So looks like its double-whammy for Pakistani entertainment enthusiasts this time. First we get beaten out of the Twenty20 World Cup after having our hopes raised to unbelievable heights, prompting people to make all sorts of sour remarks on Facebook to vent their frustration. Then this whole high-stakes emotional censorship bonanza prompts to block Facebook for a whole week! Oh where will disappointed sports fans and withdrawal-ridden Facebook addicts go to now that the pleasant lull of the Facebook Newsfeed and the unmistakable sense of constantly being connected to all your friends have been stripped off of our internet experience.
Though all this buzz about a silly Facebook contest group seems a little bit over-hyped to be making international news headlines, I'm sure the administration of the Pakistan censorship regime were just looking for an excuse to test out their instant web-portal blocking apparatus. Probably didn't do as well as one would expect, since it took them a few days to get the blocking sealed. Please, do these people have any idea how many status changes, picture uploads, note posts, and information sharing can take place within a few days? This could be catastrophic in an emergency situation which prompts Facebook blocking. A sorry attempt, I must add.
What I really don't get though is why is it such a big deal if someone's doing something that might offend us on Facebook. It’s the Internet for heaven's sake! Probably a million people are doing things that would tick us off on the internet at any given time. No one really seems to be giving a hoot about any of that. Oh but when Facebook does it, it’s different, because everyone's interested in this new Facebook hype, I mean even Musharraf is on Facebook (never thought you'd see the day the hip new site would become a regular hangout for sleazy 60-year-old uncles, did you?). Anyway, the government meddling in the affairs of how people use social networking sites is disturbing. I mean if you don't like something, use the democratic freedom the internet gives you by simply not clicking on it.
But you know what, even though I'm a proponent of free speech over censorship and reason over unreason, I think this Facebook ban is a blessing in disguise. You don't have to constantly know who is up to what, and how your friends are feeling, and what social quizzes they are taking, and who has how many pink elephants on Farmville. Half the time people spend on Facebook is occupied in being molested by inane applications. The rest of the time is spent gobbling up useless information about how everyone who is bored in your social circle is letting you know exactly how bored they are via Facebook. But no, a Facebook enthusiast would tell you that it’s a great means of communication to keep in touch with your friends. Well my reply to that is: use your bleeping email, or phone, or SMS!
Seriously, Facebook is an authoritarian regime based system that gives no freedom, privacy, or respect to its users. And this is supposed to be the harbinger of free speech? Give me a commercial-break!
That said, maybe all isn't lost for avid Muslim social-media buffs who are easily offended. Maybe we could develop a sanitised version of Facebook for the Muslim world, and call it Pakbook. Pakbook would be pure of all corrupt material, salacious comments, lewd material, curse words, and anything else that might not correspond to our traditions culture and beliefs. Maybe we could also segregate the genders so that women can only add women and mehrams to their group of friends.
But you have to admit, without all those blurry blackout pictures, the mindless humour, and flirtatious nature of communication, Pakbook would be an extremely boring network. No one would want to hang out there or use it to keep in touch with friends. People wouldn't be able to criticise the government on Pakbook, or have any fun, for fun would be forbidden on Pakbook.
So how can we keep despondent cricket enthusiasts and jittery Facebookers entertained without international cricket and the social media giant? An ingenious way to address the issue would not only eradicate the entertainment problem, but could also tackle our long dragging terror problem, while making Pakistan a more democratic and open society. If you don't believe me, sit tight for this one...
The answer is to unveil the next media entertainment breakthrough of the century. We should start our own Twenty20 cricket league, but with a twist to multiply its entertainment value. Pakistan is home to loose militant groups and banned organisations committing violent acts to create sensational effect while showing them as macho and relevant. Instead of letting this fervor go to waste, we should provide them a forum where they can express themselves as openly as possible, while taking one another on in the confines of cricket. I present to you the Pakistan Terror League, PTL. The Twenty20 cricket league that is centered around banned terror outfits and other secret organisations such as Jaish-e-Muhammad, LeT, Sipah Sahaba, and LeJ – even mercenary organisations operating in the area like Blackwater/Xe could have a team.
A team would consist of 11 players like the standard cricket format, composed of batsmen, bowlers and all-rounders. The teams would engage in a cutthroat competitive contest of high-stakes explosive militant cricket, extremely sensationalised by huge explosions and live ammunition. The bowler’s objective would be to blow the batsman up or hit his missile-wickets. The batsman, in order to survive with all limbs in tact, would have to lob the grenade away with his bat. The third umpire would most definitely be a Predator Drone. Whoever blows up every member of the other team first wins, and they walk off victorious, bloody, and limbless with the Pakistan Terror League championship trophy.
This format would be an overall win for Pakistan: not only would it out-do the IPL, it would also rid us of the terror menace. Confined within the sporting arena, violence would only happen in the stadium, so that only the teams competing get hurt, while innocent civilians are not only spared, but entertained in the process, barring a few really long Super Grenade Sixes that cause crowd casualties. With a dedicated forum for making your militant voices heard, teams would flock to stadiums instead of battlefields.
Furthermore, this would be so additively entertaining that people would forget about Facebook. In fact, this would turn the tables on Facebook users who'd be trying to get hold of PTL scores which wouldn't be made available to anyone with a Facebook account, leaving them in a desperate dilemma. So we shouldn't sulk over recent disappointments. Rather, we should be looking to turn our problems into solutions – turn poison into gold.http://e-scape-artist.blogspot.com/ and tweets at http://twitter.com/e_scape_artist.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.