Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Futility Of Censorship

So there you have it. The military has, all too predictably, banned Ayesha Siddiqa's book Military Inc. Now, as Ejaz Haider says in this column, nothing could be better for the book than the military's ham-handed attempts at stopping it from widespread readership. I made the same point in a comment in response to the Supreme Court-Ibrar-Namkeen Parveen issue. I simply don't understand why the powers-that-be don't realize that banning a book, movie, painting, song or video game is the best thing that can happen to the producer of said book, movie, painting, song or video game. If you don't believe me, ask Salman Rushdie, who was known only among literary critics until the late 1980s and then suddenly catapaulted into fame and fortune following the Satanic Verses saga. Or ask the the companies that make those absolutely insane video games in which you have to shoot everyone and everything in sight. Those video games always provoke some sort of knee-jerk reaction ("our kids are being destroyed!") which, in turn, prompts their widespread popularity and huge profits for their creators. Or what about that movie about lesbians in India which was part of some trilogy that created a huge furore and made it a bigger deal than it ever deserved to be? And finally what about Ibrar? As I said in my comment, don't you think he's the happiest man alive right now? This needless controversy is going to make him a multi-millionaire. People who've never heard of him are going to buy his music if only to hear Namkeen Parveen.

The same dynamic applies here. Siddiqa's book is now going to be so bloody popular, you have no idea. And don't think that the ban is going to preclude the book finding its way into Pakistan somehow. Are you kidding me? I see Hollywood movies on DVD before they're released in the U.S. thanks to my movie-wala, Rainbow Center and Pakistan's completely wilful ignorance of piracy. Trust me: by next year this time, anyone who can read English in Pakistan would have read the book. So I suggest that Siddiqa graciously send General Musharraf a big fat box of mathai and a thank-you note printed on pink paper with hearts and kisses and glitter. He's earned it.

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