When Chairman Mao said “let a thousand flowers bloom,” he heralded an era of purges and persecution. When General Musharraf said “let a thousand TV channels bloom”–to create a free press–he augured an era of paranoia, amplified on a national scale on television screens across Pakistan, fueling an already barmy press and populous.

There are now countless news channels, and with them, countless new exponents of conspiracy theories and jingoism. For the past few days, Pakistan’s press has not been reporting or investigating the insurgency their country faces, but is instead focused on a few remarks the Indian army chief, General Kapoor, made during a seminar. The general’s crime? Musings about a contingency military plan to fight a two-front low intensity war with Pakistan and China. In Pakistan, these few remarks are being treated as the blueprint for a hegemonic Indian military strategy. Tellingly, however, no one else in the region cares–even China doesn’t a give a hoot.

It takes an awfully narcissistic mind to construe brainstorming as provocations. Narcissism is defined as “a psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem.” Pakistanis, in this case and in all others, believe that “they”–the Indians, the Americans, the Jews, the boogeyman–are out to get ’em. That’s how a private comment in a seminar fuels the talking head punditry and their irrational banter. Even the liberal English-language Dawn News gave way too much coverage to a pointless issue. InFocus with Kamran Yousaf hosted a panel of four, including nuclear scientist Pervez Hoodbhoy, (retd) Lt. Gen. Masood, Indian (retd) General Banerjee, and international security analyst–and director general of paranoia–Maria Sultan. While Gen. Banerjee explained (and pleaded) that Pakistanis shouldn’t read too much into these statements, a jingoistic Maria Sultan demanded that the Pakistani military respond with some form of mobilization. The host, Kamran Yousaf, kept being provocative–asking why is India being aggressive? How should Pakistan respond?–but never asking if it’s even worth it to care.

This is just one example. A quick flip through the channels reveals you to a world of fulminating self-appointed analysts. Nadeem Paracha’s latest column in Dawn mocks the BMMs, as he calls them. It’s funny and worth a read.

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