One year ago, when I called upon former Director Institute of Social and Cultural studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore (I am not mentioning his name here), he shared some very interesting things with me. I do remember when I passionately questioned him “Sir, why don’t you write for newspapers?” He, with a decent smile on his face, calmly replied “Dear Farah, I do write. But they don’t publish what I think or write”. I was not really surprised after hearing these words from a renowned sociologist of my country, because I had heard the same words from so many intellectuals in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.  Anyway, I insisted that “Sir, you should write. At least you should write on social media so that people may learn from your experience”. Although he was not ready to consider my opinion seriously, yet he said: “Yes, I should”.

Media, both electronic and print, has remained significant in all the weathers. No matter if it is about peace or war, media always plays an instrumental role in shaping, manipulating and molding public opinion and mass psychology. But after the end of twentieth century the world has changed remarkably and the nature, scope and dynamics of media, was not an exception in this regard.

In the case of Pakistan, we see some fundamental developments in media industry but also some massive shortcomings, which need to be addressed at all three levels: social, political and intellectual.

Interestingly, in Pakistan the theory of liberalism has its own shocking meaning and those who claim to be liberals have some unique characteristics. They criticize one particular religion, ridicule the country’s ideology, make fun of domestic customs and laugh at the belief system of their fellows. If someone has these above-named qualities he/she will be a Pakistani liberal.

In media, TV channels and newspapers are generally divided into two categories: liberal and conservative. The newspapers that claim to be liberals usually publish article and columns of only those intellectuals and analysts who are what we can now term as “Pakistani liberals”. The second group that claims to be the guardian of Islam and the ideology of the country grants space to only those pseudo scholars who smartly, and sometimes ignorantly, exploit and mislead people across the country. The tragedy is that both categories claim to be the protectors of the idea of freedom of speech.

Practically speaking, this division that has no sound intellectual basis is an obstacle in the way of a moderate thinking society.

The Nation, in general, is considered a conservative English newspaper but it sometimes surprises me when I find some articles and blogs that carry unconstructive criticism and aggression of young emotional writers on Pakistani society and state. Some respectable writers who claim to be Pakistani liberals get published in The Nation. But despite having a heart for criticism the newspaper is tainted as “biased conservative”.

Because of the so-called ideological clash (here I am not using the word difference intentionally) pro-Pakistan security institutions and above all pro-Pakistani society and culture thinkers are considered orthodox and illogical minds who do not deserve to be published in the leading English newspaper of the country. The sad reality is that the same news outlets openly claim to be unbiased and liberal. In practice, the exact opposite happens.

In these circumstances, what should public intellectuals do? How can they educate and lead their people? Is there any alternatives or should they sit silently? And will this silence result into dangerous outcomes?

The answer is simple: the silence of public intellectuals will be paid in terms of slavery in its modern version. So, in such a highly globalized and digitalized world social media is a useful and easy-to-access means for intellectuals to communicate and interact with the masses.

We need to understand the power and utility of social media that is being used by world powers and even by our own neighbor countries to shape narratives. As Dr. Moeed Pirzada has stated “this is the war of ideas and narratives” and if we are interested in winning this war, we immediately need to understand the dynamics of this virtual and digital war for a quick response.

My suggestion is, for all those Pakistani public intellectuals who are not published for not writing what the masters of these media outlets like and want, to properly use social media for interacting with and guiding their nation.