of seeming demented, scowling, grimacing and clearly incapable of indulging in the slightest amount of humour or introspection. Then if you see him commenting during a cricket match in his western clothing, he is transformed into a suave and urbane liberal with an easy smile and even a ‘twinkle’ in his eyes. I am sure that Khan sahib would do much better as a politician if he could inject some of his cricket commentator persona into his political demeanour.

About Pakistani TV anchors, as far as I am concerned most of them are like the Fox News females, ready to present the editorial point of view of whoever pays them the most. The only exception being the perpetually morose doctor TV anchor who made his name peddling eschatology. I do not think I have ever seen him smile but then I have not watched him too often either. About our female TV anchors, respect for women prevents me from offering my opinion about them but it would be nicer if they shouted a little less.

The writer has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at
Source: Daily Times