Alarming rise in flattery!!!
Published : Thursday, 17 June, 2021 at 12:00 AM Count : 13794
Running the editorial department is often getting into my nerves these days. It's not because of the skeleton crew that I have been operating with, but because of the sycophant writers and their untiring efforts to gratify government quarters.
The dilemma kicked in the very first day of "Mujib Borsho" (Mujib Year), commencing March in this year. Out of the blue, scores of articles and write ups flattering Bangabandhu, the party in power and the prime minister flooded our editorial e-mail ID. My phone began ringing in the wee hours.Calls were made from unknown numbers requesting to publish write-ups the soonest, otherwise the 'Boss' would be embarrassed. There was a surge in visitors waiting at the office reception lobby; it only stopped when the government re-imposed lockdown.
That's not all, requests were sent via messages in my Facebook account, and even some of our district correspondents didn't even spare me. So who are these 'Bosses', also the supposed writers of the irritating sycophantic pieces?
No, my flattering writers are no Tom, Dick and Harry. They range from civil servants, professors, intellectuals, social activists, journalists to businessmen to unknown names, struggling really hard to be in the good books of the government. However, from my editorial assistant's average estimate, we had and are receiving over a dozen such write-ups since late March, not including the spree of publishing appeals of friends and colleagues.
So let's be frank on the topic of sycophancy. It has existed for millenniums, and I believe the tradition will only vanish with the destruction of earth and mankind. All government's across the world and in all times had sycophants.
Similar to thievery, I consider it as an art, at par with the old Bengali proverb "Thievery, a great wisdom unless you are caught..."In many western countries, it's even a science added up with sophistication. Government sycophants therein those countries experiment with newer methods and strategies in tuned with time and advanced technologies. Would you like to hear what my sycophant writers' pen these days?
Before I put blame on these writers of various professions, let's begin with a sycophant journalist. The middle-aged, fair looking and partially bald so-called journalist has appeared as the number one irritant in my career. His most important identity is that he is a general member of the National Press Club and a number of forums without any full time job.
I have blocked all his mobile phone numbers in a chronological order, saving them as Problem 1, 2, 3 and 4. But when he had resent his piece 4 times in my personal mail last week, the god almighty made me kind and curious at the same time; it was time to take at least a fleeting look. The very opening line took me not by storm, but by utter confusion. Quoting verbatim, it read - Bangabandhu had dreamt of an independent Bangladesh long before the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.
Though I have now learnt how to unblock numbers but a week ago, I had no knowledge. While enquiring him on the substantive evidence of his opening line over my office phone (thanks to my efficient receptionist to track him down) what he all had to say was on the cruelties inflicted on us by the Generals Yahya and Tikka Khan.
Second in the list of my toady's writers are the civil servants who range from DCs, project directors, deputy secretaries, joint and additional secretaries to even secretary of a ministry. Actually their private secretaries keep shelling me with B -grade memoirs and C-grade poems on Bangabandhu and his daughter. Some of them have and will continue threaten me on my job through their subordinates, if I shorten, edit or not publish what the 'Boss' wrote.
Last night the PS to the chairman of a widely known organisation under the ministry of shipping had called. He had no time for chitchat, and expected to see that his boss's piece gets published the soonest. He began his talk in a typical rustic manner, reminding me three times that he came from the same village as my editor, a subtle message signalling the dire consequences in case I don't publish.
His 'Boss' wrote a piece titled "Bangabandhu in riverine Bangladesh", and rivers had to be linked because of his ministry. It's an amazing hotchpotch of quotes, imagination, future predictions coupled with how many kilometres of river dredging has taken place and river banks reclaimed from land grabbers. Many of our law makers and this particular breed pens on the unseen and unheard dreams, aspirations and visions of Bangabandhu.
For instance, a high-up of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) wrote three consecutive paragraphs on a single opinion piece focusing on how Bangabandhu envisioned of Bangladesh in the Space Age. To say the least, his assistant has been resending me the same opinion piece since May 2018. It was penned against the backdrop of launching the first Bangabandhu Satellite - 1, way back in 2018. However, I thank this individual to inspire me to rush back to go through the old episodes of the once popular TV serial star trek in the YouTube.
Worst among the lot are some public and private university VCs, professors and academics in various capacities. To cut short, they not only practice and encourage hollow intellectual admiration of Bangabandhu and the current government. They go further beyond, by copy- pasting- distorting education and literacy growth and statistics of Bangladesh, deleting whatever has been achieved during Zia-Ershad-Khaleda regimes. Their opinion pieces often give me the impression, Bangladesh perhaps came into being since January 2009.
And then I have another group of honey-worded writers. They have mostly fallen from the PM's grace after the last general elections. They love capitalising on nostalgia, anecdotes and romance. Businessmen and former ministers rule the roost here. Their opinion pieces are comparable to what Romeo would have written to Juliet after she had been married off to a leather merchant of old Dhaka.
The bottom-line: Sycophancy, as a means to serve your purpose has come a long way. The more it has travelled the more strategic and sophisticated it has become. The overused custom to sing the praises of Bangabandhu and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by comparing them to the Sun, stars and the ocean and Mother Teresa do not work any longer.
Rather, it is best for my sycophant writers to follow what Hitler's Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbles had said some 80 years ago. He said - Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident that they are acting on their free will. Sadly enough, there is neither free will nor confidence present among my flattering writers, whatever they write are mostly volumes of well-timed shallow flattery , similar to buying a lottery ticket, in case if the piece gets published while hitting the jackpot.
The writer is Assistant Editor,
The Daily Observer