Echo chamber: Situation where one purveyor of information will make a claim, which many like-minded people then repeat, overhear, and repeat again (often in an exaggerated or otherwise distorted form) until most people assume that some extreme variation of the story is true.

Mahfuz Anam sometimes treats us to Commentaries, in addition to the editorials he pens every day. On October 21, his Commentary was called: Obviously, our leaders think we are idiots. It reprimanded Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for claiming that the Padma Bridge funding had been suspended due to the fault of the past BNP government, and Khaleda Zia for saying that:

Jamaat Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami, Moulana Sayedee, and Jamaat Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed did not work against our Liberation War in 1971, and that they all had been arrested under false charges.

The problem is, Khaleda Zia never said anything like that. Anam’s own Daily Star reports that what Khaleda Zia actually said was:

At the rally, she questioned the standard of the International Crimes Tribunal. She demanded immediate stop to the trial and release of opposition leaders facing charges of crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.

“We’ve no objection to the trial, but it must be transparent and of international standards. If necessary, foreign lawyers should be allowed to defend the accused, but that is not being done,” she said at Altafunnesa ground, home district of party’s founder late president Ziaur Rahman.

Khaleda alleged that the tribunal has been formed with people from Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee which, according to her, cannot conduct a fair trial.

and the next day:

[Zia] also demanded release of all opposition leaders including those arrested for crimes against humanity. She said Awami League is the real anti-liberation force and that is why actions should be taken against them.

Mentioning the names of arrested Jamaat leaders including Motiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed, she said the government arrested them in false cases. “They [govt] branded Jamaat leaders as anti-liberation force but the real anti-liberation force was Awami League.”

The difference here is extremely obvious. Khaleda Zia is complaining about the process under which the leaders of Jamaat (and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury) are being tried. Concerns about charges, defense counsel, and composition of the tribunal are all related to the process and working of the Tribunal. She is emphatically not passing judgment on the actual guilt of these people. In fact, she is explicitly saying: “We have no objection to the trial.”

As anyone who has followed David Bergman’s reports from Dhaka knows, questions about the Tribunal’s transparency and judicial standards are widespread, both in our country and outside. However, Anam has misrepresented Khaleda Zia’s comments as something completely different.

And then, the echo chamber jumped into effect. Awami League leaders have only been too happy to follow Anam’s leads and fantasize about locking Zia up. Syed Bardul Ahsan, in his incomparable style, has chimed in. As has Sohrab Hasan.

During BNP’s time, Daily Star played the lead in formenting anger and frustration against the government by publishing any and every story about inflation, price syndicate, corruption, terrorism, and so on. Visibly alarmed by the overwhelming response to Khaleda Zia’s road-marches, it has decided to do the opposite during this regime, and try to tar the ruling party and opposition equally every chance it gets, no matter the gravity of the mistakes committed by each side. And if Anam has to lie in order to make his point, well, when senior media figures lie, it suddenly becomes “spinning.”

But the stench is the same.

Five years ago, Anam wrote another of his Commentaries addressed to the current prime minister. Perhaps he should revisit it. It was titled “A little respect for truth would help.”