Firstly, it requires a temporary suspension of disbelief. Mentally, the reader must, for a moment, accept the stated 'facts' as possibly true. Secondly, sifting through false claims to reach the truth requires a person to gather information, weigh it against common sense and logic and then if proved false, discard it. 

For most of us, step two never happens.

Elections 2018 are in the air. Trends on the internet will sprout and die like digital weeds. The recent tsunami to hit the airwaves, Reham Khan manuscript leak, started off as a heated exchange between two seasoned (and not bad looking) media personalities. Allegations, screenshots of doctored emails and a lot of sarcasm is continuously being hurled by both sides in an almost choreographic manner. 

The virtual mud wrestling match was bound to spill over to its home base – the television. The lady of the week is being beamed in from her recluse abroad, gracefully clad in a very slithery, chiffon dupatta. Hamza Ali Abbasi, on the other hand, is bouncing breathlessly from one interview to another. Voices are raised, dramatic dialogues are delivered, one side plays the 'ghairat' card while the other responds with the 'victim' card. The exact same, emotionally draining, brain cell depleting battle is being played in a loop, on every channel, after every 30 minutes. 

Someone needs to give these two - a timeout.

As we enter deeper into the realm of alternative facts, separating news from artificially engineered realities and intelligently created lies is a skill we can't expect our mostly benighted population to decipher. This is not the first fabricated memoir and it won’t be the last. So, in a land where the milk man dilutes his product to increase income, and stab wounds are denied justice, where most of us peddle fantasy as fact, why should honesty be an expectation from Reham Khan alone?

Do these alleged lies bother me? They don't. My fury is aimed at the precious screen space this issue is taking during the most crucial transitional phase for our country. 

The next five years depend on how we behave in these next two months.

Will it be too ambitious to hope for our media to take more responsibility during power transfer from one elected government to another? This is the time to educate the masses on their candidates and constituencies. These politicians in turn need to talk about policy, their history in the parliament and explain their strategy for the next term. Only then will the voter be able to make a conscious, intelligent choice. We, on the other hand, see our leaders quibbling like schoolchildren, indulging in an endless, dramatic debate over a book that a vast majority of the population won’t even read.

Are we going to let someone steer the fate of our country, clasping the reins of a book of fiction?

On every news channel, this is the most important political issue of the day. Not lack of health facilities, not unemployment, not even terrorism. These performers conveniently generate front-page news and top trends for themselves by adding fuel to the flame with every tweet. The goal ultimately, is to distract the already star-plus injected public with highly emotional, non-essential issues that seem like a big deal, but, in reality, are of absolutely no consequence.

It is time we raised the bar on the quality of our politics.

The voters should acknowledge how they have been manipulated in the past in order to protect themselves from a replay in the future. Now is the time to break this Pandora’s Box of political spin and start the uphill climb of cleansing our toxic, dysfunctional political culture. 

Sadly, fabrication and lies are the order of the day in much of the media and might remain so until we as a nation, demand a change. 

Till then, for anyone involved in a smear campaign, let us not forget: What eventually exposes a skunk, is the publicity it gives itself.