For some time now, an American non-entity has been applauded by Pakistan’s hyper-nationalists as the ideal foreign observer and commentator on Pakistan’s affairs. Cynthia D. Ritchie describes herself as ‘World Traveler. Communications Consultant. Producer.’ On her website. But her biodata is, to put it mildly, skimp. She has yet to complete her Master’s in Strategic Communications from George Washington University and, except a strong social media presence and occasional articles in Pakistani media, she has no serious track record as a Communications Consultant.
Cynthia Ritchie is an entirely Pakistani phenomenon. She claims that “I Attempt To Brush Off The Dust Of Propaganda in Search of Objective Human Interest Stories in Various Cultures” and often argues that she wants the world to see the good side of Pakistan. But her knowledge of Pakistan’s history and politics is poor and her approach to showing the good side of Pakistan is to praise its people and its landscape. Of course, it is quite another thing that the international criticism of Pakistan is based on its policies, not its landscape or people.
Recently ‘Cynthia Baji’ (as some on social media describe her) had a meltdown on twitter, abusing several prominent Pakistani liberals and defending Pakistan’s policies against Ahmadi Muslims (which have been criticized repeatedly by the United Nations.) Her critics suggested that she might be on the payroll of Pakistan’s deep state or ISPR. Her knee-jerk defense of Pakistan’s military and the puppet Imran Khan regime is definitely suspicious even if there is no evidence so far of Cynthia Ritchie being sponsored by the deep state.
If Cynthia Ritchie is being sponsored to ‘improve Pakistan’s image,’ the question arises, whether she is even doing what she is supported/paid/sponsored to do? Her propaganda is all directed at Pakistanis. Non-Pakistanis do not take her seriously. She in neither published in the international media nor is her name or voice recognized outside the circle of hyper-nationalist Pakistanis who might want to get their ‘positive views’ reinforced by a Caucasian woman (‘Gori’.)
According to her website, Cynthia’s only significant work outside Pakistan was “ TV commercials for AT&T, Political Campaigns, HGTV.” What political campaigns did she work on? What did she do on HGTV—”an American basic cable and satellite television channel,” which primarily broadcasts reality programming related to home improvement and real estate.” How does any of that qualify her to become the principal foreign defender of Pakistan’s policies and chequered history?
It is not unusual for governments, deep state machines, or political parties to prop up foreigners as propaganda tools. The Nazis, through their Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, hosted a number of English speakers who broadcast glowing accounts of German accomplishments abroad. The most famous of these was Lord Haw-Haw , the nickname applied to the Irish-American William Joyce, who broadcast Nazi propaganda to Britain from Germany during the Second World War.
But these broadcasts, which opened with “Germany calling, Germany calling,” were directed outwards, not at the German people. Their purpose was “to discourage and demoralise American, Australian, British, and Canadian troops, and the British population, to suppress the effectiveness of the Allied war effort through propaganda, and to motivate the Allies to agree to peace terms leaving the Nazi regime intact and in power.”
It is a pity that Goebbels, the Nazi German Propaganda Minister, managed to get the services of Lord Haw-Haw but our media czars could only find Cynthia D. Ritchie. If Pakistan’s image is to be improved abroad, our version of Lord Haw-Haw needs to be heard and believed outside Pakistan.
If our propaganda is turned only on our own people, we will only attract con-men and con-women who might look cute denigrating our liberals on social media but who serve no function beyond our own boundaries and diaspora. The rest of the world will still believe what real news sources and credible scholars and public figures tell them while Cynthia baji remains a non-entity outside Pakistan.