Cameras have always had a strange effect on people. While there is a group of people who are called camera shy, who will shun any attempts of anyone trying to photograph them, who will grimace uncomfortably when the camera flashes and who end up looking a bit disoriented in almost all their pictures, there are others who revel in the presence of these contraptions. There are those who even crave for it so much that they will go to many lengths to just get that buzz from knowing that the camera is on them. This is after all, the time of the selfie generation – when anytime, anywhere is a selfie moment – even if it is at the precipice of a mountain, while walking along the rail tracks or perhaps to pose with an irritated grizzly. Needless to say that narcissism often overrides simple common sense or basic instincts of self preservation and thus the terrible selfie tragedies posted on Youtube that get millions of clicks.
When it comes to cameras used to record news for television, the passion for self promotion is much more intense and can reach illogical levels. Hardened criminals, for instance, in front of the news camera, have happily described in gory detail, how they murdered people and put them in sacks, or carried out complicated robberies. On national days there will be endless news clips of leaders of political parties and their denominations placing wreaths on monuments while their minions unceremoniously elbow each other just to fit into the frame and make it to the news headlines. Yes people may even fight like a pack of frenzied, starving wolves just to get themselves in front of the camera. The latest example of this puzzling obsession is when lawyers of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, on October 19, got into a scuffle while competing to take the centre stage in front of TV cameras on the court premises in Bakshibazar. Thanks to our incorrigible video culture we actually can see a clip of this jaw dropping event through online news outlets. And let me tell you, you really have to see it to believe it. Lawyers in their black gowns, dancing in the mud like boxers or demented magicians, tearing at each others' clothes, leaving some of them in a state of undress. All this just because they wanted to be in front of the camera during a media briefing soon after Khaleda Zia left the court premises after recording of her self-defense statements in the Zia Orphanage and Zia Charitable Trust graft cases. One must assume that this is one of the most prized positions to hold – to be the spokesperson at a news briefing on such an important case, the consequences of which will have great implications for the BNP. But to resort to physical violence and tearing of each others' garments inside the court premises takes this desire for publicity and party recognition to an insane level.
This, of course, explains why there are hundreds of people jostling around whenever the plaintiffs of a sensational case are in the court premises. Because everyone wants a piece of the limelight. TV cameras ensure instant fame and that is an opportunity nobody will give up. Thus it is quite common during a press conference regarding the trial or verdict of a high profile court case to find lawyers in their black gowns standing uncomfortably close to each other, even swaying to and fro a little with all the pushing and shoving. We see this on our TV screens and wonder with bewilderment – are these really individuals who have prestigious law degrees and have the privilege of representing their clients in the court? Certainly the scuffling lawyers in that highly disturbing yet undoubtedly entertaining video clip, seem to have forgotten where they were or even who they were. Perhaps they thought they were on a WWE stage. Perhaps it was the overbearing heat and humidity. Perhaps it was because there seems to be no insistence on basic decorum or even civilised behaviour required of lawyers in their workplace.
Aasha Mehreen Amin is Deputy Editor, Editorial and Opinion, The Daily Star.