It was the Canadian-born philosopher Marshall McLuhan writing in 1962 in his seminal work ‘The Gutenberg Galaxy, the making of typographic man’ — who predicted correctly the development of the internet and the contraction of the world into an interconnected village with the instantaneous movement of information from every quarter to every point at the same time. He saw future communications as an extension of the conscious, and his vision has surfaced in the Lahore High Court on Tuesday 18th April. The Lahore High Court struck down a ban imposed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (Pemra) on the airing of Indian teleplays, declaring the ban null and void. The ban had come into place on October 19th 2016 with relations with India at a very low ebb, and although Indian films were screened all over the country they could not be aired on television, a clearly anomalous situation. It was Justice Shah that made the comment regarding the global village and it has relevance far beyond his courtroom.
The issue of the airing of Indian material may have been resolved but the wider issue of the relationship between the state and a global internet is not. The state is largely powerless to control the ‘Net beyond actually severing all connections between Pakistan and the undersea cables that connect it to the world. Blocked and banned sites can be accessed by the simple expedient of using any one of hundreds of free proxy server apps. Millions do it every day to circumvent the ban on pornographic websites. Anybody with a ‘Net connection could view the Indian content if they so wished and with the ubiquity of smartphones we may be sure that they did.
The ‘Net as visioned by McLuhan and made real by Tim Berners-Lee has changed all our lives whether we know it or not. Post McLuhan it is Berners-Lee who has the observation for the age — ‘You affect the world by what you browse.’ Indian dramas will be back on our screens — TV or ‘phone — by the time these words are read and the global village just got a tiny bit smaller.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2017.