The Art of Storytelling in Statecraft

Perception and its importance

Perception is the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. As humans, we tend to rely more on pictorial messages than other mediums. This is where audio-visual mediums we have today, come in play. This brings an interesting question to the floor. Is perception the easiest thing to play with?

The answer to that is yes.

Living in 2020

We are living in an era where post-modernism, to an extent, is still ruling. Post-modernism is an art movement that took birth almost a century ago. Artists believed in questioning the ‘reality of reality’. It allowed art and artists to break free from the shackles of life-like paintings with covert symbolism.

 TV Shows


The first mention-worthy series is Chernobyl. The historical drama television miniseries produced by HBO and Sky UK revolves around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986 and the cleanup efforts that followed.

It is an effort to portray how the Kremlin remains standing on propaganda alone for years and weaken Russia’s case. This is precisely why Russia wants to remake the series. Rediscussing it in a light different from the American version.


The show is a Tel Aviv production. It shows the Israeli Defense Forces and their struggle. The show justifies war crimes by Israel due to circumstances. Moreover, Hamas, a Palestinian resistance movement, and allegedly, a Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist militant organization, has been portrayed to be the worst of the worst. The serial even goes to the extent of linking Hamas to ISIS in the storyline. Hamas’ social service wing, Dawah, and their military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, both have been subject to mudslinging.

Let us come to the important question. How will this help Israel’s case? A single-sided hostile narrative, un-countered, has the power to drown the other party, in a quagmire of misinformation.

People who watch the show, who are otherwise not well versed about the conflict, will buy what they see. Palestinians will be associated with terrorism, successfully closing their case when it comes to pleas for justice. It will strike a blow to the little sympathy people may have for the Arabs, seeing them as barbarians.


The Swedish 2020 TV drama series premiered on January 12, 2020, on Sveriges Television. It claims to look at terrorist attacks from every angle. Flitting between Syria and Sweden, the drama will take a look at life at the centre of a terrorist organization, and will highlight just how easily people are radicalized. The series plays with visual culture to demonize the Islamic State. Not to deny that the movement is a terrorist organization.

However, the reasons for the development and the suffering of the local Syrians by IS are largely ignored. Are those who are affected by the Islamic State, who have seen its rule, and the small minority to look up to them as saviours children of a lesser God?

What the season does not do is also keep humanity intact on the end of the spectrum of the terrorists. No one turns to suicide bombings for fun, but the show simply does not allow people to realize that.

Bard of Blood

Let us put things into the South Asian context. With Bollywood being the industry giant in the region, is media becoming the new battleground for India vs Pakistan? And is it the new medium to rewrite history following the discourse of the current jingo-nationalistic BJP government?

Perhaps yes.

The latest on this list, is a new Indian series, Bard of Blood. India has successfully used one of the largest, and most internationally engaging platform of visual storytelling and communication, Netflix, to put forward their narrative on Balochistan.

The team has played very smartly with existing rhetoric on war, on terrorism, on military operations, and Islam. Additionally, semiotics portray Pakistan as a terrorist state. There is no doubt, that after Chahbahar, Sistan, and the Iran-Afghanistan corridor, India’s largest investment anywhere in the world is in Baluchistan and Waziristan.

Now, what if Pakistan were to use similar strategies of film and art to fight Kashmir’s case?

Will the perceptions not change if Indian atrocities in Kashmir were put forward through visual storytelling? The answer to both questions is yes. The next question is, when will Pakistan do it?

Moreover, Pakistan also needs to do more to highlight the active role Indian and Afghan agencies play in the insurgency, as well as Iran’s passive role. This is quintessential to not only put Pakistan’s case to the world. In an age where rebellion is cool, the existing hostile narratives which exist pose an existential threat to the youth.


Hollywood: invasions, war crimes, and narratives

In the years after the Second World War, after which the USA laid its hands on the best of the best filmmakers, scriptwriters, storytellers, and directors, to advertise American culture to the rest of the world. Moreover, the developed West successfully portrays their soldiers in a positive light in films.

Examples include 12 Strong, Hurt locker, American Sniper, etc. Despite invasions, attacks on civilians, and countless war atrocities, what do we see?  The murders, the executions, bombing civilians, and arming militants become irrelevant because a white soldier is suffering from PTSD. Is that bigger than war crimes America commits? Are the Iraqi or Afghan children of a lesser God?

Do children of Pakistan who were victim to drone strikes by the USA not worthy of justice? The West humanizes war, bloodshed, invasion, and airstrikes, all through film.


Recently released films like Padmavat, and Panipat, are more about Hindu supremacy and demonizing Muslim rulers of the subcontinent. They blatantly disregard history.

For example, in Padmavat, Sultan Allauddin Khilji has been shown as a pathetic, barbaric character. The reality, however, was quite different. Allauddin was one of the most powerful Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate, as well as the last actual resistance in the subcontinent to the Mongol invasions. Demonizing Muslim rulers is just another step in turning India’s population at large, further anti-Muslim.

Not to mention the fact that even ordinary Muslims are shown in a certain light. They act a certain way and almost certainly are notorious characters. The world’s largest democracy is demonizing Muslim rulers its people.

What can we conclude?

False narratives can have dire consequences. It is important to be aware of them. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves, and our children, to protect our nations from 5th generation warfare, regardless of what the source of the content is. We need to read more and learn more. Keeping in touch with facts is the only thing that can protect us.

Komal Salman

Komal Salman, a multifaceted professional with experience spanning graphic design since undergraduate studies, media production, indie authorship, and artistry, brings a rich storytelling perspective to her work.

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