Pakistani border guards at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan (Pic: a TV grab from Vice’s episode 2)
HBO’s new news-based show is the sharply named ‘Vice.’ News, after all, is a vice if that’s one’s life the way it has been for me. Vice has a ring of addictiveness to it which one may well develop as the series progresses.
After watching the first episode, which featured the Philippines’ shockingly gun-saturated politics and Afghanistan’s matter-of-fact child suicide bombers, one felt reassured that the world will forever remain in ferment. I am using “reassured” ironically in case it does not come through.
Since it is HBO and not TV, Vice enjoys considerably more latitude in terms of what it can show (For instance,you do see blown up limbs and a severed head in one scene in the aftermath of a suicide bombing in Afghanistan) and the way correspondents speak. For instance, after his interview with Syed Mohammad Akbar Agha*, the leader of the Taliban Jaish al-Musilmin group who basically supports suicide bombing as a strategy, Vice correspondent and CEO of the media company, says to the camera, “It fucks your head up.”
One of the executive producers on the show is political satirist Bill Maher. It also has Fareed Zakaria as a consultant.
As I said earlier, news is what I have done for a living for over 30 years. It is in my bloodstream and probably by now in my DNA as well. Despite that Vice has a way of leaving you feeling utterly mindfucked about the depths of cruelty which a significant part of the human race is capable of plumbing.
Vice’s next episode features stories about the tensions along the India-Pakistan border and the influx of thousands of illegal North Korean refugees into China. My only grouse with stories about India and Pakistan is the temptation to cast the narrative in terms such as the “world’s most dangerous border” and how a nuclear confrontation is only moments away. Vice also seems to fall to that temptation going by the teaser from the particular episode. It quotes a pundit, who looks so familiar to me but I cannot quite remember his name, as saying, “If there is an attack, I have no doubt in my mind that there would have to be nuclear retaliation.”
Having reported on the tensions between India and Pakistan extensively from both sides of the divide and for close to ten years in the late 1980s and 1990s, I have a fair idea of the subject matter. India and Pakistan have always appeared to be on the verge of annihilating each other. In the long-term though, I remain optimistic that there will be no nuclear showdown because the leaderships on both sides know that there is nothing like nuking only one side given the geographical realities of the two countries. If one nukes the other, there is almost no chance that the perpetrator will escape the effects of a nuclear strike. Of course, one can never estimate the capacity for self-destruction among the human race.