The Press

Political campaigning is an art in which the Arab nation achieved perfection during the days of the first Arab State founded by the Umayyad. The Abbasids further improved the art with all its branches, intricacies, principles and objectives. They set rules and regulations for the propagandists and missionaries who were placed in different grades. Some were given the top posts while others were called fellows or colleagues. Similarly, centers of propaganda and political campaigning were fixed and the subjects they had to deal with were classified. The information for public consumption and for restricted circulation was separated.

The Fatimids in their days further perfected the art with all its branches. They divided publicly into cultural, religious and political sections. They relied on philosophy to convince some people about the Fatimid principles and used mystic terms to convince others. There were cells of their missionaries and none could discover their secrets or find out their objectives. They cultivated friendship among people and kept it ready for use against their enemies when the time for staging their plots and conspiracies came.

But we have to differentiate between the art of political campaigns, or propaganda, which the Arab perfected before the rest of the world and the conspiracies which were prepared to overthrow one government and to install the other. The latter is a form of campaigning known to ambitious people since the dawn of history. Every nation had a taste of its own. These conspiracies aimed at rallying economic and military force round themselves and waiting for the proper time to come to strike. These conspiracies never relied on conviction or guiding public opinion and feelings. It was the Abbasids and the fatimids who were the first to start campaigns for their views, relying on conviction of their followers. There was nothing strange in this. Both of them depended on interpretation of the Shari'ah and the religious issues in their claim for the Caliphate. They had to win over minds and convince people of the authenticity of their claims. Once it was achieved, there was military force and arms to take the matter further.

The political campaign, or publicity was known in its modern, forceful and popular form before today in the guise of press circulars. Despite this, we can say that newspapers are an innovation in the art of publicity. In fact, newspapers could not have appeared before their time, although a great need was felt for such an institution by the publicists and political campaigns.

Newspapers could not have appeared without the fast printing machines which print thousands of copies every day and without the telegraphic massage which make the public yearn for the daily paper on a large scale. The newspapers owe much of their popularity to the quick means of transport and to photography which make events more acceptable and entertaining to the readers and more expressive at the same time.

With all this the papers required for their popularity a ready public which is always very important to the pressman, the politician and the writer.

Without the reading public, no newspaper could have survived even it they had appeared before their time by some accident. The moment the people became the basis and the foundation of the state, laws and regulations, and the moment there was something known as the public opinion, newspapers became a necessity.

The institution of newspapers was borrowed by the Arab East from Europe when the ground in the East was ready for the flourishing of the press. The East benefited by the blessings of the press and suffered at the same time, due to evils inherent in the institution and there remain unabated.

Among the blessings of the press we can mention the facility in dispensing useful general knowledge and political views aimed at fighting foreign domination. The press helped in the advancement of the language and bringing scientific, literary, colloquial and household terms close to each other. Among the evils of UTC press we can mention its engaging the public in trivialities and providing the readers with material which is pleasing to them but not useful. The writers could be hired by the press and the public is no more than a pawn in the hands of the newspapermen. Again, the importance of the press has worked towards slackening of interest among the reading public in more serious and useful subjects.

As far as the subject matter in which the newspapers and periodicals are interested in our country or elsewhere in the world, we cannot blame the newspapers for it. These subjects are a commodity which would never be available if there was no demand for it. We can only blame the press for popularizing these subjects and no more.

The nations which have a popular press have to bear the responsibility for the evils the newspapers are spreading among their readers. These nations alone can discover a panacea for poisons of the press and can provide better material for its consumption.

The experience of the Western nations in the field has led them to make two separate selections of the press and the gap between these sections is widening year by year. One of these sections deals with entertainment, while the other provides serious studies and means of reference.

It is noticed in Europe and America that the newspaper meant for entertainment are circulated by millions in a single day. But they are not taken seriously and their views are not taken into account. The other section of the press, which provides for serious studies and references has a limited circulation, but it is taken very seriously since it helps in the formation of views and the spreading of knowledge.

The entertainment papers or journals convince their reading public by false pleasure and are never concerned with literary or moral values as long as greater circulation is ensured.

For example, the news which is read by three million readers and which the newspaper has couched in appealing language can cause sensation and misguide people by its camouflage. No attention is paid in this case to the status of the paper or its writers because the reading public is always welcoming momentary entertainment. It loses interest in the paper as soon as it talks in the manner of a teacher or begins sermonizing. We do not know how the West is going to solve this problem of the press in the coming generation, but we do realize what could he the result if things moved either on the right or the wrong path. Should the spirit of momentary pleasure continue to be dominant, the result will be devastating and its dangers will far exceed those which any form of publicity could have produced in history.

If humanity fears this trend reaching its climax, it can always protect itself against the hazards by discarding its bye momentary pleasure. The two sections of press, the entertaining and the serious, could be allowed to function in separate watertight compartments never allowing the danger to reach the safety value.

This arrangement may prove an overall blessing for humanity and may lead to a new era coming into being. People will, in this case, pass on from the stage of a transitory pleasure to a higher ideal. They will have to place no importance upon anything except the spiritual messages and the guidance they could give in matters of development of thought and the idea of the final leader ship of Man.